The Formula For A Life Of Contentment

4Then I saw that all toil and all skill in work come from a man’s envy of his neighbor. This also is vanity and a striving after wind. 5The fool folds his hands and eats his own flesh. 6Better is a handful of quietness than two hands full of toil and a striving after wind.
(Ecclesiastes 4:4-6 ESV)

In today’s passage King Solomon notes that it is not only by injustice and oppression from others that people suffer. They also suffer as a result of the self-destructive behaviors of envy and laziness.

Solomon is an observer of life; he is a student of human nature and activity. He notices that rather than enjoyment of life being our motivation and passion (as God wants it), all our toil and work come from our envy of our neighbor.

We work hard because we want what others have rather than because we enjoy what we do. Life in an “under the sun” world (i.e. without God) is a “dog-eat-dog” life of constant competition. But this, also is vanity and a striving after wind [Psalm 127:2]. It is a never-ending quest that brings no satisfaction.

On the other hand there are those who fold their hands – that is, they don’t work. Perhaps they see the pointlessness of chasing after material wealth and the respect of others.

We experienced a culture exactly like this in the 1960s when millions of young people decided they didn’t want to be part of the rat race so they dropped out of society.

This is not good either, Solomon notes, because such a person eats his own flesh. In other words, s/he brings about her/his own destruction. Eventually they run out of resources, friends, and self-respect. God designed us to work [Genesis 1:26, 28, 2:15]. He did not design us to be lazy.

Finally Solomon identifies a better lifestyle – one between the extremes of greed and doing nothing: have less and enjoy it more. Having one handful without strife (quietness) is better than having two hands full (greed) and all the stress and emptiness that goes with it.

The problem in life is not the high cost of living. It is the cost of high living. Most of us could do with less – much less – than what we have. Most of us have, materially speaking, everything we really need, including money.

But when we see others with more we get envious and we strive for what they have. But this only brings problems. The answer is being content with what we have. Lower expectations result in greater enjoyment in life.

It’s no coincidence that the poorest people on earth are often the most happy while the wealthy have more problems [Matthew 6:19; 1 Timothy 6:10]. True contentment is often found where there are fewer material goods. You won’t be happy with what you don’t have if you’re not already happy with what you do have.

We aren’t playing for keeps here. We take nothing with us when we die, as Solomon has already noted [Ecclesiastes 2:18]. There is no reason, then, to strive for more than we need.

God’s design for us is to work for what we need and no more (although it’s wise to save for a rainy day) and to find contentment solely in Him [Proverbs 15:16, 16:8].

The best life is not having too much. The best life is not being lazy and living off of others. The best life is working honorably, having enough, and finding Jesus before we die.

Comments? Questions? I’d love to hear from you. Please feel free to contact me about this post.


God Sees The Oppression Happening On Earth

1Again I saw all the oppressions that are done under the sun. And behold, the tears of the oppressed, and they had no one to comfort them! On the side of their oppressors there was power, and there was no one to comfort them. 2And I thought the dead who are already dead more fortunate than the living who are still alive. 3But better than both is he who has not yet been and has not seen the evil deeds that are done under the sun.
(Ecclesiastes 4:1-3 ESV)

Yesterday King Solomon pointed out that there is injustice in this world and presented that reality as a potential objection to the notion that God loves us and has a good plan for our lives. Today he raises another objection: all the oppressions that are done under the sun (on this earth).

Often such suffering goes unnoticed, especially by those in lofty positions such as King Solomon. But Solomon not only noticed, he was moved by the tears of the oppressed and saw how glib it would be to tell those who are oppressed that God has a wonderful plan for their lives. Such a statement comes across as naive at best and cold-hearted at worst. Solomon doesn’t address that dilemma in today’s passage, but he will later on.

Oppressors always have power on their side. They use their financial power, their military power, and/or their political power to harm others for the sake of their own gain. In history – including recent history – we’ve seen people oppressed because of the color of their skin, their gender, their ethnicity and other reasons – none of them valid.

