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Bursting the Bubble of Wealth

“I hated all my toil in which I toil under the sun, seeing that i must leave it to the man who will come after me.”  -Ecc 2:18

Wealth is an amazing thing.  I was blessed to grow up in a home that while not “wealthy” certainly provided me with a life of ease.  I didn’t have to work to put food on the table, my parents didn’t take my birthday money for gas money, and I always had presents under the tree at Christmas.  I lived a blessed life.

However, there are those who had much more money than I.  Families and people who could have bought and sold all that I had twenty times over and never made a dent in there money.  This also is a blessing.  How then can Solomon find any fault or struggle in the gaining of money and wealth?

Solomon, who was one of the richest men who ever lived, says that even the accumulation of wealth is ultimately vanity and striving after the wind.  He uses these three points to show how living a life that is about money and wealth is a life empty of any reason to live.

  1.  Ultimately we don’t get to Keep It

“I hated all my toil in which I toil under the sun, seeing that i must leave it to the man who will come after me.” -Ecc 2:18

Solomon begins by simply recognizing the inevitability of his own demise.  Solomon knows he will die.  Sooner or later his life is going to come to an end and everything he has ever owned will pass on to his relations.  He will no longer own any of his stuff and he will have no say over how it is spent. Solomon will have worked his whole life only to give his money to those who didn’t earn it.

Ultimately that is what will happen to all of our wealth.  We can only enjoy it while we are here on this earth.  We can use it for good or evil.  We can use it all or nothing.  The only thing we can’t do is take it with us. 

2.    Ultimately we cannot Protect It

“and who knows  whether he will be wise or a fool?  Yet he will be master of all for which I toiled and used my wisdom under the sun.” -Ecc 2:19

Solomon not only recognizes that one day he will die, but also that when he goes his idiot kids are gonna get everything.  Solomon realized there is no way to be sure that his kids spend his money well.

There is a difference that has been pointed out between being wealthy and being rich.  I can never remember which is which, but the basics are “a wealthy person made there money,  a rich person inherits it”.  Our world is filled with examples of people who ran into this problem. A hard working father/mother builds up a fortune only to see there children with no morals or work ethic tear that fortune down.

Solomon points out to us in these verses the futility of living for money.  Even if you were to get all you could hope, and are ok with passing it on when you die.  You do not get to decide what is done with it once you are gone.  Whoever gets your stuff gets to decide how to use your money.

3.    Ultimately we cannot Enjoy It.

” What has a man from all the toil and striving of heart with which he toils beneath the sun?  For all his days are full of sorrow…”  Ecc 2:22-23a

Solomon continues as he points out one simple truth that we all understand even if we don’t say.  The more wealth you have, the more worry of loosing wealth.  Solomon acknowledges that all his work and toil to attain such wealth has caused his heart nothing but “sorrow and vexation”.  When you work for wealth you heart is never satisfied.

The sad truth of wealth is that no person if they set wealth and riches as there goal ever said “now I have enough“.  They continue to work and worry and snuggle to get more and more always believing that the next hundred or next thousand will satisfy. Solomon is trying to show us early in life that the only thing that satisfies our desires is Christ/God.

“For apart from Him who can eat or who can have enjoyment?  For to the one who pleases Him, God has given wisdom and knowledge and joy, but to the sinner he has given the business of gathering and collecting, only to give to one who pleases God. ” Ecc 2:25-26

In the last few posts we have talked about Solomon’s frustrations with life.  We have “burst the bubble” of many vanity that plague the human race.  However the ultimate point is summed up in these last two verse.  All pleasure and joy and good things are given to those who strive after Him.  To those who are not believer he has given the ultimately futile task of gathering and collecting.  I pray that anyone reading this finds there satisfaction in God, and not look for it in the business of collecting.

 
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Posted by on August 24, 2016 in Ecclesiastes, Uncategorized

 

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Bursting the Bubble of Pleasure

“‘Come now, I will test you with pleasure; enjoy yourself.’ But behold this also was vanity”  Ecclesiastes 2:1

As I work on this lesson I find myself realizing that this is the stage of life, as Solomon describes them that I find myself.  I am enraptured with pleasure.  Good friends, good food, and good fun are the places where I find joy.  So it is with a heavy heart that I must write that these things fun and enjoyable as they may be cannot bring lasting or ultimate pleasure!

Solomon continues his discussion of useless things here in chapter two of Ecclesiastes by bursting the soap bubble of pleasure.  He comes to it as a man just off a night of self reflection, and begins to discuss the parts of his life where pleasure and achievement were everything to him.  

It is in this discussion of his life of pleasure that Solomon makes note of two things that are important to understand about pleasure and achievement.

  1.  Pleasure is Good, but Too Much is Sorrow

“Even in laughter the heart is sorrowful, and the end of that mirth is heaviness.”               Prov. 14:13

Pleasure is a gift of God!  There can be no denying this fact.  For some reason back in the middle ages and even before people got a view of God as this heavenly school teacher who was just there to wag a finger and take away all the fun.  At one point a child even using his imagination was considered a sin, but this is not the God we see pointed to in our bible.

The God we see in the bible is a God who led his people to a land of pleasure flowing with “milk and honey”.  A God who threw feast and party for every little event in the lives of the Jewish people.  Even James in the new testament says “every good and perfect gift is from above”

There is a down side to pleasure though, this comes in the law of diminishing returns.  The essence of this law is that the more you do something the less pleasure you will get.  This means that to get the same amount of pleasure you will have to increase your activity.  We see this most acutely in drug addiction.  At first one hit of whatever drug you use will get you high, but as you continue using you need more and more of that drug to get the same high.

The Law of Diminishing returns holds true weather you pleasure is gained from drugs, sex, gambling, video games, or any other pleasurable activity.  If all you are gaining is pleasure than it will eventually turn sour and sorrowful.

2.   Achievement is Good, but Cannot Bring Happiness

“So I became great and surpassed all who were before me in Jerusalem.”  -Ecc 2:7

Solomon was, as has been said before, one of the wisest men who ever lived.  Due to his wisdom he was also one of the greatest kings both Israel and the world had ever seen.  Solomon outlines some of his greatest achievements here in this chapter.  He achieved more than any other king of Israel and yet he still found no lasting joy in his achievements.

No one can say that being productive and having great works and achievements is a bad thing.  The Bible has plenty to say on those who are lazy and slothful, but achievement can have its own dangers.

Achievement for achievement sake, however, lends itself to becoming an escape to the rest of life.  Those who become “workaholics” fall to the same vanity and uselessness that we discussed about pleasure.  Eventually the law of diminishing returns causes you to need more and more; and bigger and bigger achievements.

However, Achievements also has its own unique struggle and that is the struggle of becoming a god to yourself.  When your good works, and your achievements become so  important that God becomes a secondary character in your life.  You begin to elevate your own interests above the interests of others.  The ultimate end of this struggle comes as you get to the end of your life and there are no more achievements to be gained.  Then you become useless, and your god is no more.

Solomon looked on pleasure and achievement and pronounced judgement.  Without God they are useless and vain pursuits.

 

 
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Posted by on August 17, 2016 in Ecclesiastes

 

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