The Teacher shares with us his pursuit of happiness in this life. This pursuit was not just for himself, it was for all humans. What did he discover?
New Revised Standard Version Updated Edition
The Futility of Seeking Wisdom
12 I, the Teacher, was king over Israel in Jerusalem. 13 I applied my mind to seek and to search out by wisdom all that is done under heaven; it is an unhappy business that God has given to humans to be busy with. 14 I saw all the deeds that are done under the sun, and see, all is vanity and a chasing after wind.
15 What is crooked cannot be made straight,
and what is lacking cannot be counted.
16 I said to myself, “I have acquired great wisdom, surpassing all who were over Jerusalem before me, and my mind has had great experience of wisdom and knowledge.” 17 And I applied my mind to know wisdom and to know madness and folly. I perceived that this also is but a chasing after wind.
18 For in much wisdom is much vexation,
and those who increase knowledge increase sorrow.
New Revised Standard Version Updated Edition
The Futility of Self-Indulgence
2 I said to myself, “Come now, I will make a test of pleasure; enjoy yourself.” But again, this also was vanity. 2 I said of laughter, “It is mad,” and of pleasure, “What use is it?” 3 I searched with my mind how to cheer my body with wine—my mind still guiding me with wisdom—and how to lay hold on folly, until I might see what was good for mortals to do under heaven during the few days of their life. 4 I made great works; I built houses and planted vineyards for myself; 5 I made myself gardens and parks and planted in them all kinds of fruit trees. 6 I made myself pools from which to water the forest of growing trees. 7 I bought male and female slaves and had slaves who were born in my house; I also had great possessions of herds and flocks, more than any who had been before me in Jerusalem. 8 I also gathered for myself silver and gold and the treasure of kings and of the provinces; I got singers, both men and women, and delights of the flesh, many concubines.[a]
9 So I became great and surpassed all who were before me in Jerusalem; also my wisdom remained with me. 10 Whatever my eyes desired I did not keep from them; I kept my heart from no pleasure, for my heart found pleasure from all my toil, and this was my reward from all my toil. 11 Then I considered all that my hands had done and the toil I had spent in doing it, and again, all was vanity and a chasing after wind, and there was nothing to be gained under the sun.
Wisdom and Joy Given to One Who Pleases God
12 So I turned to consider wisdom and madness and folly, for what can the king’s successor do? Only what has already been done. 13 Then I saw that wisdom excels folly as light excels darkness.
14 The wise have eyes in their head,
but fools walk in darkness.
Yet I perceived that the same fate befalls all of them. 15 Then I said to myself, “What happens to the fool will happen to me also; why then have I been so very wise?” And I said to myself that this also is vanity. 16 For there is no enduring remembrance of the wise or of fools, seeing that in the days to come all will have been long forgotten. How can the wise die just like fools? 17 So I hated life because what is done under the sun was grievous to me, for all is vanity and a chasing after wind.
18 I hated all my toil in which I had toiled under the sun, seeing that I must leave it to my successor, 19 and who knows whether he will be wise or foolish? Yet he will be master of all for which I toiled and used my wisdom under the sun. This also is vanity. 20 So I turned and gave my heart up to despair concerning all the toil of my labors under the sun, 21 because sometimes one who has toiled with wisdom and knowledge and skill must leave all to be enjoyed by another who did not toil for it. This also is vanity and a great evil. 22 What do mortals get from all the toil and strain with which they toil under the sun? 23 For all their days are full of pain, and their work is a vexation; even at night their minds do not rest. This also is vanity.
24 There is nothing better for mortals than to eat and drink and find enjoyment in their toil. This also, I saw, is from the hand of God, 25 for apart from him[b] who can eat or who can have enjoyment? 26 For to the one who pleases him God gives wisdom and knowledge and joy, but to the sinner he gives the work of gathering and heaping, only to give to one who pleases God. This also is vanity and a chasing after wind.