Ecclesiastes and Vanity of Life, Part 6
Chapter one of Ecclesiastes covers Solomon’s attempt to prove that everything in the secular world is vanity. It’s all pointless. Please understand that his emphasis is on things secular. He has not gotten into the spiritual realm yet. He speaks from the point of view of the average person who has no time for God, no concern for eternity, and is solely focused on how to “make it” in life.
He begins chapter two of Ecclesiastes by continuing his argument. Here are verses 1 – 3.
1 I thought to myself,
“Come now, I will try self-indulgent pleasure to see if it is worthwhile.”
But I found that it also is futile.
2 I said of partying, “It is folly,”
and of self-indulgent pleasure, “It accomplishes nothing!”
3 I thought deeply about the effects of indulging myself with wine
(all the while my mind was guiding me with wisdom)
and the effects of behaving foolishly,
so that I might discover what is profitable
for people to do on earth during the few days of their lives. (NET)
Do you see by now what Solomon is doing? He is deliberately placing himself in the position of someone who lives a life of “self-indulgent pleasure.” This is not to say that he did this, but by using the tremendous amount of wisdom and knowledge he had, he is able to see how a life of self-indulgent pleasure works out. Some of this is surely drawn on his own experience though and that actually makes his argument stronger.
In the end, does self-indulgent pleasure create anything that even remotely resembles inner peace? Nope. Solomon found that it too, was “futile” or “vanity.” Vanity is an interesting word because when we stop to consider it, vanity is something that is done for the sake of self. The word “vanity” does more to capture Solomon’s idea than the word “futile.” Solomon most definitely wants us to realize that all of what people do in the secular arena is done to satisfy self. We all cater to ourselves. We are self-aggrandizing by nature. Everything we do is done to build up, cater to, and glorify self.
As stated, it began in the Garden of Eden when Eve and Adam were tempted to turn inward. By doing so, they then ultimately gave into the temptation to cater to self. God’s rule was very clear. Don’t eat of the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. It was a very simple and clear instruction. Yet, Satan was successful in showing Eve and then Adam that in spite of everything else that they could enjoy in the Garden of Eden, the fact that one particular tree was off-limits to them made their living situation unbearable. The only way to effectively counter the situation that God had created was by rebelling. Of course, Satan’s strategy did not include the reality of rebelling against God. Instead, Satan simply made SELF of more value than following God’s ordered Creation.
Satan put Self in the spotlight and used it as a means of helping Eve and Adam to understand that by giving into the demands of Self, they would find “inner peace.” Interestingly enough, they were not aware that they even longed for the forbidden fruit until they began to focus on it. Once they focused on it, even in their pre-fallen state, they began to see that the tree and its fruit had value. That had nothing to do with God’s directive though, did it? Of course the fruit on the tree was valuable because God had made it. His instructions to avoid that fruit were also valuable, but were ultimately ignored by the two.
Solomon argues that self-indulgent attitudes and behavior has absolutely no value. It is not “worthwhile.” It is too bad our first parents did not share this same attitude. Instead, they focused on the forbidden fruit, noticed that it had value and agreed that because of it, they (self) would benefit. They were wrong.
Consider how often people seek something in this life. Then consider how these same people go about achieving their goals. Then, finally, consider their emotional and/or mental state after they achieve their secular goals. Are they happy? Are they truly content? Most importantly, have they obtained something that has eternal value or does it only have secular value?
Jim Carrey is said to have spent much time overlooking Hollywood from the Hollywood hills. There, he would meditate with a check he had written to himself in his pocket. The amount of that check was $20 million dollars. This is the amount he envisioned he would eventually be paid for work in films. Did he achieve that goal? Yes, he did. He eventually became a major player in Hollywood landing movie roles that paid him $20 million per movie. Is Jim Carrey better off for it? Certainly, in the secular world, that is the case. Most would agree his life is “better” because he can afford homes most cannot. He has no unmet needs in the secular arena. But how about in the spiritual realm? Has he become a better person? When he stands before God, will God be impressed that Carrey was paid $20 million dollars (or more) for various movie roles? I’m sure I don’t have to answer that question.
Bill Gates is one of the richest men alive. He is estimated to be worth just under $80 billion dollars. Like many extraordinarily wealthy people in the past, he now considers himself a “philanthropist.” But to what end? Everything he does has his name connected with it so in essence, he is building his own legacy. But has anything he has done or acquired have any benefit in the spiritual realm? No, nothing.
Actor Will Smith is reportedly worth $260 million dollars. I’ve included an photo of his home in Calabasas, CA. Nice, isn’t it? Who would not want to live there, with the amount of privacy, swimming pool, tennis court, ultra-large interior with more amenities than the average person will ever know. But what has Will Smith accomplished for himself in the spiritual realm? Anything? It’s highly doubtful. Certainly no large home or net worth makes any difference for a person in the spiritual realm. In fact, Jesus noted how difficult it is for a rich man to enter heaven (Matthew 19:23).
By the way, there is nothing wrong with having a nice home and making a decent living. But the reality is that a person can only have and spend so much money in one lifetime and one lifetime is all we get. Actor Johnny Galecki (The Big Bang), reportedly earns $1 million dollars per episode and is worth approximately $40 million today because of it. That amount of course grows with each new episode of The Big Bang he films. Let’s recall that he earns this money for being an actor.
Is there anything wrong with being an actor? Not in and of itself though there seem to be precious few things that a true Christian actor can be involved in these days. The people I’ve noted above who have made tremendous fortunes have done so because of self-indulgent behavior. They are proof of Solomon’s words that in the end, self-indulgent behavior is utterly futile, or vanity. There is nothing in this type of behavior that has any eternal value in the spiritual realm. Solomon would know because of his status and position in life. He was the king of Israel. He was very wealthy and extremely wise. Of all people, he would be in the best position to determine the worth of self-indulgent behavior and living.
We’ll continue discussing verses 2 and 3 in our next segment.
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