God hates this behaviour and warns us against doing it [Exodus 22:21; 23:9; Leviticus 19:13; Deuteronomy 24:14; Psalms 62:10; Zechariah 7:10; Malachi 3:5]. But when we live in an “under the sun” world – a world that does not recognize God and obey Him – there will be people who ignore Him.

But make no mistake, such people will not prosper forever [Isaiah 1:21-26; Micah 3:8-12; James 5:1-6]. Meanwhile, those who are oppressed and afflicted will be comforted by God Himself [Acts 9:31; 2 Corinthians 1:3–7] because they have no one else to comfort them.

The oppression that goes on on this earth is so disconcerting that King Solomon thought the dead more fortunate than the living for they no longer have to witness and experience such unfairness and cruelty. But those of us who are alive must endure it still.

Notice that Solomon refers to the dead who were already dead. This is an interesting phrase. It implies that there are dead who are not yet dead – the living dead, so to speak. They currently have biological life, but their spirit is dead. Likewise, he refers to the living who are still alive, implying that those who are not biologically alive are still alive. Here is another verse that let’s us know that we are eternal creatures. We don’t cease to exist once we die.

But Solomon suggests that even better than either the dead or the living is the one who has not yet been born and has therefore not seen the evil that man does to his fellow-man on this earth (“under the sun”). Abortionists use this verse to justify abortion – making it out to be the will of God. It is no such thing. This verse is clearly hyperbole. Abortion is a vile, selfish abomination – an oppression of the helpless in and of itself.

Those who belong to God – those born-again by the Spirit – are not to oppress others. Moreover, we are to seek justice for those who are oppressed and helpless to defend themselves such as the unborn, children, and the poor [Deuteronomy 16:19–20; Psalms 106:3; Proverbs 21:3, 15; Isaiah 1:17; Micah 6:8].

In heaven there will be no oppression [Job 3:17-19]. Jesus will be our only authority [Philippians 2:10]. And those who oppress others and abuse their power here on earth will ultimately face God’s wrath [Matthew 18:6-7].

Comments? Questions? I’d love to hear from you. Please feel free to contact me about this post.


Injustice On Earth Is Part Of The Human Experience

16And I saw something else under the sun: In the place of judgment—wickedness was there, in the place of justice—wickedness was there 17I said to myself, “God will bring into judgment both the righteous and the wicked, for there will be a time for every activity, a time to judge every deed.” 18I also said to myself, “As for humans, God tests them so that they may see that they are like the animals. 19Surely the fate of human beings is like that of the animals; the same fate awaits them both: As one dies, so dies the other. All have the same breath; humans have no advantage over animals. Everything is meaningless. 20All go to the same place; all come from dust, and to dust all return. 21Who knows if the human spirit rises upward and if the spirit of the animal goes down into the earth?” 22So I saw that there is nothing better for a person than to enjoy their work, because that is their lot. For who can bring them to see what will happen after them?
(Ecclesiastes 3:16-22 ESV)

In yesterday’s passage we read that God has a plan for our lives. Yet that can be hard to believe when we look around at some of the things that take place on this earth (“under the sun”). Over the next several days King Solomon will raise some valid objections to the idea that God cares about us and that everything that happens is good. He begins today with the observation that the world is not filled with justice but with wickedness.

Life has never been fair. Innocent people go to prison. Guilty people go free. Children are sold into sex slavery. Racism exists. People lie, steal, and cheat without caring who they hurt.

Bad things happen on this earth and those who commit them don’t always seem to be held accountable. This is because of the wickedness that exists in the hearts of men. We are evil. The injustice that we see happening on this earth is not God’s fault. We could choose to do things God’s way [Matthew 7:12]. But we don’t.

But have no fear. God will bring judgment [Psalm 37:12-13]. All sin will be punished. But God is patient. He gives people a chance to repent [2 Peter 3:9].

Think about it. If God executed immediate judgment when we sinned, the human race would have been wiped out in a just a few hours – thousands of years ago.

Instead, we have to endure the evil that we (yes, we) and others commit. None of us are sinless. God allows human injustice to exist as a test – to make it clear to us that without Him we are like animals – as one dies, so does the other.

