"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, 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." – Ecclesiastes 2:18-19
These words, written by Solomon, were prophetic. He may have not realized it when he wrote these words, but they were an outline of what was to follow him. For upon his death, his son, Rehoboam, became king over Israel. If Solomon was known for his wisdom, Rehoboam became known as a fool. By his own foolish decisions, the kingdom split in two. What had once been a glorious kingdom and even a world-class power (for 80 years or so) was decimated into two struggling entities. Yes, all is vanity.
I grew up in a pastor's home. When I was born, my dad was pastoring a church in Rudyard, Michigan (Upper Peninsula)– a church of about 200 people. When I had just turned 4 years old, we then moved to Waterford, Michigan (Lower Peninsula) to a church of around 250 people but that grew to around 600 people. Then, when I was in high school, we again moved. This move was to Phoenix, Arizona, to another church of around 250 people.
After that my dad pastored other congregations but by then I was out of the house and living on my own. But here is what is interesting:
• The church in Rudyard, Michigan now numbers only around 50
• The church in Waterford, Michigan is down to around 200
• The church in Phoenix, Arizona has since disbanded
In a similar fashion, the house in which I spent most of my growing up years (in Waterford, Michigan), at one time was a bit of show-place: nice house, 7 acres of land, inground pool, barns, corral area (for horses), private pond, etc. I visited that property two years ago and found the property to be completely overgrown while the barns had been let go to the point of being torn down. It is now anything but a show place. As a boy growing up I had learned how to work at that property: how to mow grass, clean a pool, or build a barn. It was where I learned how to envision something and then work to see it happen. But now it is all gone.
These changes that come when we hand off something (be it a house or a church's leadership) to another could be depressing. Indeed, if somehow Solomon had lived to see what would become of the nation of Israel under his own son's leadership there is no question but that he would have become despondent over it all. But the fact is, we're all just passing through. This church, our homes, Lancaster County, even our family…none of this is permanent. We play a role, even a major role, in what may be going on around us, but someday it will all be gone. It was never intended to be permanent and so it is not. It is, as Solomon wrote, all "vanity": meaningless, not permanent
So enjoy what you have today, and labor for those things that are eternal. Because the truth be told: we're just passing through this world, just passing through.