I saved for what seemed like decades!
I was an upper-elementary student whose parents were trying to get him to save money. My parents gave me a goal of saving my money to buy a particular toy I wanted soooooooo badly. It was a G.I. Joe ship and although now I can’t even tell you what happened to it, I can tell you what it was like to buy it.
The excitement of looking forward to it began to wane as soon as I slid the cash across the counter to the cashier (that tells how how long ago it was–who uses cash anymore!). Although I denied it in my mind, there was an odd sense of disappointment when I got home and played with it for a few minutes.
For all the work I’d done to save up for it, the thrill soon gave way to melancholy.
In some ways, we’ve not left that childhood feeling behind. Humanity seems to bounce from pleasure to pleasure, always seeking the “next high”.
In our study of Ecclesiastes this week, we find King Solomon testing this out in Ecclesiastes 2:1-11:
I said to myself, “Come now, I will test you with pleasure to find out what is good.” But that also proved to be meaningless. “Laughter,” I said, “is madness. And what does pleasure accomplish?” I tried cheering myself with wine, and embracing folly—my mind still guiding me with wisdom. I wanted to see what was good for people to do under the heavens during the few days of their lives.
I undertook great projects: I built houses for myself and planted vineyards. I made gardens and parks and planted all kinds of fruit trees in them. I made reservoirs to water groves of flourishing trees. I bought male and female slaves and had other slaves who were born in my house. I also owned more herds and flocks than anyone in Jerusalem before me. I amassed silver and gold for myself, and the treasure of kings and provinces. I acquired male and female singers, and a harem as well—the delights of a man’s heart. I became greater by far than anyone in Jerusalem before me. In all this my wisdom stayed with me.
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.
King Solomon (the writer) had the means and ability to do whatever he wanted. Not only was he the King of Israel, he was an exceptionally powerful king. His wisdom and wealth were unrivaled.
In the first paragraph (verses 1-3), Solomon talked about amusement. From laughter to wine, Solomon pushed the limits to see what could truly provide significance in this life.
Then he turns his attention to his occupation. He built, planted, and acquired, to see if our work could provide significance to the life we humans live.
And there was pleasure in this. He enjoyed the fruit of his labor. There was a certain reward in simply surveying everything he had accomplished.
“Yet when I surveyed all that my hands had done and what I had toiled to achieve,” He writes in verse 11, “everything was meaningless, a chasing after the wind; nothing was gained under the sun.”
Wine, women, and song proved incapable of giving purpose to life. Accomplishment and acquisition proved incapable of giving purpose to life.
There’s a strange thing about pleasure: it decreases by doing the same thing over and over. It’s like riding a roller coaster: after each ride, it’s a little less intense. This means when we seek pleasure to satisfy us, we have to increase the intensity in order to even obtain the same level of pleasure.
When our lives are lived for pleasure, we are never satisfied.
This is Solomon’s conclusion (verse 11). Whether work or entertainment, true purpose in life cannot be given in these pleasures. We’ll never be satisfied. WHen our lives are lived for pleasure, we are never satisfied.
Saving for a “toy”, buying that prize, a “bucket list” vacation, relationships, alcohol, drugs, accomplishments at work, success…it’s never enough to satisfy us. There’s always something “more”. It really is “chasing after the wind”.
And that’s the point Solomon is making: apart from God, life is meaningless. There’s no purpose; there’s no point.
People can learn to live without love. They can live their life without faith. But no one can live without hope. And the only hope giving us any reason to live our lives is found in the love of the Father who loved us through the cross on which His Son Jesus died.
Don’t chase the wind. Chase the Wind-Maker.