The Man Who Will Come After Me
by Jacob Hudgins
What happens to our work when we die? Our money, our projects, and the fruits of our labor all find their way to someone else. Solomon calls this person “the man who will come after me”—and the thought fills him with frustration.
The man who will come after me could be wise or foolish. “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”(Eccl 2:18-10). Perhaps Solomon had his own son, Rehoboam, in mind as he wrote. In a stroke of breathtaking foolishness, Rehoboam forever divided the kingdom his father worked hard to establish. The day will come when we leave behind all that we have worked for on this earth. How distressing to think that all we have amassed could be easily lost by a foolish successor!
The man who will come after me will enjoy the fruits of my labor without working for it himself! “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”(Eccl 2:20-21). I cannot enjoy the fruits of my labor, but instead they go to one who does not appreciate them. Without proper value, they are easily squandered, as Rehoboam did the kingdom.
Solomon’s point is to demonstrate the emptiness and frustration of investing our lives solely in our work. The time will come when someone else will occupy the desk, office, or pulpit we now inhabit. Someday our bank accounts will close. Our names will be forgotten, and the public eye will have long moved past us.
Rather than allowing such thoughts to frustrate us, Solomon urges us to look beyond our work to eternal realities. We should enjoy our labor (Eccl 2:24) yet prepare for the next life by fearing God and obeying Him (Eccl 12:13), labor with real value. What could be more important?