“So, I hated life for the work which I did under the sun was evil to me — for it is all vanity — it exasperates the spirit. I hated all of my anxieties which I had been anxious with under the sun; I must put it to rest with the man who will come after me. And who knows? Will he be wise or a fool? Yet, he will have dominion over all my anxieties which I have been anxious for and have applied my wisdom under the sun. This also is vanity.”
There was a song that was briefly popular in the early ’90’s which had the title: “My Life is a Lemon and I Want My Money Back.” The performer of the song, a man who goes by the name Meat Loaf, explained that the song was not one of utter despair and retreat from life. Instead, he asked, “Have you ever had one of those days — or one of those moments — when nothing is going right and in your frustration and discouragement you throw up your hands in disgust over what is taking place around you?” That, he said, is what the song is about.
Years ago, I worked as a manager for Dominos Pizza. I remember the point when I was finally promoted to running my own store and as I was settling in, I noticed that along one shelf in the office was inscribed a list of a handful of dates. I asked the former manager what those dates represented and his answer was: “Those are the days I wanted to quit.” That struck me, not because he wrote down those dates, but because he didn’t quit and each of those dates represented a time where he was sustained through a time of crisis or trial.
Over the years, that shelf has been a reminder to me of the importance of endurance and putting your hands to the plow as it were and working through difficult times. And though I have not written out a list of dates that “I wanted to quit,” like anyone else, there have been many across the years. And, to that end, I am grateful to God that he saw me through these times.
As you read these words about Solomon hating life, see him in this context. He is exasperated at the reality that all he has built, all he has taught, all that he has observed with his great wisdom, is going to be handed down to another. Some Rabbi’s suggest that Solomon may even have been given a vision of the mess that his son, Rehoboam, would make of the kingdom. While I am not convinced that he had a vision, I am convinced that a wise father has a fairly clear sense of the character of his children — and as he looked at Rehoboam, he despaired in what his son would do. And he was right to despair.
And so, Solomon looked upon the works of his hands and the things that he had labored at in Jerusalem. He looked at all of the things that had created great anxiety in his life as he toiled to see them come to pass and he said, “someone else will benefit from these things.” The lesson is clear; while earthly things do carry value, we must store up our real treasures in heaven where we can enjoy them eternally.