Ecclesiastes 2: Anything Goes, but Nothing Lasts. The Futility of Pleasure

Are You Expecting More Out of Life Than it Can Give? Think about that for a minute. Worldly pleasures — that’s what we all want, right? Eat, drink and be merry! That’s why we casually wish everyone a happy whatever!

What is happiness?

I heard this quote in the most unlikely place, but it is so true…

What’s happiness, but the moment before you want more happiness.

Don Draper in “Mad Men”

Don Draper was the character played by Jon Hamm, who was a Madison Avenue advertising executive in the 60s and early 70s. Though he was creative, smart, and successful, all his power, money and fame got him nothing but drunk. His was a sad story. As is Solomon’s. In yesterday’s chapter, Solomon tried gaining wisdom and knowledge, yet still found life meaningless. What does he try in this chapter? Let’s dig in….

Ecclesiastes 2 – The Futility of Pleasure

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. So I said, “Laughter is silly. What good does it do to seek pleasure?” After much thought, I decided to cheer myself with wine. And while still seeking wisdom, I clutched at foolishness. In this way, I tried to experience the only happiness most people find during their brief life in this world.

I also tried to find meaning by building huge homes for myself and by planting beautiful vineyards. I made gardens and parks, filling them with all kinds of fruit trees. I built reservoirs to collect the water to irrigate my many flourishing groves. I bought slaves, both men and women, and others were born into my household. I also owned large herds and flocks, more than any of the kings who had lived in Jerusalem before me. I collected great sums of silver and gold, the treasure of many kings and provinces. I hired wonderful singers, both men and women, and had many beautiful concubines. I had everything a man could desire!

So I became greater than all who had lived in Jerusalem before me, and my wisdom never failed me. 10 Anything I wanted, I would take. I denied myself no pleasure. I even found great pleasure in hard work, a reward for all my labors. 11 But as I looked at everything I had worked so hard to accomplish, it was all so meaningless—like chasing the wind. There was nothing really worthwhile anywhere.

The Wise and the Foolish

12 So I decided to compare wisdom with foolishness and madness (for who can do this better than I, the king?). 13 I thought, “Wisdom is better than foolishness, just as light is better than darkness. 14 For the wise can see where they are going, but fools walk in the dark.” Yet I saw that the wise and the foolish share the same fate. 15 Both will die. So I said to myself, “Since I will end up the same as the fool, what’s the value of all my wisdom? This is all so meaningless!” 16 For the wise and the foolish both die. The wise will not be remembered any longer than the fool. In the days to come, both will be forgotten.

17 So I came to hate life because everything done here under the sun is so troubling. Everything is meaningless—like chasing the wind.

The Futility of Work

18 I came to hate all my hard work here on earth, for I must leave to others everything I have earned. 19 And who can tell whether my successors will be wise or foolish? Yet they will control everything I have gained by my skill and hard work under the sun. How meaningless! 20 So I gave up in despair, questioning the value of all my hard work in this world.

21 Some people work wisely with knowledge and skill, then must leave the fruit of their efforts to someone who hasn’t worked for it. This, too, is meaningless, a great tragedy. 22 So what do people get in this life for all their hard work and anxiety? 23 Their days of labor are filled with pain and grief; even at night their minds cannot rest. It is all meaningless.

24 So I decided there is nothing better than to enjoy food and drink and to find satisfaction in work. Then I realized that these pleasures are from the hand of God. 25 For who can eat or enjoy anything apart from him? 26 God gives wisdom, knowledge, and joy to those who please him. But if a sinner becomes wealthy, God takes the wealth away and gives it to those who please him. This, too, is meaningless—like chasing the wind.

Ecclesiastes 2 NLT

You can’t take it with you.