Ultimately, this life is nothing more than a test. God is constantly testing us [Genesis 22:1; Exodus 15:25; 16:4; 20:20; Deuteronomy 8:2, 16; 13:3; Judges. 2:22; 2 Chronicles 32:31; Matthew 4:1; Hebrews 12:5-13].

We are given tests in school not so the teacher can find out what we don’t know but so we can find out what we don’t know. This helps us identify areas where we need to improve. Life is the same way.

God does not test us so He can learn something about us. He tests us so that we learn something about ourselves. Hopefully we will realize that without God life is futile; the same fate (death) awaits both man and animals.

This should make us humble. When viewed from a simply earthly perspective, human beings are no different from the animal kingdom. We are born. We work to survive. Then we die. Without God life has no meaning.

It is only through the gospel of Jesus Christ that one understands that we are eternal beings [2 Timothy 1:10]. Atheism can bring no meaning to life. Nor can it reveal the truth of our eternal existence [Job 19:25-27].

So there is nothing better for us to do than enjoy our workThat is our lot. This is what God wants for us.

We are not to worry about injustice. It is not our job to right past wrongs – although we should do what we can to be fair and honest with each other in the present and in the future.

In the end, God is our judge. He will make things right. While this may not (and likely won’t) happen in our lifetime, it will happen. Everyone will have to stand trial before God [Matthew 25:31-46; 2 Corinthians 5:10; Revelation 20:11-15].

Comments? Questions? I’d love to hear from you. Please feel free to contact me about this post.


God Has A Plan For Your Life

14I perceived that whatever God does endures forever; nothing can be added to it, nor anything taken from it. God has done it, so that people fear before him. 15That which is, already has been; that which is to be, already has been; and God seeks what has been driven away.
(Ecclesiastes 3:14-15 ESV)

Over the past couple of days we’ve seen that there are many experiences in life that God uses to shape us and grow us. From man’s perspective some of these are good and some are bad; some are pleasant and some are unpleasant; some are to be embraced and some are to be avoided.

God has a plan for us. It is to conform us to the image of Jesus [Romans 8:29]. God uses life experiences to mature us and change us into what He knows we can be.

God’s plan is permanent (endures forever). It does not need to be altered (nothing can be added to it, nor anything taken from it). God is not going to change His plan [Numbers 23:19; Psalm 119:89; Malachi 3:6]. This is not because He is stubborn and arrogant but because He knows how we are designed (He designed us, after all) and He therefore knows how to best shepherd us through life.

We can whine. We can object. We can take measures to avoid certain experiences. But God is in charge. And He loves us too much to always give us what we think we want.

The struggles we experience in life happen for one reason: we want to play God. We want to direct our own lives and do things our own way. When we do, we make a mess of things. Rather, we need to realize that there is an appropriate time for all things [Ecclesiastes 3:1-8] and embrace our experiences and learn from them.

Rather than seeking to control our own lives we need to fear God. Fearing God does not mean having an abject terror of Him. It means having reverence and honor for Him; it means having trust and confidence in Him that we are willing to do things His way because we know that He loves us and only seeks our good [Jeremiah 29:11; Lamentations 3:25; 2 Peter 3:9].

When we go through life without a healthy respect for God we will conclude that life is empty and meaningless. This is precisely what Solomon realized as he looked back on the many mistakes he made in his life.

But human beings are slow learners. We keep making the same mistakes again and again as Solomon did. That is why God has to keep repeating His lessons: that which already has been and that which is to be already has been.

God is patient with us. He knows how we are. He is willing to teach us over and over and over again. He never gets tired of it. He never gets annoyed. He never gives up on us. He just keeps sending us back through the same experiences until we (hopefully) learn and can move on.

If you’ve ever wondered why you keep going through the same stuff in your life, it could be because you haven’t yet learned the lesson God wanted to teach you. Until you do, you’ll keep going through it.

Comments? Questions? I’d love to hear from you. Please feel free to contact me about this post.


