From a distance, Hollywood celebrities seem to “have it all.” They live in multi-million-dollar mansions, travel to exotic places, and can afford anything they want. By worldly standards, they should be the happiest people on earth. But often they are not. Heavy-weight boxing champion George Foreman said in an interview that he once became angry and depressed when he could not find anything else to spend his fortune on!
Fame, fortune, and material possessions fail to bring true happiness. Miserable people often abuse alcohol and drugs in an attempt to numb their pain. When that fails, they take their own lives to escape what they feel is an endless life of sorrow.
The wise man Solomon knew that worldly pursuits could never lead to happiness. In Ecclesiastes 2:10-11, Solomon writes,
“Whatever my eyes desired I did not keep from them. I did not withhold my heart from any pleasure. For my heart rejoiced in all my labor; and this was my reward from all my labor. Then I looked on all the works that my hands had done and on the labor in which I had toiled; and indeed all was vanity and grasping for the wind. There was no profit under the sun.”
Searching for happiness through pleasures, accomplishments, and accolades are like grasping for the wind – we simply can’t grab hold of it no matter how tightly we close our fists.
We can't Take it With us
Solomon knew that no matter how much wealth or material possessions he accumulated, he would eventually leave it all behind, perhaps to a fool who would waste the inheritance, and definitely to someone who never earned it: “For there is a man whose labor is with wisdom, knowledge, and skill; yet he must leave his heritage to a man who has not labored for it. And who knows whether he will be wise or a fool?” (Ecclesiastes 2:21-22a).
Earthly treasures can never achieve what God has already accomplished. “Those who trust in their wealth and boast in the multitude of their riches, none of them can by any means redeem his brother, nor give to God a ransom for him – for the redemption of their souls is costly” (Psalm 49:6-8). Jesus reminds us, too, of this in Matthew 16:26, “For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?” The salvation of our souls has already been purchased -- not with money -- but with the blood of God’s Son.
Our Most Important Task
Solomon isn’t telling us that we should never experience enjoyment in this life. He also writes in Ecclesiastes 2:24, “Nothing is better for a man than that he should eat and drink, and that his soul should enjoy good in his labor. This also, I saw, was from the hand of God.” God’s blessings are for us to enjoy, but we must keep our priorities in check. Overworking to become rich, trusting in wealth and possessions, living for selfish purposes are the result of forgetting what – or Who – we are living for.
Solomon experienced it all. He indulged in every pleasure he could find. He sought to satisfy his flesh with wine. He built houses, planted vineyards, gardens, and gathered for himself treasures, servants, and all kinds of musical instruments. He found no joy in his indulgences and determined that this was all “folly” and “vanity.”
Becoming rich and seeking pleasure is not what life is all about. There is only one way to live that brings joy, satisfaction, and peace: “Fear God and keep His commandments, for this is the duty of man” (Ecclesiastes 12:13).