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The Futility of Pleasure and Possessions

It has been said that King Solomon wrote the Book of Ecclesiastes in his later years. When I read the Book with this in mind, it does seem to suggest the adage … been there, done that. Solomon, who had everything at his disposal; wealth, power, wisdom, and influence, was reflecting on all the things most people think are important. Let’s start with pleasure. Solomon starts by asking this question about pleasure:

Ecclesiastes 2:1 I said to myself, ‘Come on, let’s try pleasure. Let’s look for the ‘good things’ in life.’ But I found that this, too, was meaningless.

Solomon’s life was made easy because he was the king. He had all the pleasure anyone could ever want, yet he considered pleasure meaningless. When I was growing up I remember a saying, “I have been rich, and I have been poor, rich is much better.” Solomon would disagree with that statement because being rich could bring pleasure, and Solomon found that pleasure had little value. Was Solomon suffering from ‘too much of a good thing,’ or did he really think pleasure was something not worth pursuing?

People are ruined by challenged economic lives. But they are ruined by wealth as well because they lose their pride, and they lose their sense of self-worth. It’s difficult at both ends of the spectrum. ~Malcolm Gladwell

Solomon lived in perpetual pleasure, he didn't have to crave it or pursue it, and he realized that pleasure alone does not provide what the heart longs for which is meaning and significance. Pleasure for the sake of pleasure is meaningless, and Solomon knew it all too well.

The king continues with this diatribe of meaningless pursuits as he addresses possessions. Solomon appears to be a self-aware man who takes an honest look at his life’s accomplishments and possessions and tells the truth about their value in his life:

Ecclesiastes 2:11 Yet when I surveyed all that, my hands had done and what I had toiled to achieve, everything was meaningless, a chasing after the wind; nothing was gained under the sun.

I’m sure that Solomon's honest conclusion about his success would not become a best-selling book. Why? Most of us want to learn the secrets to achieving success and not be told it is as meaningless as chasing the wind. Yet Solomon was driving at a point. "Your sense of value does not come by having more of this world’s possessions, it comes from a sense of value because God created you for eternity.” The temporary always gives a false positive. Temporary treasures may be the showcase for the prideful, but it is only a matter of time before it all concludes in chasing the wind. God creates eternal people, and eternal things last forever. The value of knowing you were created by God for eternity is a perspective that is often lost in our ‘get all you can get’ world. It is one of the reasons someone said, “I have never seen a U-Haul behind a hearse,” you can’t take anything with you.”

I believe this is Solomon’s message to us. We spend so much time pursuing all the wrong things in life … we lose the meaning of the eternal. Solomon knew that all the stuff we gathered during our lifetime doesn’t really matter in the final chapter of our life here on earth. What matters are the relationships made, the character formed, and the meaningful things that were sought … all other pursuits are simply chasing the wind.

Solomon was giving us advice from a life he built from all the things we pursue. The wealth is meaningless, the power is senseless, and possessions get distributed to others who add it to the meaningless assets of stuff. Jesus restated what Solomon was saying:

Luke 12 22Then, turning to his disciples, Jesus said, “That is why I tell you not to worry about everyday life—whether you have enough food to eat or enough clothes to wear. 23For life is more than food, and your body more than clothing.”

It seems to me that King Solomon was giving us a diagnostic about life: “Your pursuits reveal the values in your life.” I think too many of us would find wind chasing a daily routine.

Challenging the Culture with Truth … Larry Kutzler


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