God Has Wired Us To Search For Meaning

9What gain has the worker from his toil? 10I have seen the business that God has given to the children of man to be busy with. 11He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also, he has put eternity into man’s heart, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end. 12I perceived that there is nothing better for them than to be joyful and to do good as long as they live; 13also that everyone should eat and drink and take pleasure in all his toil—this is God’s gift to man.
(Ecclesiastes 3:9-13 ESV)

Yesterday we read that there is an appropriate time in our lives for everything, including painful experiences. In today’s passage we learn that there is something to be gained from our toilThe business God has given us to be busy with has a purpose.

God has made everything beautiful in its time. Everything that we experience is a blessing to us. Even the things we would consider to be negative experiences are deliberately provided by God to teach and mature us. Our problem is that we want life to be simple and easy. We don’t want to go through pain.

God has also has put eternity into man’s heart. Man knows that he is an eternal creature. So he searches for answers beyond himself. We have the ability to reflect on past experiences and use that information to choose how we will behave in the  present in order to control the future. We are the only beings on earth who do so because we are made in God’s image [Genesis 1:27].

Other animals are satisfied when they’re physical needs are met. But not man. We search for meaning. We know we are more than just a collection of randomly coagulated molecules. God has wired us to look beyond ourselves for purpose.

But notice that even so we cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end. We can learn some things, but we cannot learn everything. In fact, the more we learn the more we realize that we have to learn. We see this all the time with scientific discoveries. Scientists discover some new fact about medicine or the universe. But that new fact only raises more questions. So we continue investigating and learning. Our search is never-ending.

But we should not be dissatisfied with this. Although we cannot understand all the mysteries of the universe or of God Himself we can still take pleasure in life. This is what God wants.

God’s plan for our life is for us to always be joyful [1 Thessalonians 5:16]. There is nothing better for us to do as long as we live. No matter what happens we should eat and drink and take pleasure in all we do for this is God’s gift to man.

Notice that pleasure must be taken – it is a gift from God. We cannot create our own happiness. There is no happiness apart from God. The world continually tries to improve life by removing God. But as we can easily see by looking at our recent track record, the world does not get better, nor do people get happier, without God.

As we can see in these first three chapters of Ecclesiastes, King Solomon really thought about life. He thought deep. And he found that nothing in our finite lives can satisfy our spirit or intellect. This is by God’s design.

As Augustine wrote: “You [God] have made us for yourself, and our hearts are restless until they can find peace in you.” True contentment can only be found in God.

Comments? Questions? I’d love to hear from you. Please feel free to contact me about this post.


Disrupting God’s Design For Life Creates Problems

1For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven: 2 a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted; 3a time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up; 4a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance; 5a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing; 6a time to seek, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away; 7a time to tear, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak; 8a time to love, and a time to hate; a time for war, and a time for peace.
(Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 ESV)

We left off yesterday with King Solomon noting that life “under the sun” – life without God – is pointless and without meaning. Instead, we find meaning in our lives by living for God and recognizing that all comes from Him.

To that end, there is a season for everything, and a time for every matter under heaven. Notice that Solomon refers to life here as “under heaven” as opposed to “under the sun”. He is going to look at life from God’s perspective now in order to identify how to find meaning in all that we do here.

The overall statement by Solomon in these verses is that there is a time and a place for everything, both good and bad. In order to understand life we must recognize two things. First, that there are some things that are outside of our control.

We cannot control the time we are born nor the time we die. Similarly, we don’t control the natural and annual cycle of plant life. God has created the world such that the time to plant is in the Spring and the time to pluck up what is planted is in the Fall. We have no say in these matters. They happen when they happen because God has ordained it as such. If we want to enjoy life we must understand that there are things in life that happen when and where and why they do because that is how God wants.

But secondly, we must understand that there are events in our personal lives that, while we may not be able to control either, we can control how we react to them. For example, there is a time to weep but there is also a time to laugh. There is a time to seek (i.e. make a change in our lives) and a time to lose (i.e. let go of something in our life that is not good for us).

There is a time to keep silence and a time to speak. I think we can all relate to that one. There is also a time to love and a time to hate. There are things that God hates and that we are to hate as well, such as sin. We are to love what God loves – people. But we are not to love behavior (e.g. abortion) that God does not love.

