Disgusted with Life? (Ecclesiastes 2:1-26)
- I really like those Kraft Kitchen commercials on the radio
- usually you have a busy mom with kids waiting at home to go to swimming lessons, kung fu, or whatever kids go to
- the parents have plans to go bowling or whatever else parents do
- on the way out, a Kraft Kitchen mom is stopped and asked some cooking secrets for busy families
- she always emphasizes that she has very little time to cook, and she’s in a rush
- and invariably at the end of one of those commercials I’m ready to eat whatever she’s got cooking
- now, imagine you’re hired
- and not by Kraft, but you’re hired by someone with a lot of money
- and you’re asked to come up with a recipe – except not a recipe for some delicious food items, but a recipe for life
- your assignment, should you choose to accept it, is to come up with a recipe for happiness
- your assignment is to come up with a delicious recipe for life
- right away you want to know what resources you have available
- you’re old you have a virtually unlimited budget – spend millions if you’d like
- how many staff can you hire?
- hire as many as you’d like
- take your time
- but your assignment is to come up with a recipe for a happy life
- I don’t know about you, but I’d probably accept this assignment
- travel, money, time to do whatever I’d like, search for happiness – is there anyone here who wouldn’t take this assignment?
- those who didn’t raise their hands, please leave
- no, I would take this assignment
- the Bible, which many people think is a dry, dusty, irrelevant book, actually describes such an experiment
- thousands of years ago, someone – probably King Solomon of Jerusalem – embarked on this assignment
- he was looking for happiness and fulfillment in his life
- in the past two weeks, we’ve looked at the initial phase of what you could call his experiment
- he’s already put forward his thesis that everything under the sun – from a human perspective – is meaningless, empty, futile, like a vapor
- “But wait,” you say, “he hasn’t finished his experiment yet”
- you’re right
- so today we’re going to join him as he continues his search for happiness in life
- please open your Bibles, if you have them, to Ecclesiastes 2
- let’s enter, if you will, not Kraft’s Kitchen for busy moms, but Solomon’s kitchen for people who want to be happy
- Solomon’s going to begin by trying two time-tested recipes for happiness: enjoyment and employment
- [RECIPE ONE]
- look at the first recipe Solomon tried
- (Ecclesiastes 2:1) I thought in my heart, “Come now, I will test you with pleasure to find out what is good.”
- one translation says, “I said to myself, ‘Come now, let’s give pleasure a try. Let’s look for the ‘good things’ in life”
- then he describes some of the things he tried to find pleasure:
- (Ecclesiastes 2:3) I tried cheering myself with wine, and embracing folly–my mind still guiding me with wisdom. I wanted to see what was worthwhile for men to do under heaven during the few days of their lives.
- in my mind’s eye, I can easily imagine Solomon experimenting with the finer things in life
- the finest wines, the tastiest and best cuts of meat, entertainers, beautiful women, expensive toys
- they were all his
- if Solomon were here today, he might go to the finest shops and boutiques in town
- he would go to all the fun places to be
- he would allow himself to be entertained and indulged, and there he would find happiness
- some people try this experiment today
- they say, “If I could only experience more pleasure in life, I would be happy”
- today’s world is pleasure-mad
- we spend millions to buy experiences and escape from the burdens of life
- “If it feels good, do it!”
- all of us like to have fun – almost all of us – but it is amazing how many people begin to build their lives around experiencing pleasure
- it becomes their focus in life
- and let me tell you something: they’re all disappointed
- because while pleasurable experiences are, well, pleasurable, they do not bring lasting satisfaction or contentment to the soul
- look at verse one again:
- (Ecclesiastes 2:1) I thought in my heart, “Come now, I will test you with pleasure to find out what is good.” But that also proved to be meaningless.
- (Ecclesiastes 2:2) “Laughter,” I said, “is foolish. And what does pleasure accomplish?”
- (Proverbs 14:13) Even in laughter the heart may ache, and joy may end in grief.
