BY THE HONORABLE MINISTER LOUIS FARRAKHAN | LAST UPDATED: JUL 11, 2012 – 11:37:24 AM
[Editor’s note: The following article contains edited excerpts from the thought-provoking message “All is Vanity” delivered by the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan live via webcast from Mosque Maryam in Chicago, Illinois on Sunday, July 1, 2012.]
In The Name of Allah, The Beneficent, The Merciful.
My subject today deals with “vanity.” We will be studying from the Bible in the Book of Ecclesiastes, where we learn about Solomon: The wisest man in The Old Testament.
“The words of the Preacher [Solomon], the son of David, king in Jerusalem…” (Ch. 1, verse 1)—this is a king talking. All of the Jewish people of today, and those who study the Torah, have great honor and respect for Solomon. The scripture teaches us that he was the wisest man of his day; and wiser than any that came before him! However, The New Testament, in the Book of Matthew, Chapter 6, verse 29, it teaches that Solomon, in all his glory, was “not arrayed” as the least of those who were under the Teachings of Jesus The Christ.
So although we applaud Solomon, we’re not “looking back” for wisdom in that sense. We can look in the mirror at our own lives that we are living. Don’t look at anybody else’s life—just look at yours, as I look at mine.
Throwing away The Gift of Life
“Vanity of vanities, saith the Preacher, vanity of vanities; all is vanity. What profit hath a man of all his labor that he takes under the sun?One generation passeth away, and another generation comes: but the earth abides forever.” (Eccles. Ch. 1, verses 2-4).
Look at you: You are alive now, physically. But we all know that one day death will visit each of us. You are the generation that is “present,” but there were generations before you. They are gone now, and you hardly know anything about them. And soon we will be gone, and people won’t even know that we were here. So what is this thing called “life”? What is its purpose? And how should we, who have the Gift of Life, use it?
This is your life. This is your time. Don’t let anybody tell you that “there’s another life somewhere else” because no one has come back from the dead to tell you anything! This is the life that you have! This is the time of your life!
Consider the ones who give you “gifts”: They measure you by what you do with the gifts they have given you. For example, Christmas time is coming and somebody gives you a gift; or, your wedding, birthday or baby shower is coming up, and somebody gives you a gift. But when you look at the gift you’ve received, wondering: “Man, what is this?”and you throw it away, then if the person who gave you the gift happened to come to your home and saw it in the garbage pail, what kind of thought would they have about you, and what you think of them; that they would give you a gift, and you threw it away?
And so it is with God: What does God think about those of us to whom He has given The Gift of Life, and we are throwing it away living in the “garbage pail,” or living out of the “garbage pail”? Yet, God created us in His image and after His likeness, but we can’t look in the mirror and say, “I resemble God” because our thinking is so far from God, and our actions are as far as our thoughts are from God.
“Time” is “running,” and every day that we wake up it is another day closer to a goal and another day closer to the grave. So I ask you: What are you doing with your life that He gave you? What are you doing with your time?
Vanity: Excessive pride in one’s self, possessions
Some of you have been on the Earth for 20 years; some 40, some 50; some 15 years, some 16 years—you’re young! And Solomon says in Ecclesiastes Chapter 11, verse 10: “Oh, I studied youth. And youth is full of vanity.”
Why are you full of vanity, young people? The young man who revels in his muscular arms, and likes to show them off; or the young girl who gets up in the morning and admires the beauty of her form … She puts on her tight dress and goes out knowing that “dogs will holler” (i.e. men with a “dog mentality”), and she doesn’t mind because her value of herself is in the shape of her body, not in the quality of her character and the beauty of her mind.
In your head is something that we have been given by God to extend our time. If we use, properly, The Spirit, or Energy of Life, to engage the mind and build the mind, then we can do things that will live after we are gone! But, Solomon said, “all is vanity,” so let’s look at the definition of the words “vain” and “vanity.”
“Vain,” according to the dictionary, is that which is empty; that which is worthless. My God … do you mean when we pursue things that deal strictly with “self,” then that is “empty” and “worthless”? That means as long as I live, if all I look for is “me,” then in death my life has been worthless?
“Vanity” is “the quality or fact of being vain or excessively proud of one’s self, or one’s qualities or possessions; self-conceit.” Do you think you’re “handsome”? Do you think you’re “beautiful”? You want everybody to admire your beauty, your handsomeness, so we doing everything to “enhance” ourselves. Do you make time to do your eyes before you go out? Do you put on a little “make up” and paint your lips? Do you make sure that you have accessorized yourself to enhance your beauty?
Do you get your nails done; and did you put sandals on after you’ve beautified your feet—and did nothing to beautify your mind, your character? This is all worthless. It’s all vanity. It is all empty.
The wisdom, madness and folly of our lives
Some people come into this world, and they love to read books. But what are you reading a book for? If you say, “I have a love for knowledge,” then that’s wonderful! So what will you do with your “knowledge”? “Well, I’ll prove that I am better than the one who does not read books, and lolly-gags and throws away their time. I am better!”
Please study Ecclesiastes, Chapter 2, verses 12-16; in these verses, Solomon is saying: “I have looked at this … How are you with knowledge better than the one who is a fool, when the end of both is the graveyard?” So no matter how much “knowledge” you have, and even “power”: When it’s time, your knowledge can’t keep you here, and your power cannot endure. All is vanity.
