Solomon’s Conclusion about Pleasure as Meaning
“So I became great and surpassed all who were before me in Jerusalem. Also my wisdom remained with me. And whatever my eyes desired I did not keep from them. I kept my heart from no pleasure, for my heart found pleasure in all my toil, and this was my reward for all my toil. Then I considered all that my hands had done and the toil I had expended in doing it, and behold, all was vanity and a striving after wind, and there was nothing to be gained under the sun.” (Verses 9-11)
He arrived at his conclusion after an amazing accumulation of earthly possessions and pleasures. He says he considered all of it. All was vanity and a striving after wind.” The NLT translation says, “There was nothing really worthwhile anywhere.” (Verse 11, NLT)
This is contrary to the whole value set of our culture where having lots of money, good times, beautiful music, and lovers is the goal of life. But as so many have found when they get to the top of that ladder, there isn’t anything there.
Solomon says, there’s nothing here. No lasting happiness. No satisfaction that matters. All the money, fame, and women lead to nowhere. There is no material answer to our spiritual problem.
Do you believe that? How does your life this week show that?
Jesus is Better Than Solomon
There is one person in the Bible who eclipses the wealth of Solomon. Who? Satan. In his temptation of Jesus, he offered him all the kingdoms of the world (Matthew 4:8). There was one condition. He had to bow to Satan. Imagine the wealth and possessions of the entire world. What would you do if it were offered to you? Would you give in? Some of us compromise our principles for the insanely unlikely chance to win a few million in the lottery. Imagine a lottery of all the wealth of the world.
This was Satan’s to give. As one writer says it, “Everything Solomon pursued, Jesus was tempted by, but resisted.” (Mark Driscoll, as quoted by Philip Graham Ryken, Ecclesiastes, Why Everything Matters, p. 52) Jesus didn’t have to experience the world to know it was empty without God. His response to Satan was, “Be gone, Satan! For it is written, ‘You shall worship the Lord your God and him only shall you serve.’” (Matthew 4:10)
Jesus knew where real meaning and joy came from. From God and a right relationship with him.
Jesus is Better Than Earthly Pleasure
It sounds crazy to the materialist or the hedonist to say that Jesus is better than earthly pleasure. How can Jesus be better than lots of money or lots of sex?
There are many reasons but one obvious one. God has built into every human pleasure what we call “diminishing returns.” No matter what you experience, the next time it isn’t the same. It requires a little more or it needs to be a little different to give the same buzz or whatever. But Jesus transcends the pleasures of this world. Knowing him by faith and growing as a disciple is the real experience of spiritual pleasure that the hedonist tries to get from his material experience. But it never quite gets him there. It’s always disappointing. Like chasing the wind.
But to know Jesus is a joy that doesn’t diminish or blow away. Rather it grows. Imperfectly in this life. But these moments of spiritual joy in Jesus are a foretaste of ultimate and unending joy.
“You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.” (Psalm 16:11)
Scripture quotations are taken from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers.
Additional Scripture quotations taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.
© 2016 by Steve DeWitt. You are permitted and encouraged to reproduce and distribute this material in any format provided that: (1) you credit the author, (2) any modifications are clearly marked, (3) you do not charge a fee beyond the cost of reproduction, (4) you include Bethel’s website address (www.bethelweb.org) on the copied resource.
To hear the message of this excerpt in its entirety, click here