- you know, pleasure-seeking is good for a time, but pleasure is elusive: the more we look for it, the less we find
- pleasure is like cotton candy: it sure tastes good for a minute, but you sure can’t live on a diet of cotton candy
- the irony is that the more we crave pleasure, the less it satisfies
- and the law of diminishing returns says that eventually pleasure, if it is our purpose in life, brings no enjoyment at all, only bondage
- Warren Wiersbe points out that the more people drink, the less pleasure they get out of it and the more drinks they need
- the more people misuse drugs, gambling, sex, money, fame, or any other pursuit, the less it brings in return
- when we make pleasure our goal in life, the result is ultimately disappointment and emptiness
- Solomon said it: pleasure turned out to be meaningless; laughter can not mask an unfulfilled life
- now understand: Solomon is not attacking those who have fun, or have a healthy sense of humor
- he’s saying that if it’s your only reason for living, there’s no lasting satisfaction
- it’s at best short-lived and superficial
- it may dull the harsh realities of life, but it doesn’t truly satisfy
- now let’s stop and ask ourselves: how many of us are looking to pleasure to bring us happiness?
- how many of us are looking to alcohol or sex or television or movies or entertainment to make us happy?
- true happiness doesn’t come from a bottle or from Hollywood
- Paramount Canada’s Wonderland doesn’t sell happiness
- you won’t find life’s answers on Seinfeld or Friends
- so stop looking there!
- [RECIPE TWO]
- the next thing Solomon tried was employment
- (Ecclesiastes 2:4) I undertook great projects
- verses four to ten describe the projects that Solomon tried in an attempt to find something worth living for
- he built houses, cities, gardens, vineyards, orchards, and forests
- he built the water system needed to service them
- the supervised the building of the temple, one of the greatest buildings of its time
- he hired workers, including 30,000 Jewish men to work on his projects
- he accumulated wealth in flocks and herds, and gold and silver
- when the Queen of Sheba visited Solomon, she said:
- (1 Kings 10:7) But I did not believe these things until I came and saw with my own eyes. Indeed, not even half was told me; in wisdom and wealth you have far exceeded the report I heard.
- in all his work, and the riches and lifestyle that came with it – including a harem – Solomon found no satisfaction
- (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.
- Henry Ward Beecher said, “Success is full of promise until men get it, and then it is last year’s nest from which the birds have flown”
- many overachievers are miserable people
- riches do not bring happiness
- success in your career does not bring happiness in and of itself
- one person writes:
If lasting happiness could be found in having ma terial things and in being able to indulge ourselves in whatever we wanted, then most of us…should be delirious with joy and happy beyond description. We should be producing books and poems that describe our state of unparalleled bliss. Our literature and art should rival that of the ancient Greeks and Romans and Renaissance craftsmen.
Instead we find those who have “things” trying to get more of them, for no apparent reason other than to have more. We find high rates of divorce, suicide, depression, child abuse, and other personal and social problems beyond description. We find housewives trading tranquilizer prescriptions. All this is surely proof that happiness is not found in the state of having all we want and being able to get more.
- Chuck Swindoll summarizes this passage by saying:
- sensual pleasures hold out promises that lack staying power
- sensual pleasures offer to open our eyes, but in reality they blind us
- sensual pleasures disillusion us, making us cover-up artists
- somebody wrote a poem in 1897:
Whenever Richard Cory went down town,
We people on the pavement looked at him;
He was a gentleman from sole to crown,
Clean favored, and imperially slim.
And he was always quietly arrayed,
And he was always human when he talked;
But still he fluttered pulses when he said,
“Good-morning,” and he glittered when he walked.
And he was rich – yes, richer than a king.
And admirably schooled in every grace:
In fine, we thought he was everything
To make us with that we were in his place.
So on we worked, and waited for the light,
And went without the meat, and cursed the bread;
And Richard Corey, one calm summer night,
Went home and put a bullet through his head.
- Solomon says in verse 12:
- (Ecclesiastes 2:12) Then I turned my thoughts to consider wisdom, and also madness and folly. What more can the king’s successor do than what has already been done?
- in other words, he’s saying, “Maybe it’s better not to know”
- he began to think, “Since both fools and the wise both die, and are forgotten, why should I be wise?”
- (Ecclesiastes 2:14) The wise man has eyes in his head, while the fool walks in the darkness; but I came to realize that the same fate overtakes them both.
- (Ecclesiastes 2:16) For the wise man, like the fool, will not be long remembered; in days to come both will be forgotten. Like the fool, the wise man too must die!
