What profit has he that works in that wherein he labors?…
The thought of there being a fixed order in the events of life, of laws governing the world which man cannot fully understand or control, brings with it no comfort to the mind of this Jewish philosopher. It rather, in his view, increases the difficulty of playing one's part successfully. Who can be sure that he has hit upon the right course to follow, the opportune time at which to act? Do not "the fixed phenomena" and "iron laws of life" render human effort fruitless and disappointing? Another conclusion is drawn from the same facts by a higher Teacher. We cannot by taking thought alter the conditions of our lives, and should, therefore, Christ has taught us, place our trust in our heavenly Father, who governs all things, and whose love for the creatures he has made is seen in his feeding the birds and clothing with beauty the flowers of the field (Matthew 6:25-34). The anxiety which the thought of human weakness in the presence of the immutable laws of nature excites is charmed away by the consolatory teaching of Jesus. But no solution is given of the difficulties that occasioned it. These will always exist as they spring from the limitations of our nature. We are finite creatures, and God is infinite. We endure but for a few years; he is from everlasting to everlasting. Our apprehension of these facts, of infinitude and eternity, prevents our being satisfied with that which is finite and temporal. "God has set eternity" (vide Revised Version margin) "in our hearts." Though we are limited by time, we are related to eternity. "That which is transient yields us no support; it carries us on like a rushing stream, and constrains us to save ourselves by laying hold on eternity" (Delitzsch). We cannot rest satisfied with fragmentary knowledge, but strive to pass on from it to the great worlds of truth yet undiscovered and unknown; we would see the whole of God's work from beginning to end (ver. 1), and find ourselves precluded from accomplishing our desire. From Solomon's point of view, in which the possibility or certainty of a future life is not taken into account, this desiderium aeternitatis is only another of the illusions by which the soul of man is vexed. But we should contradict our better knowledge, and ungratefully neglect the Divine aids to faith which have been given us in the fuller revelation of the New Testament, if we were to cherish the same opinion. Dissatisfaction with the finite and the temporal is not a morbid feeling in those who believe that they have an immortal nature, and that they are yet to come into "an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away" (1 Peter 1:4). - J.W.
Parallel VersesKJV: What profit hath he that worketh in that wherein he laboureth?