“For there is no eternal remembrance for the wise along with the foolish. With the days that have already come, are all forgotten and how the wise dies along with the foolish.”
Do you see what Solomon is saying? As we have pointed out before, he is not falling into nihilism or fatalism of a sort. No, he is recognizing that death is the great equalizer of mankind and if we pursue earthly things, they will die with us and the legacy that we leave behind (the “remembrance”) will be short.
One of the things for which most of us strive is a legacy. We want our name to be remembered by people. Yes, our name will be etched in stone and placed in a cemetery somewhere, but most of us are not content with that. People strive to all sorts of incredible feats just to get their name into the Guinness Book of World Records to leave behind a memory — “I was able to do this…” People leave money to institutions so that a wing of a new school, a part of a library, or a professorship will be named after them. I write books for much the same reason (I want the generations that follow me to know not only my name, but also the spiritual things that I value).
Yet, eventually we will be forgotten. Even the most famous and infamous will be forgotten across the ages. And that reality can be sobering. It’s not going to stop us from seeking to leave behind a legacy, but it calls upon us to explore that which will last eternally — Christ, the Scriptures, and the things of God. This is the one thing that is truly enduring. Solomon is taking us there, but not just yet…he wants us to explore with him the various options that people seek as they seek to find purpose in life and only at the end will he offer the purpose to the one who faithfully walks with him through his reflections. For now, though, this is vanity if done for its own purposes.