Our next practical lesson from Ecclesiastes is this:
5. EARTHLY WISDOM IS VANITY.
Ecclesiastes 1:17,18 - "And I set my heart to know wisdom and to know madness and folly. I perceived that this also is grasping for the wind. For in much wisdom is much grief, and he who increases knowledge increases sorrow."
Wisdom of this realm may make your life more comfortable, but where does it lead to? To the grave, which is exactly where the fool ends up, too! Often, wisdom increases suffering. There is often a sense in which ignorance is bliss (at least about certain physical matters).
6. PLEASURE IS VANITY.
Ecclesiastes 2:1 - "I said in my heart, 'Come now, I will test you with mirth; therefore enjoy pleasure'; but surely, this also was vanity."
Solomon decided to pursue all of the sensual pleasures that life has to offer; he immersed himself in such and thoroughly enjoyed himself. However, the outcome was the same as the pursuit of wisdom, it was pointless! "Laughter" and "mirth" both get old after a while. They do not truly satisfy or accomplish anything. The same can be said for one who is rich in houses, vineyards, herds, flocks, gold, special treasures, servants, etc., like Solomon was. Alcohol doesn't lead Solomon to the answers for which he was searching either. The king is examining all of these things to see what is worthwhile for men to do. He does not recommend any of these things he has considered thus far.
7. PHYSICAL LABOR IS VANITY.
Ecclesiastes 2:17,22,23 - "Therefore I hated life because the work that was done under the sun was distressing to me, for all is vanity and grasping for the wind...For what has man for all his labor, and for the striving of his heart with which he has toiled under the sun? For all his days are sorrowful, and his work burdensome, even in the night his heart takes no rest. This also is vanity."
Solomon described physical life as full of toil and striving. From the purely secular viewpoint, man's days are indeed sorrowful and burdensome. From the beginning of one's life to the end, grief and futility reign. Peace is not even found when one lies down to sleep.
8. IMPROPER TIMING IS VANITY.
Ecclesiastes 3:1 - "To everything there is a season, a time for every purpose under heaven."
The beginning of Ecclesiastes 3 is likely the most well-known portion of the book. Solomon's use of the word "season" is likely emphasizing the cyclical nature of these events. Clearly, however, the main idea is that there is an appropriate time for every legitimate activity. Many examples of this fact are listed in 3:2-8. Although man is typically unaware of such, all of these times are regulated by God providentially; that is, man has very little control over the timing of these events (whether they be good or bad). For example, you might plan an activity on a certain day to celebrate an accomplishment, but God's timing may grant you a day of mourning instead. One cannot force his own timing if it is not God's will. When the time is not right for a particular activity (even one that has been planned for a long time), the answer is not despair. Such is the response of a fool who does not understand that there is a time for everything, but that time might not be right now--regardless of how badly one may desire it! It is futile to attempt to circumvent God's appointed seasons and times. No matter how hard one may work at a particular task, if the timing is not right in the divine scheme of things, such efforts are futile.
9. THE INEQUALITIES OF LIFE ARE VANITY.
Ecclesiastes 4:1 - "Then I returned and considered all the oppression that is done under the sun: And look! The tears of the oppressed; but they have no comforter--on the side of their oppressors there is power, but they have no comforter."
Although there is certainly power on the side of the oppressors, neither the oppressors nor the oppressed have a comforter. Having great power in this life is also futile.