Then I looked on all the works that my hands had worked, and on the labor that I had labored to do: and, behold…
I. THE PLEASURES OF GREAT AND GOOD MEN MAY BE VANITY AND VEXATION OF SPIRIT. Solomon was great, and he was good. This is the inspired judgment of him (Nehemiah 13:26). But he had for the time declined from greatness, swerved from goodness, and it was in this search for pleasure. Here we see how degraded a man of high rank, splendid genius, rich character, may become. Truly "the pinnacle overhangs the precipice."
II. THE PLEASURES OF SKILL AND TOIL MAY BECOME VANITY AND VEXATION OF SPIRIT. Those that Solomon found so utterly dissatisfying were not alone pleasures of appetite and of indulgence. There were thought, contrivance, taste, effort involved. So pleasures along the lines even of art, and science, and literature may, as Dundas, and David Scott, and Chesterfield all prove, become vanity and vexation of spirit.
III. PLEASURES IN THEMSELVES FITTED TO DELIGHT MAY BECOME VANITY AND VEXATION OF SPIRIT. The abundance of life, the hues of the flowers, the fragrance and melodies and shade, all make "gardens" sources of exquisite delight, and it may be of innocent and high delight, for God planted a garden for unfallen man. Yet these gardens gave no satisfaction to Solomon; and similarly many real pleasures give no joy to men. So it has with many become an adage, that "Life would be very tolerable if it were not for its amusements."
IV. IN ALL THESE CASES THE SELFISH SEARCH FOR PLEASURE HAS MADE IT VANITY AND VEXATION OF SPIRIT. It was thus with Solomon: it will be thus with all. Selfishness is the cankerworm in the flower of such pleasures, the alloy that the laboratory of such experiences as Solomon discovers in such would-be delights.
Parallel VersesKJV: Then I looked on all the works that my hands had wrought, and on the labour that I had laboured to do: and, behold, all was vanity and vexation of spirit, and there was no profit under the sun.