Then I regarded all the works my hands had done and in the labor at which I had labored to do and behold, all was vanity and a grasping of wind and there was no gain under the sun. (Ecclesiastes 2:11)
The search for meaning continues. In these opening verses (2:1-11), the author recalls how he sought answers by turning to a life devoted to himself. He found laughter and mirth to be pointless in themselves and the stimulation of wine had no value. He satisfied his sexual appetites, but these “delights of the sons of men” didn’t answer his true longing. He sought a life of achievement. He built buildings, parks and fountains; he acquired wealth and prestige; he took hold of whatever he saw and held nothing back. He discovered some measure of satisfaction from all these achievements, but no meaning. When he stepped back to evaluate all he had done, indulging his desires, he realized it was all empty. Nothing he had done mattered at all.
I'm reminded of certain passages which tell us that whatever we do we are to work at it with all our heart, as working for the Lord (see 1 Corinthians 10:31 & Colossians 3:23). What we do in this life only matters insomuch as it is done for the honor of the Lord; for His lasting glory. Anything else may bring some measure of satisfaction yet be sure that it will be only a temporary pleasure. The writer of Ecclesiastes found emptiness because he did all these things for himself, to discover "what was good for the children of men to do under heaven during the few days of their life”. He had not yet considered what to do that would matter beyond his few days; what would matter ‘beyond the sun’. Living for self always leads to emptiness.