Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Ecclesiastes, Chapter 2

I love it when the Bible resonates with my personal life. It is because of that resonance that I chose to write about the book of Ecclesiastes. My personality unfortunately leans toward the negative way too much in my life. When I despair, I feel a lot like the author of this book. I am fascinated by this book because the author is very frank about his feelings. He dares to ask the difficult questions even if he knows he will not like the answers. In this, we see the underlying truth come out: only God has value.

1 I thought in my heart, "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 foolish. 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 worthwhile for men to do under heaven during the few days of their lives. – Ecclesiastes 2:1-3

I went through a very similar period as described here when I was in college. For a time, I tried to cheer myself with liquor, with women, and with other pleasures. While they provided enjoyment for a time, in the end they left me feeling more empty than before. I don’t know if I would even classify them as pleasure now, but merely distractions from the reality that is life.

Pleasure does serve a purpose. We are not to go through life without enjoying any kind of pleasure. It is when we become consumed by the pursuit of that pleasure that we lose our way. Pleasure is not the meaning of life. When we think it is, it becomes hollow. Instead, it is a nice little bonus of life. It can serve as an anesthetic to life. Like any drug, too much of it can build a tolerance to where we lose sight of God. Our ultimate pleasure comes from living in the glory of God. That is the type of pleasure that brings fulfillment.

17 So I hated life, because the work that is done under the sun was grievous to me. All of it is meaningless, a chasing after the wind. 18 I hated all the things I had toiled for under the sun, because I must leave them to the one who comes after me. 19 And who knows whether he will be a wise man or a fool? Yet he will have control over all the work into which I have poured my effort and skill under the sun. This too is meaningless. 20 So my heart began to despair over all my toilsome labor under the sun. 21 For a man may do his work with wisdom, knowledge and skill, and then he must leave all he owns to someone who has not worked for it. This too is meaningless and a great misfortune. 22 What does a man get for all the toil and anxious striving with which he labors under the sun? 23 All his days his work is pain and grief; even at night his mind does not rest. This too is meaningless.
24 A man can do nothing better than to eat and drink and find satisfaction in his work. This too, I see, is from the hand of God, 25 for without him, who can eat or find enjoyment? 26 To the man who pleases him, God gives wisdom, knowledge and happiness, but to the sinner he gives the task of gathering and storing up wealth to hand it over to the one who pleases God. This too is meaningless, a chasing after the wind. – Ecclesiastes 2:17-26

For without God, who can find enjoyment? We see that if we serve God in the capacity we are asked, fulfillment will happen. This does not mean we will always feel joy. Personally, right now is one of those times where I am serving God, but there is little joy in doing so. I have even felt the anxious struggle mentioned in verses 22 and 23. When we struggle and work hard to make our ends meet it is hard to rest. We then struggle for what? We cannot take it with us, as true wealth is only found in God.

It is easy to get in the mindset of this author. If we follow Him and please Him, however, that is where we find peace instead of despair.

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