There is even a time for painful experiences such as mourning and war. All these experiences are part of God’s plan for our life. The problem is they are not part of our plan for our life. Mankind seeks to avoid all unpleasantness but even if that were to happen it would not be helpful, it would be even more harmful.

We live in a fallen world. Our rebellion against God has introduced – and even necessitated – some painful things in life. God recognizes that. God uses such experiences to teach us.

The point Solomon is trying to make with this poem is that God has designed life to work a certain way and we cannot enjoy life if we don’t adhere to this design. When we fight against or alter God’s design of life we make it harder to enjoy life even though we think we’re doing the exact opposite.

Comments? Questions? I’d love to hear from you. Please feel free to contact me about this post.


God Is The Sole Source Of All Enjoyment

24There is nothing better for a person than that he should eat and drink and find enjoyment in his toil. This also, I saw, is from the hand of God, 25for apart from him who can eat or who can have enjoyment? 26For to the one who pleases him God has given wisdom and knowledge and joy, but to the sinner he has given the business of gathering and collecting, only to give to one who pleases God. This also is vanity and a striving after wind.
(Ecclesiastes 2:24-26 ESV)

Yesterday we read King Solomon’s thoughts on work and how, in the end, it’s all meaningless because we have to leave behind everything we work for on this earth. But, paradoxically, Solomon notes that there is nothing better for a person that he should eat and drink and find enjoyment in his toil.

Solomon is not advocating ‘Eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow we die!’ That is the philosophy of hedonism justified by fatalism.

In fact, enjoyment of life is from the hand of God. God wants us to enjoy life [1 Timothy 4:4, 6:17]. But no one can have enjoyment apart from Him.

Up until this point King Solomon has looked at life from the “under the sun” point of view. He’s noted that when we live as if all that exists is what is “under the sun” – that is, earth – life is meaningless. It is devoid of true enjoyment. Rather it is filled with struggle.

Pleasure and work have no meaning in and of themselves. When we expect them to fulfill us we are disappointed. So we seek even more pleasure and work even harder only be even more disappointed. And the cycle continues. We then end up hating life because we expect to get more out of these pursuits than they can give.

The path to wisdom and knowledge and joy is to please God. And the one who pleases Him is the one who has faith in Him [Hebrews 11:6].

We enjoy life by pleasing God. And we please God by having faith in Him. When we realize that we can’t work to please self nor do we have to work to please God, life becomes much more satisfying. We can take pleasure in all that life offers because all that life offers is a gift from God.

God  wants us to enjoy not only eternity in heaven but our present on this earth. After all, our current life is part of our entire existence. But we cannot enjoy our present if we don’t understand that enjoyment doesn’t come from things, or money, or other people. Enjoyment comes from having a relationship with God.

By contrast, the sinner spends his life gathering and collecting – working and accumulating (friends, possessions, money etc.). But this is nothing more than striving after wind. It is pointless, impossible, and without end.

When we realize that all of life – pleasure, wisdom, work – is as much a gift from God as life itself we can enjoy what we have without being discontent about what we don’t have. We can be satisfied in who we are – people who are loved by God and who have a heavenly Father who cares for them and takes care of them

Throughout the rest of this book, Solomon will explore this further, including common objections to his conclusion.

Comments? Questions? I’d love to hear from you. Please feel free to contact me about this post.


We Come Into The World With Nothing & We Leave With Nothing

18I 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, 19and 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. 20So I turned about and gave my heart up to despair over all the toil of my labors under the sun, 21because 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. 22What has a man from all the toil and striving of heart with which he toils beneath the sun? 23For 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.
(Ecclesiastes 2:18-23 ESV)

In the book of Ecclesiastes King Solomon looks back upon his life as an old man and dishes out his findings. He had tried to live for the things of this world – things “under the sun” including knowledge, pleasure, and wisdom. As he has explained, he found no meaning in any of those things.

As a result he hated all his toil because all he worked for was ultimately for nothing. Everything we work for we must leave to the ones who will come after us. And, who knows, perhaps that person will be a fool and will squander all for which we worked so hard.

This is exactly what happened with King Solomon’s son, Rehoboam, who acted foolishly and lost all that Solomon had built and acquired [1 Kings 12:1-19, 14:25-28]. Perhaps Solomon looked at his son and knew that would be the case. It makes one despair to realize that all our accomplishments on earth are really a vapor (vanity).

