18 I hated all my toil in which I toil under the sun, seeing that I must leave it to the man who will come after me, 19 and who knows whether he will be wise or a fool? 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 about and gave my heart up to despair over all the toil of my labors under the sun, 21 because sometimes a person who has toiled with wisdom and knowledge and skill must leave everything to be enjoyed by someone who did not toil for it. This also is vanity and a great evil.
22 What has a man from all the toil and striving of heart with which he toils beneath the sun?
23 For all his days are full of sorrow, and his work is a vexation. Even in the night his heart does not rest. This also is vanity.
The five verses above are given to provide context for verse twenty and twenty-one So I turned about and gave my heart up to despair over all the toil of my labors under the sun, because sometimes a person who has toiled with wisdom and knowledge and skill must leave everything to be enjoyed by someone who did not toil for it. This also is vanity and a great evil.
The verse of interest is found in the middle of a paragraph form in a number of versions of the Bible, but we should always remember the paragraphs are not found in the original. Here, in the ESV, I believe the translators have done a great job of grouping verses into a paragraph. Recall a paragraph consists of one or more sentences dealing with one though or point throughout. This is certainly true herein.
What is the one thought? Despair due to having to leave everything one has worked for behind when one dies with no knowledge how it will (or if it will) be used and used appropriately. The verb for despair is fairly uncommon found only six times in the Bible and only once in Ecclesiastes. Gesenius’ Hebrew-Chaildee Lexicon says it is to be void of hope, to be without hope, to be in vain all of which fit.
The cause for despair is real if all you are living for is what you find in this life. A preacher once bellowed,
“You’ve never seen a hearse pulling a U-Haul trailer, have you!?” The origin of this likely came from Luke 12:16-21 where Jesus told them the following parable
“The ground of a certain rich man yielded an abundant harvest. He thought to himself, ‘What shall I do? I have no place to store my crops.’ Then he said, ‘This is what I’ll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store my surplus grain. And I’ll say to myself, “You have plenty of grain laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.”’
“But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?’ “This is how it will be with whoever stores up things for themselves but is not rich toward God.”
Achieve all you want, all you can, but it will be to no avail when death comes. You can take nothing with you except what you have done to please God. What you are doing, if done for God’s glory and in pursuit of His truth, will carry into heaven! Everything we learn of God, every soul we impact, every aspect of culture we impact for good, everything we create for His glory is preparing us for heaven. Link here.