Solomon teaches about life
Probably everyone has played the "dream" game. It is a fun game because we can allow our imagination to stretch to its outer limits. If I could do anything I wanted, what would it be? If money was no limitation, what would I buy? What would I do? Where would I go? The answers that we give to such questions say much about our definition of happiness, our concept of what brings meaning and satisfaction to our lives.
We might only dream about such virtually unlimited possibilities, but for king Solomon it was not a game. Solomon decided to seek the answer to the question, "What should a man do with his life?" Solomon was in an unique position to "research" this question (Ecclesiastes 2:3). He was not limited by financial considerations. He did not lack the power to try whatever he pleased (Ecclesiastes 2:10). He had already been blessed by the Lord with extraordinary wisdom. If ever there was a perfect test pilot for this mission, Solomon certainly fit the part.
Solomon devoted himself to various activities. What was the result of his search? He found that immersing himself in entertainment and wine was unsatisfying (Ecclesiastes 2:1-3). He busied himself with labor, surrounding himself with his accomplishments, his works and yet it was all "vanity and grasping for the wind." No matter how hard he worked, eventually he would die and leave the fruits of his labors to someone else and that someone might be a fool; certainly the heir did not work for what he would receive. Solomon considered this a great disappointment.
The book of Ecclesiastes can appear, at first glance, to have been written by a pessimist. The author seemed to be unable to find anything good in life; everything is vanity, emptiness. Did Solomon find nothing in life which satisfies? Unless one understands that Solomon was testing various earthly pursuits, i.e., things "under the sun," to see if they bring satisfaction in and of themselves, the book will be misunderstood. He finally concluded that the "whole" of man, that which satisfies his purpose in life, is to fear God and keep His commandments (12:14).
Solomon’s great experiment has meaning for us today because there is nothing new under the sun (Ecclesiastes 1:9). Technology changes, of course, but the primary questions in life and their answers do not change, much as the cyclic forces of nature are repetitious (1:4-11). If I could duplicate Solomon’s experiment, I would get the same results because the nature of man has not changed even if his toys have.
Even if we do not play the "dream" game, most of us are definitely in search of satisfaction in life. Too often men spend a lifetime chasing the ethereal promise of satisfaction in those earthly pursuits which cannot deliver what they appear to offer. The message of Ecclesiastes is that ultimately satisfaction cannot be found in this life apart from a proper relationship with God.