It’s wonderful that we pursue higher education, with the hopes, for example, of becoming a “doctor.” “I’m going to make myself a doctor! That’s what I’m going to be!” But for what purpose? “Doctors make a lot of money! And I can’t wait to be a doctor, so I can get what I saw Dr. So-and-So have!” Well, what happened to Dr. So-and-So? “Oh, he’s dead.”
So, do you mean that the money he made as a doctor, the fine house that he lived in as a doctor, the fine car that he drove as a doctor, and the influence that he had in his community as a doctor—but he’s as dead as the person that didn’t become a doctor?
How about you drunken students? You dope-smoking professionals? You coke-using preachers? Solomon said, “I did these things!” “I said in mine heart, Go to now, I will prove thee with mirth, therefore enjoy pleasure: and, behold, this also is vanity. I said of laughter, It is mad: and of mirth, What doeth it? I sought in mine heart to give myself unto wine, yet acquainting mine heart with wisdom; and to lay hold on folly, till I might see what was that good for the sons of men, which they should do under the heaven all the days of their life.” (Eccles. Ch. 2, verses 1-3) Solomon was studying these things in himself! And in the study of my own life, I, too, began to see myself; because if you’re going to become wise, you have to look in the mirror. Not for somebody else, you have to look in the mirror for yourself!
And when Solomon saw people “laughing”: Have you ever watched people laugh; who “cut-up” with loud, boisterous laughter? Some of you pay money just to see a comedian who will make you laugh. And you pay whatever it is that you pay just to sit there and have somebody speak filth! You’re laughing … But at the end of the day, you paid money, you laughed—and then went home to unpaid bills; went home to look at your children who are in need of things, which is nothing to “laugh” at; went home to look at your wife.
Nothing is “funny”! Life is serious! So “laughter” is only a “get away” from reality, because to face reality is harsh. But in order to overcome reality, you have to be man and woman enough to face it and do something about it.
There is nothing new under the sun
In Ecclesiastes Chapter 2, verses 4-11, look at what Solomon did in his life: “I made me great works; I builded me houses; I planted me vineyards: I made me gardens and orchards, and I planted trees in them of all kind of fruits; I made me pools of water, to water therewith the wood that bringeth forth trees: [And] I got me servants and maidens, and had servants born in my house; [and] I had great possessions of great and small cattle above all that were in Jerusalem before me: I gathered me also silver and gold, and the peculiar treasures of kings … So I was great, and increased more than all that were before me in Jerusalem: also my wisdom remained with me.”
In other words, “I’m drunk, but my wisdom remained with me; I’m high, but my wisdom remained with me; I’m sick inside because all I’m doing is really enjoying the things that I could amass”!
“And whatsoever mine eyes desired I kept not from them, I withheld not my heart from any joy; for my heart rejoiced in all my labour: and this was my portion of all my labour. Then I looked on all the works that my hands had wrought, and on the labour that I had laboured to do: and, behold, all was vanity and vexation of spirit, and there was no profit under the sun.”
Isn’t it something that the more you get, it’s like the more you want—you never seem to get enough? And then what? You’ve got a big house, but in the end they put you in the same box with the fool that never had anything; and then they put you in the ground with the man that didn’t strive for anything.
He becomes dust, and so does the rich man. So how are you better?
Acting in accord with the value and purpose of life gives us permanence
Solomon said there’s “nothing new under the sun; and “what was, is; and what is, shall be.” When you see these historical films of great ones that lived long ago, if you notice, they rode horses. Where are those horses today? They’re gone; sure! But, are there horses today? Yes.
Well, the wise men of yesterday: Did they come into this life any different from you? No. Did Jesus and Moses and the kings and the prophets come into birth any different than you? Did their mother carry them in the womb for nine months, with fainting and pain, and bring them forth? Yes, because there’s nothing “new”! They saw clouds—you see clouds! They saw sun, moon and star—you look up and see the same thing that people have been looking at for millions of years! They are gone, but the sun is here!
Why is there no “permanence” for us?
The Honorable Elijah Muhammad teaches “How To Eat To Live,” but he can’t keep “death” away from us! You can try and stay here as long as you can, but no one can out-run death. The Holy Qur’an says death will “overtake you” wherever you are; in the highest mountain, or deep in a valley! Go in a cave and shut yourself off, thinking that you’ll run away from disease and death. But no matter where you go, death will find you! So the end of life is for all of us to experience.
Go to a cemetery and look at names engraved in stone, because that’s the only way they have any remembrance beyond their time. “Oh look! This is Mr. Worthington right here.” Who was he? “I don’t know…” You could go ask his children; they remembered him. But the further you get away from the parent, through the grandchildren and the great grandchildren: They don’t remember you!
Your life is to be lived by realizing that it is your “portion”; your portion “under the sun” is the life that you have and what you do with it, because when death overtakes you, who is going to remember you? Solomon said there was a little town with a few people in it, when a king came and besieged that town. However, there was a poor wise man in the town, and he delivered the town. And that wise man dies, and no one remembered him.
How many of you really think you’re going to be remembered? And ask yourself this question: How many do you remember? You have friends and family that were real close to us. When they die, life goes on! You bury your homies, you bury your partners, you bury your wives and children and husbands, but life goes on! And in a few days, you laugh again, you cry again… And every now and then you remember—even those that were the closest to you, like mama and dad; and grandma who did so much for you. But, you go on with your life; and then you sit down some day and you see a picture and reminisce, “Oh yeah, that’s my grandmom. Man, she was great!”
Do you think that Time is not going to “touch” us? So what are you doing with your Time? This is why you must understand The Value and Purpose of Life.