We work so hard with wisdom and knowledge and skill but hardly have time to enjoy the fruits of our labor ourselves. It always takes more time and effort to acquire than remains to enjoy. Not only is this vanity but is also a great evil. That is, it isn’t fair.

Human labor costs more than its worth. It creates more sorrow and vexation than pleasure. It creates in us a heart that does not rest because the more we have the more we want. And the more we see other people have the more we want. Our senses are never satisfied [Ecclesiastes 1:8].

Like Solomon, we work hard because we want to achieve something during this life. But the things that we achieve belong to this world. We either outlast the things of this earth or they outlast us and we must leave them behind.

The Egyptians would bury a king’s possessions with him so he would have them in the next life. But we know that doesn’t happen. We can’t take anything with us when we leave this earth. You never see a hearse pulling a U-Haul.

We come into the world with nothing and we leave with nothing. Ultimately, we gain nothing as a result of living. In the end we come full circle, just like the wind and rain [Ecclesiastes 1:5-7].

We must keep in mind that those who lived under the Old Testament did not have complete revelation about eternity. Many, like Solomon, believed in God but they didn’t understand that life went on after they died. For them, life on earth was all there was.

And if that was the case, Solomon wonders, what was the point of it all since death renders all our accomplishments meaningless. He’ll give us an answer to that tomorrow.

Comments? Questions? I’d love to hear from you. Please feel free to contact me about this post.


The Wise & The Ignorant Both End Up Dead

12So I turned to consider wisdom and madness and folly. For what can the man do who comes after the king? Only what has already been done. 13I saw that there is more gain in wisdom than in folly, as there is more gain in light than in darkness. 14The wise person has his eyes in his head, but the fool walks in darkness. And yet I perceived that the same event happens to all of them. 15 I said in my heart, “What happens to the fool will happen to me also. Why then have I been so very wise?” And I said in my heart that this also is vanity. 16 For of the wise as of the fool there is no enduring remembrance, seeing that in the days to come all will have been long forgotten. How the wise dies just like the fool! 17So I hated life, because what is done under the sun was grievous to me, for all is vanity and a striving after wind.
(Ecclesiastes 2:12-17 ESV)

After having attempted to find meaning and fulfillment by pursuing selfish pleasures [Ecclesiastes 2:1-11], King Solomon next turned to consider wisdom and madness and folly. Solomon approached life via wisdom and he also approached life from the opposite direction. In the end he saw that there is more gain in wisdom than in folly, as there is more gain in light than in darkness.

Solomon had previously told us that he found wisdom to be lacking [Ecclesiastes 1:16-17] but here he explains why that is so.

Wisdom is better than ignorance because wisdom allows a person to see what lies ahead of him in life (has his eyes in his head) whereas the one who goes through life ignorant is a fool who walks in darkness [Proverbs 8].

The wise man has paid attention to life and has learned to avoid those behaviors which have detrimental consequences. The one who goes through life without wisdom – who does not learn and heed the lessons of life – does not avoid actions with negative consequences.

And yet there is one event that happens to all people regardless of whether they went through life wisely or foolishly. Both will die [Psalm 49:10]. Death is the great equalizer.

Furthermore, there will be no enduring remembrance of the wise or of the foolIn the days to come they will have long been forgotten.

There are billions of people on this planet. There have been billions more who have come before us. Very few of them make a lasting impression. They are quickly forgotten in a generation or two (what were your great grandparents’ names?). Those who do achieve world-wide fame may be remembered a bit longer. But eventually all is forgotten (ask a 13 year-old about the Beatles).

Solomon realized that all the knowledge he had attained under the sun could not keep him from death. In the end, all his efforts were no different than striving after wind because they could not save him. This is a very important point.

There is nothing on this earth (“under the sun”) that can save our souls. Not fame. Not money. Not knowledge. Each of these things are not inherently bad. They have their utility to be sure, but only on earth. None give men any eternal advantage.

