“I denied myself nothing my eyes desired; I refused my heart no pleasure. My heart took delight in all my labor, and this was the reward for all my toil. Yet when I surveyed all that my hands had done and what I had toiled to achieve, everything was meaningless, a chasing after the wind; nothing was gained under the sun.” (Ecclesiastes 2:10-11 NIV)
King Solomon was quite wealthy by anyone’s standards. Some have estimated that his wealth today would be in the billions or even trillions. This doesn’t even take into account his absolute power over everything and everyone in his kingdom. Anything and anyone he wanted was his for the taking.
Very few of us today could recite the verses above and apply them to our own lives. However, in this country in particular, we give it our best shot whether we’re rich or poor.
Greed is on an epidemic scale in America and it has infected nearly everyone. Who of us can say we have never bought (usually on credit) something that we couldn’t afford and didn’t need? Consumer debt is nearly 800 billion dollars in this country, if not more. Credit cards, house payments, vehicle payments, luxury items and the list goes on down the page. Very few of us have little or no debt. Most are swimming in debt and taking on water.
Our greed doesn’t stop with debt either. There are those in our society who will rape and/or murder others to satisfy their sexual desires. Some of our citizens have been murdered over pocket change.
In our society, almost nothing will be withheld by some to get what they want. They will lie, cheat, steal, rape, murder, gossip, whatever it takes. Even for those who obtain their desires legally, did they do so morally?
Notice that Solomon denied himself nothing his eyes desired and refused himself no pleasure. I personally feel that there are plenty of moral people (Christian and non-Christian) who have never gone quite that far. They may desire what someone else has, but would never think of crossing the lines of “illegality” and “immorality.”
However, we find ourselves still reaching beyond to obtain as much as we can (legally and morally) in material things and pleasures. So we still do not deny our eyes and heart “things” within our own limited resources.
Solomon next speaks of the labor of his hands and his being so proud of his accomplishments. I’m always reminded of the actor Jimmy Stewart saying grace in the movie Shenandoah. It went something like this:
“Lord, we cleared this land. We plowed it, sowed it and harvested it. We cooked the harvest. It wouldn’t be here. We wouldn’t be eatin’ it, if we hadn’t done it all ourselves. We worked dog-boned hard for every crumb and morsel, but we thank you just the same anyway Lord for this food we’re about to eat. Amen.”
Does this sound like any of us, or do we even offer a prayer at our mealtime? I suppose one is as bad as the other. The prayer in the movie probably went about as far as the ceiling, so I guess no prayer at all would have been just as effective. I’m amazed at how many Christians do not thank God for their meal in public or even in their own home. They just dive in, with no thought of thanking God.
Is it possible we have Solomon’s attitude of “I did it. Look at what I’ve accomplished?” Sounds like a pretty good argument to me.
I love what Solomon says next. He says that everything was meaningless. He had just been chasing after the wind. Nothing was gained under the sun. Here is a man who had all his heart desired, and this is what he says of all he experienced.
Have you ever watched a child chase the wind? Maybe you did that as a child. I did, but I never could catch it. I could feel it, but I could never catch it.
We are all like the child chasing the wind. We don’t realize until we get older, if we’re blessed, that all these things we chased after are meaningless. Notice how Solomon ended the book of Ecclesiastes:
“Now all has been heard; here is the conclusion of the matter: Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the duty of all mankind. For God will bring every deed into judgment, including every hidden thing, whether it is good or evil.” (Ecclesiastes 12:14 NIV)
We can chase after the wind until our legs fall out from under us, but we’ll never catch it. The only thing that really matters in life is did we “fear God and keep His commandments?”
Life’s material pleasures are not wrong as long as they are within the framework of God’s will.
For example; if you enjoy fishing, then do so, but don’t neglect God. Do you want a boat but can’t afford one? Don’t buy the boat, fish off the bank until you can afford one, but make sure you don’t short-change Him for the boat.
I sometimes like to watch shows where people go buy a house. They’ll look at three or four and decide which one to buy. What amazes me is the prices these people shell out. Actually, they are probably in debt up to their eyeballs. I couldn’t sleep at night if I had the house payment some of these folks must be saddled with.
Most of us have not learned what is really important in our lives. Most of us are building bigger barns, not knowing that our soul may be required of us tonight. Our soul is the most important thing we have, and it is the most neglected. That’s what Solomon was talking about. Fearing God and keeping His commandments mean knowing Him as our Savior and serving Him as our Lord in today’s verbiage. That is the most important thing in our life. Everything else is just chasing the wind.