After his futile search for the meaning of life, Solomon concluded, “‘Vanity of vanities,’ . . . ‘Vanity of vanities, all is vanity.’ What profit has a man from all his labor in which he toils under the sun?” (Ecclesiastes 1:2–3).
The word vanity Solomon used didn’t mean the same thing it means to us today. When we think of vanity, we think of people who’ve never met a mirror they didn’t like. But the vanity Solomon spoke of could just as easily be translated “emptiness,” “futility,” “meaningless,” or “nothingness.” Solomon was saying, “There is nothing on this earth that will satisfy us completely: no thing, no pleasure, or no relationship.”
It’s not unlike riding a stationary bike. You see on the little video screen that you’re going uphill, so it gets a little more difficult to pedal. Then you go downhill, and it becomes a little easier. But the reality is that you haven’t moved an inch. You’ve spun your wheels without going anywhere. That is the idea Solomon was conveying. He was describing a life without God.
Have you ever wondered why the super rich or super famous often have substance abuse issues or other problems? I think it’s because they get to do what others only dream of. They accomplish a certain thing, and then they move on to the next thing. They experience another success, and then they move on to something else. They can’t keep that high they were on, so they turn to the next thing.
You might say that Solomon tried it all, and he realized that it all was meaningless. He was saying, “I’m a seasoned pro. I know what I’m talking about here. If you take God out of the picture, your life will be empty, meaningless, and futile.”