  • Solomon spent 7 years building the temple — God’s house, and 13 years building his palace — his house. He accumulated women, gold and horses and who gets it all when he’s gone? His son, Rehoboam, inherited it all. Eventually, it is all lost as we’ll see when we pick up 1 Kings again. Apparently, Solomon wasn’t too keen on his successor, but he couldn’t do anything about it.
  • Solomon’s problem was that he had no boundaries. We, normal people, do. At least most of us. Take wealth for instance. I had to learn that boundary the hard way that if you don’t have the cash to pay for it, don’t buy it. In other words, credit cards are foolish. Solomon had the money so he bought what ever stirred his fancy. All for nothing. Money doesn’t equal or buy happiness. We just keep searching for more and more — everything under the sun.
  • In Proverbs — which he wrote when he was much younger — he was genuinely seeking godly wisdom. However, the further he strayed from God, the more he was lured by the lusts of life — pride, greed, and women. Thus, he comes to the conclusion that wisdom makes no difference.
  • You could be surrounded by people, but still feel lonely because you lack a relationship with God.
  • Life is not God and we have tastes that only God can satisfy. In other words, we need God, not anything that this world can offer.

Paul wrote to the Philippians:

10 How I praise the Lord that you are concerned about me again. I know you have always been concerned for me, but you didn’t have the chance to help me. 11 Not that I was ever in need, for I have learned how to be content with whatever I have. 12 I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little. 13 For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength.

Philippians 4:10-13 NLT

Pleasure isn’t sinful. If you follow Jesus, you can still enjoy life. I love going out with friends and traveling. I do, however, spend within my means. I obey God, and He has provided. I am blessed and grateful.

“He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose.”

Missionary Jim Elliot, a modern-day Christian martyr

Paul wrote to Timothy

Teach these things, Timothy, and encourage everyone to obey them. Some people may contradict our teaching, but these are the wholesome teachings of the Lord Jesus Christ. These teachings promote a godly life. Anyone who teaches something different is arrogant and lacks understanding. Such a person has an unhealthy desire to quibble over the meaning of words. This stirs up arguments ending in jealousy, division, slander, and evil suspicions. These people always cause trouble. Their minds are corrupt, and they have turned their backs on the truth. To them, a show of godliness is just a way to become wealthy.

Yet true godliness with contentment is itself great wealth. After all, we brought nothing with us when we came into the world, and we can’t take anything with us when we leave it. So if we have enough food and clothing, let us be content.

But people who long to be rich fall into temptation and are trapped by many foolish and harmful desires that plunge them into ruin and destruction. 10 For the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil. And some people, craving money, have wandered from the true faith and pierced themselves with many sorrows.

1 Timothy 6:3b-10 NLT

What is the Value of All Your Wisdom?

Well, it depends. Last week I attended the celebration of life memorial service of a colleague. It was joyful, because he was a born-again Christian and we all knew that he is in Heaven with Jesus. Don was a business mentor and he also participated in Bible study groups. He was a retired business executive who loved to share his wisdom and expertise with budding entrepreneurs. He changed the lives of many people. He left a legacy.

True Wisdom Comes from God

James, Jesus’ brother wrote…

13 If you are wise and understand God’s ways, prove it by living an honorable life, doing good works with the humility that comes from wisdom. 14 But if you are bitterly jealous and there is selfish ambition in your heart, don’t cover up the truth with boasting and lying. 15 For jealousy and selfishness are not God’s kind of wisdom. Such things are earthly, unspiritual, and demonic. 16 For wherever there is jealousy and selfish ambition, there you will find disorder and evil of every kind.

17 But the wisdom from above is first of all pure. It is also peace loving, gentle at all times, and willing to yield to others. It is full of mercy and the fruit of good deeds. It shows no favoritism and is always sincere. 18 And those who are peacemakers will plant seeds of peace and reap a harvest of righteousness.

James 3:13-18 NLT

It really helps if you have the Holy Spirit in your heart!

What are you waiting for? All you need to do is…

Believe. Repent. Be Baptized. Receive the Holy Spirit.

  • Believe — have Faith — that Jesus is the Christ and He died taking your sins away forever and that He rose from the dead 3 days later.
  • Repent of your sins — stop sinning! Do a complete 180-degree turn in your life and surrender your life to Him. When you ask Jesus to forgive you He will. ALL your sins will be wiped clean — past, present, and future! And All means ALL!
  • Be Baptized by water baptism — show the world and yourself that you have died to your old life and are born again in Christ.
  • Receive the gift of Holy Spirit in your heart.

Invite Jesus into Your Heart and Receive the Gift of Grace, Joy, Peace, and the Confident Hope of Eternal Life…

You Can Have it All, Lord

Soli Deo Gloria! To God Alone Be the Glory!

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