"What profit hath a man of all his labor which he taketh under the sun?" (Ecclesiastes 1:3)
This is the first of 29 occurrences of the striking phrase, "under the sun," found only in the Book of Ecclesiastes. The question it asks is a common age-long question, for "there is no new thing under the sun" (v. 9). A man works to eat so he can work again, and what's the purpose of it all?
And this question was asked, not by a day laborer who lived from hand to mouth, but by King Solomon, reputed to be the richest and wisest man of all the ages. He set about to try everything which might bring fulfillment. Here was his conclusion: "Then I looked on all the works that my hands had wrought, and on the labor that I had labored to do: and, behold, all was vanity and vexation of spirit, and there was no profit under the sun" (2:11).
He was right, of course. There is no profit under the sun! The Lord Jesus Christ, however, is over the sun, for He made the sun. When we live for Him, there is eternal profit, but everything else sooner or later becomes "vanity and vexation of spirit." As Jesus said: "For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?" (Mark 8:36).
Solomon's conclusion was right, in so far as it goes. "Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep His commandments: for this is the whole duty of man" (Ecclesiastes 12:13). To the Christian, however, there is far more to life than even Solomon ever experienced. "Whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men; Knowing that of the Lord ye shall receive the reward of the inheritance" (Colossians 3:23, 24). "Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye stedfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labor is not in vain in the Lord" (1 Corinthians 15:58). HMM