What Advantage Does A Man Have?

W. Terry Varner
June 30, 2013

Often we look at those around us and claim another has an advantage over us in life. We claim family privilege, the right side of the tracks, education, married beyond themselves, luck, money, et a., as the reason for others advantage. Solomon in his search of secular wisdom and knowledge uncovered that the philosophies of men, and other advantages, resulted in no advantage of one over the other before God. A reoccurring question is: “What advantage does man have in all the work which he does under the sun?” (Eccl. 1:3, NASB).

What advantage does a man have? Solomon speaks of your life and my life when he asks this question. Or, to ask it another way, “How does all one’s work profit him?” After experiencing the immediate delight, joy, or pleasure of something in life, what remains? What is left over? What endures? What feeds and nourishes of life? These questions we all ask at some point because Jesus asks us this question, “What is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his soul? Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?” (Matt. 16:26). What our Lord asks can be stated this way? “Is there anything that will serve my soul or continue to meet my needs—the highest good (summum bonum), which if I find it, I do not need to look any further? Is there a key to continued pleasure and work? Is there a key to continued delight and joy in life?

The cycle of nature fails us. Solomon describes a sense of vanity—futility, meaninglessness, and emptiness—that frustrates all of us at times. Life has cycles. The cycles of life are endless. “Generations come and generations go.” Man is transient, here and soon gone, but nature is permanent. A generation of people come and then goes; i.e. we are bom, live life, and then die (Heb. 9:27), but “the earth remains forever.” Solomon gives three examples of the phenomena of nature. First, “the sun rises and the sun sets, and hurries back to where it rises” (Eccl. 1:5). We observe the rising sun in the East and in a few hours of time it passes us by and sets in the West, only to arise again in the East the next morning. Regardless of where we live or are at the moment, this phenomena of nature occurs and has occurred since Creation (Gen. 1). It is endless. It is cyclic in nature by repeating itself again and again.

Second, Solomon writes of the failure of natural phenomena of the winds. “The winds blow to the south, turns north; round and round it goes, ever returning on its course” (Eccl. 1:6). What great knowledge Solomon possessed. We have no evidence that men (weather men) of Solomon’s time understood that the great jet-streams of the Earth are circular. We understand they are. We see them daily from the satellite pictures on our TV weather shows or our tech-phones. Solomon knew this information from divine revelation.

Third, Solomon writes: “all streams flow to the sea, yet the sea is never full. To the place the streams come from, there they return again” (Eccl. 1:7). As a child I often wondered, “Where does all the rain in the sky come from?” and “How do the flood waters recede and the streams return to normal?” The answer is simple. Water (rain) comes from the oceans, lakes, and streams in an invisible, divine evaporation system or process in which the ocean, lake, and stream waters are invisibly lifted into the clouds, and as the clouds move east in the jet streams the winds drop their moisture in what we can rain. It has gone on since the earth has known rain.

Solomon suggests that transient man cannot find satisfaction in life from the phenomena of nature. We learn great lessons from nature and from life—just as we begin to get a handle on matters of life it is over, and the next generation starts as we did, from the beginning. Solomon shows natural phenomena cannot result in satisfaction. Do you know what Solomon says satisfies? “Let us hear the conclusion of whole matter: Fear God, and keep His commandments: for this is the whole duty of man” (Eccl. 12:13-14).