- what difference does it make if you’re wise or a fool? you both die just the same
- and who will remember your name in a few years?
- the wise man won’t be any better remembered than the fool
- death is the great leveler: good men and bad men die
- death tramples on every value judgment we make
- wisdom might be better than folly, but guess what?
- if life ends at the grave, neither of them will get the last word
- the choices we have made in our lives become irrelevant
- as one man said, “If every card in our hand will be trumped, does it matter how we play?”
- I hope you’re beginning to discover that the answer to the meaning of life is not found “under the sun”
- after all Solomon’s reasoning, listen to what he says beginning in verse 17:
- (Ecclesiastes 2:17) So I hated life, because the work that is done under the sun was grievous to me. All of it is meaningless, a chasing after the wind.
- do you blame Solomon for being depressed?
- then Solomon looks at one more thing in verse 18:
- (Ecclesiastes 2:18) I hated all the things I had toiled for under the sun, because I must leave them to the one who comes after me.
- (Ecclesiastes 2:19) And who knows whether he will be a wise man or a fool? Yet he will have control over all the work into which I have poured my effort and skill under the sun. This too is meaningless.
- (Ecclesiastes 2:20) So my heart began to despair over all my toilsome labor under the sun.
- (Ecclesiastes 2:21) For a man may do his work with wisdom, knowledge and skill, and then he must leave all he owns to someone who has not worked for it. This too is meaningless and a great misfortune.
- (Ecclesiastes 2:22) What does a man get for all the toil and anxious striving with which he labors under the sun?
- (Ecclesiastes 2:23) All his days his work is pain and grief; even at night his mind does not rest. This too is meaningless.
- Solomon could very well say, “What difference does it make?”
- if death is the end of life, why does it matter how we live?
- the verses we just read point out that all the things we work for are temporary
- after we’re gone, after our life’s work has been completed, all our work will be like a sandcastle on a beach as the tide comes in
- our work will likely disappear
- friends, Solomon is trying to save us some grief
- Solomon is in the Kraft kitchen of life and is trying out some recipes
- he’s pointing out the approaches to life that he’s cooked up that have tasted really bad in the end
- now you have an option
- are you going to ignore Solomon’s experiences and cook up these recipes anyway?
- or are you going to end up learning the hard way, or are you going to learn from Solomon’s experience?
- this morning we’re completing the first section of Ecclesiastes
- Solomon has so far presented four arguments that seem to prove that life is not worth living:
- the monotony of life (1:4-11), the vanity of wisdom (1:12-18), the futility of wealth (2:1-11), and the certainty of death (2:12-23)
- according to Solomon, life is not worth living if you live under the sun
- BUT ALL OF A SUDDEN GOD ENTERS THE PICTURE
- it is the first note of optimism evident in Solomon’s thinking
- and guess what? it’s when God enters the picture
- read verses 24 to 26 with me
- (Ecclesiastes 2:24) A man can do nothing better than to eat and drink and find satisfaction in his work. This too, I see, is from the hand of God,
- (Ecclesiastes 2:25) for without him, who can eat or find enjoyment?
- (Ecclesiastes 2:26) To the man who pleases him, God gives wisdom, knowledge and happiness, but to the sinner he gives the task of gathering and storing up wealth to hand it over to the one who pleases God. This too is meaningless, a chasing after the wind.
- you know what Solomon is saying?
- he’s saying, “Yes, life under the sun is meaningless. If you leave God out of the picture, life is just like a giant bubble that will surely pop”
- but enter God, and Solomon remembers that our food and drink and work is really a gift from God and is to be enjoyed
- (Ecclesiastes 2:25) for without him, who can eat or find enjoyment?
- only with God does life make sense
- now listen to me
- only in God does life have meaning and true pleasure
- without God, nothing satisfies, but in God we find satisfaction and enjoyment
- true satisfaction in life only comes when we acknowledge God – it’s the only recipe that works
- without him life is futile
- it’s decision time this morning for some of you
- we’re about to sing a hymn that really summarizes what Solomon is saying called “Burdens are Lifted at Calvary”
- only as we come to Calvary are the burdens of life truly lifted
- let’s pray this morning