Since pleasure had not brought meaning to his life, Solomon decided to see if wisdom was the answer.
Solomon (The Preacher of Ecclesiastes) has examined the meaning of life from virtually every angle. He had the wisdom, the money, and the time to try anything and everything his heart desired. In Ecclesiastes chapter one and the first part of chapter two, Solomon has declared that everything in life is dull and monotonous and meaningless. He then recounts his efforts at finding meaning in his existence by seeking every pleasure for himself that is known to man. Solomon concluded that seeking pleasure is not the answer.
Since pleasure had not brought meaning to his life, Solomon decided to see if wisdom was the answer. In chapter 2, he asks what gain is wisdom, since the fool and the wise man will both die and be quickly forgotten. He wondered in verse 12, what the king who came after him would do. His question expects the answer that the new king will suffer under the same bewilderment that Solomon does. That realization causes him to be discouraged, that maybe his life has been in vain. Still in verses 13 and 14, he declares that it is good to be wise anyway. He concludes that wisdom is better than foolishness even as light is better than darkness. A man living in the dark is never without bruised shins. Even more tragic, the fool is like one who does not even have the ability to see regardless of the available light. Pain cannot be avoided by the fool.
Solomon concluded that wisdom is not the answer, even though it does have its goodly benefits. In the last half of verse 14, he comes to understand that the same end, death, awaits the wisest of the wise, the greatest fool, and everyone in between. Solomon is discouraged by the idea that all will die. But it gets worse for him. The gloomy thought becomes personal. This will happen to me also! So often this is a major difference between the foolish and the wise. The wise have considered the inevitability of death for self. The foolish seem to live with no thought of the absolute certainty of their own death or what comes afterward.
In verse 16, Solomon declares a great truth. The wise and the foolish will die. They will each be buried and quickly forgotten. For most there will be no remembrance. For the most famous, the great achievers, there may be some record in some encyclopedia somewhere, but with each succeeding edition, the amount of information will be reduced and further reduced. Solomon knew full well that the Hebrews and all men wanted to know that their lives mattered; that they would be remembered. In fact, Solomon wrote in Proverbs 10:7, "The memory of the righteous is blessed, But the name of the wicked will rot." (NASU) The Psalmist wrote in Psalms 112:6, "The righteous will be remembered forever." (NASU) Wisdom will not cause one to be remembered. Only being righteous will cause one to be remembered forever. There is only one way to be righteous. You don't have what it takes to live righteously. You must be declared righteous. Only God Himself can do that. If you are looking for meaning in life, you will find it nowhere else.
I am reminded of a very important aspect of being remembered, i.e, being declared righteous. There is One whom you desperately need to be remembered by. The thief on the cross asked to be remembered by the Christ. Oh yes, you and I were under the same sentence of condemnation as that thief on the cross. Jesus, please remember me.