The World Is Not Enough

Ecc 2:11 Then 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. (ESV)

Today, we're continuing our look at the sermon by "The Preacher" from the book of Ecclesiastes. Chapter 2 reads like a biography of my generation: "we've tried it all, and we're still not happy". Solomon is uniquely qualified to teach us about greener pastures. After all, his pasture was the greenest before "going green" was even considered cool. This man was living (what most would consider) the dream life. And since he was the wisest man of his day, it stands to reason that we ought to listen to him when he speaks. Solomon dispels the "if only..." myth that seems to drive so many of us. What is the "if only" myth you ask? In short, it's the idea that your life would be better- and you would be happy.....if only (fill-in-the-blank) would happen. Let's look at some of the basic tenets of the "if only" myth.

First he speaks of pleasure. He looks for fulfillment in amusement, wine, and laughter/entertainment. His conclusion? All is vanity. None of those things have the power to fill the longing of the soul. Very seldom do I share much autobiographical information in these blogs except for the occasional confession (humility is good for the soul). Here might be a good opportunity for me to let you peer into my past for just a moment. There was a time when I looked for fulfillment in all the wrong places. Many of you are aware that I'm a musician. But there was a time when I looked for music (in particular, the music industry) to bring me a sense of fulfillment. I never had what anyone would consider commercial success, but I still had dreams and goals just like anyone else. I played before big crowds, and small ones too. I played guitar in large venues and in some places that were pretty far under the radar. But all of those experiences had one thing in common; an inability to satisfy that deepest longing within my heart, and a real sense of purpose in life. I can remember vividly coming home after a certain performance where things went particularly well. The band was well-received, and applause was in no short supply. But after the lights went down and everyone went home, I was still left with a question ; " is this ALL there is to life?".

Solomon then speaks of some of his accomplishments. He was involved in massive building projects. Not the least of which was a magnificent temple for God. Here is a great warning for all of those who seek to find fulfillment in their ministry instead of their relationship with God. Solomon accomplished what even his father, the great King David was not able to do- build a temple for the Most High God! His own palace was magnificent too, some 13 years in the making (I Kings 7:1). He had knowledge about forestry, zoology, and could probably speak knowledgeably in most any environment . People came from all over the world to hear what he had to say (see I Kings 4:29-34). Did this make him happy? Apparently not.

And what about his love life? I Kings 11:3 records that he had 700 wives (princesses) and 300 concubines. These eventually led him away from devotion to the Lord and became a stumbling block to him. Solomon describes his acclamation of wealth and how he had the ability to feast with the best of them- with the finest of musicians and singers to provide entertainment at his bidding. By all accounts, The Preacher was living the dream. By his own admission- he declares that he was "the man":

Ecc 2:9 So I became great and surpassed all who were before me in Jerusalem. Also my wisdom remained with me. (ESV)

He was living at the top of the social stratosphere. And unlike many of today's celebrities and larger-than-life personalities- he was able to maintain his sensibilities. His wisdom remained with him. He was enjoying the best that life had to offer, and he had enough sense not to allow excess to be the ruin of his mind. Now to put an exclamation point on all of this- Solomon makes a confession that few of us (if any) can relate to:

Ecc 2:10 And 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. (ESV)

He basically tells us that he got everything that he ever wanted. I really don't think we can appreciate the full weight and import of what Solomon has just told us. Literally- not figuratively- the man has everything that money can buy- and whatever that leaves out, he was able to acquire through wisdom and power/influence. So, was this enough to make the man happy?

Ecc 2:11 Then 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. (ESV)

No, he then tells us that even the world was not enough! The rest of the chapter is pretty much summarized by Solomon's lamentations over the brevity of life. All the wisdom, money, and power in the world could not prevent his death. And furthermore, his death guaranteed that he had no control over what would be done with his assets and accomplishments in his absence. So what does that mean for us? What lessons can we glean from the Preacher this week?

I'm sure there are many lessons that can be learned, but I'll briefly summarize my thoughts. Here is a man who had it all, and realized it wasn't enough. There is nothing necessarily wrong with amusement, entertainment, and enjoyment as long as they do not become idols. After all, Jesus came to give us life and to give it more abundantly (or to the full!). We are told that God has given us things in life that we might enjoy them (I Tim 6:17). But they don't have the power to provide the sense of purpose and fulfillment that we were created for. That can only be found in a person. And His name is Jesus Christ.

Thanks for reading. I look forward to sharing more with you from this awesome book in the near future!