All the toil of man is for his mouth, yet his appetite is not satisfied. (ECC 6:7 ESV)
Ecclesiastes is a fascinating book. Written by “the Preacher”, a king of Israel (presumably Solomon), he shows us the emptiness of every pursuit. He has tried them all, attained the goal of them all, and found in every case the ladder was against the wrong wall. Nothing satisfied the appetite for meaning and significance and “life.” Some of these are not surprising. He makes wealth his goal and gains more than anyone else yet is still empty. The same with pleasure. This doesn’t surprise us. We are familiar with these as empty, though they are still perhaps our most common goals. Other pursuits that he finds empty are surprising. For example, attaining wisdom is also empty, as is living just and good lives, as is being religious. While the author asserts that wisdom is better than foolishness and doing what is right is better than not, the same end befalls all.
So what is the point? Without God, even right living is empty. That means that as long as long as your highest ambition is anything other than God’s glory, it will be empty in the end. Even if you are a religious person, faithful to God, in hopes that God will bless you in some way, only emptiness awaits. As long as God is merely a means to an end, it is vanity.