Solomon wondered why he had bothered to accumulate earthly knowledge and become so very wise since it also is a vapor (vanity); it cannot last. In fact, there is something better with which we can occupy ourselves with in this life.

It is better to prepare for eternity than to solely concentrate on this life. Because the love of God and the peace of Christ surpasses earthly understanding and knowledge [Psalms 16:11; Ephesians 3:19; Philippians 4:7].

There is earthly wisdom [1 Corinthians 1:20-30; James 3:13-17]. And there is heavenly wisdom [Proverbs 3:5-6; Proverbs 9:10; Job 28:28]. The former cannot save anyone. The later can, and does, for the one who believes.

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Pleasing Self Leaves Us Unfulfilled

1I said in my heart, “Come now, I will test you with pleasure; enjoy yourself.” But behold, this also was vanity. 2I said of laughter, “It is mad,” and of pleasure, “What use is it?” 3I searched with my heart how to cheer my body with wine—my heart still guiding me with wisdom—and how to lay hold on folly, till I might see what was good for the children of man to do under heaven during the few days of their life. 4I made great works. I built houses and planted vineyards for myself. 5I made myself gardens and parks, and planted in them all kinds of fruit trees. 6I made myself pools from which to water the forest of growing trees. 7I bought male and female slaves, and had slaves who were born in my house. I had also great possessions of herds and flocks, more than any who had been before me in Jerusalem. 8I also gathered for myself silver and gold and the treasure of kings and provinces. I got singers, both men and women, and many concubines, the delight of the sons of man. 9So I became great and surpassed all who were before me in Jerusalem. Also my wisdom remained with me. 10And whatever my eyes desired I did not keep from them. I kept my heart from no pleasure, for my heart found pleasure in all my toil, and this was my reward for all my toil. 11Then I considered all that my hands had done and the toil I had expended in doing it, and behold, all was vanity and a striving after wind, and there was nothing to be gained under the sun.
(Ecclesiastes 2:1-11 ESV)

In today’s passage we read of a grand experiment on life conducted by King Solomon. Solomon not only wondered about the meaning of life, he put life to the test to see if he could find that meaning with pleasure. He sought to enjoy himself. But he found pleasure also was like a vapor (vanity) – short-lived and empty.

Solomon tried to find fulfillment in many of the same ways by which people have sought through the ages to find contentment in life. To that end he tried to find satisfaction in entertainment (laughter), alcohol (wine), accomplishment (great works), possessions (herds and flocks), money (gold and silver), and sex (many concubines). Whatever his eyes desired he did not keep from them.

Notice that throughout the entire experiment, which clearly would have had to last years, Solomon approached his life in a very level-headed way. He states that his heart guided him with wisdom and his wisdom remained with him. Solomon discerningly put life to the test without letting himself get carried away. He knew what he was doing the entire time.

The ancient Jews believed that the heart was the source of thinking. This is why Solomon says he was guided by his heart. He is not saying that he was guided by emotions. He is saying that he was guided by reason.

After a while Solomon reflected (considered) on what he had done with his life. What he concluded was there were some benefits to living this way. He became great and he even found pleasure in all his toil – he enjoyed doing these things. The problem was that the enjoyment was the reward he received for all his toil. And this was, obviously, only a temporary reward. Once his work or experience ceased the accompanying enjoyment ceased along with it.

Solomon lived for pleasure, including legitimate pleasures, and found that all that he had done and all the toil he had expended doing it was vanity – none of it gave him long-term fulfillment.

There is nothing inherently wrong with the things that Solomon did (although we know from the Bible that he often did go to excess, especially when it comes to sex). It is not wrong to want to accomplish things in life or to build a business or to laugh and have a good time. But none of those things should be the reason for living.

No earthly accomplishment or experience provides enduring fulfillment. None of it puts meaning into life. All our experiences are like a candle. It burns for a time but ultimately is no more. When one experience ends we seek another.

There is nothing on this earth (under the sun) that can truly fulfill us. Even if one were to gain the entire world, it would not be worth it [Mark 8:36]. True fulfillment can only come from God Himself [John 10:10; 1 John 2:15-17].

Comments? Questions? I’d love to hear from you. Please feel free to contact me about this post.