Click this link to hear an audio version of the below text narrated by SOTH member Jerry Rhinehart:
Ecclesiastes 2:1-16 (NIV)
Pleasures Are Meaningless
2 I said to myself, “Come now, I will test you with pleasure to find out what is good.” But that also proved to be meaningless. 2 “Laughter,” I said, “is madness. And what does pleasure accomplish?” 3 I tried cheering myself with wine, and embracing folly—my mind still guiding me with wisdom. I wanted to see what was good for people to do under the heavens during the few days of their lives. 4 I undertook great projects: I built houses for myself and planted vineyards. 5 I made gardens and parks and planted all kinds of fruit trees in them. 6 I made reservoirs to water groves of flourishing trees. 7 I bought male and female slaves and had other slaves who were born in my house. I also owned more herds and flocks than anyone in Jerusalem before me. 8 I amassed silver and gold for myself, and the treasure of kings and provinces. I acquired male and female singers and a harem as well-the delights of a man’s heart. 9 I became greater by far than anyone in Jerusalem before me. In all this, my wisdom stayed with me. 10 I denied myself nothing my eyes desired; I refused my heart no pleasure.
My heart took delight in all my labor, and this was the reward for all my toil. 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.
Wisdom and Folly Are Meaningless
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? 13 I saw that wisdom is better than folly, just as light is better than darkness. 14 The wise have eyes in their heads, while the fool walks in the darkness; but I came to realize that the same fate overtakes them both. 15 Then I said to myself, “The fate of the fool will overtake me also. What then do I gain by being wise?” I said to myself, “This too is meaningless.” 16 For the wise, like the fool, will not be long remembered; the days have already come when both have been forgotten. Like the fool, the wise too must die!
How does a passage like this help you focus on what is truly important?
Solomon had the ability to dote on himself with any pleasure he desired. He had power, riches, houses, gardens, and had an abundance of possessions but it didn’t bring him satisfaction. He had a harem of 300 concubines in addition to 700 wives but instead of thriving from healthy relationships, they were meaningless. He could eat, drink and go wherever he chose, do whatever he wanted, but instead of fulfillment, he felt like he was chasing after the wind. Solomon was focused on his own pleasures and possessions. Selfishness and pride will never bring meaning, satisfaction, and fulfillment to life. Most people in the world today may not have the riches of Solomon but have access to more things than at any time in history and want more. We are not thankful for what we have but want what others have worked for. Relationships are broken and respect for other people has waned leaving way to jealousy, fear, skepticism, distrust, and anger. More than any time in history, selfishness has left people empty. Feeling that life is meaningless has sent suicide rates skyrocketing. When our focus is on ourselves, we can never fill the void in our soul that belongs to You. Holy God, help me to take my focus off of myself, my things, and my future. Shift my priority on growing my relationship with You before anything else and You will provide me with what I really need. Fill that hole in my soul with Your Spirit so that I am content in Your love. Show me how when I share Your joy, peace, and love with those who are in despair I have greater peace and joy. Unite us in Your love. Replace anxiety with trust, emptiness with fulfillment, and selfishness with generosity. Lord, thank you that in Jesus, I find the answer to the anxiety of meaninglessness. Thank you that in You, I find true peace and purpose in my life. Amen