Sunday, October 27th, 2013
Bible Memory Verse for the Week: I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. —Philippians 4:11-12
- (2:24) The Teacher now counsels enjoyment of life. We should not understand “nothing is better than” in a rigidly literal sense, as if the Teacher were saying that enjoyment of food and possessions is the goal of life. In context he is talking about how one should view life with respect to labor and the fruit of labor. He is not, therefore, negating the worth of higher values. But he insists that people should learn how to enjoy the return they get on their labor. Indeed, the ability to enjoy and use the good things of life (i.e. material things) is itself a gift of God. Those who belong to God should above all others have a capacity to enjoy life. (Duane A. Garrett, The New American Commentary: V14, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Songs, 296)
- 2:24-25 The heart of Ecclesiastes, a theme repeated in 3:12-13, 22; 5:18-20; 8:15; 9:7 and climaxed in 12:13. Only in God does life have meaning and true pleasure. Without him nothing satisfies, but with him we find satisfaction and enjoyment. True pleasure comes only when we acknowledge and revere God (12:13). (NIV Study Bible notes on Ecclesiastes 2)
- (2:26) Here again the Teacher notes how God uses those who are opposed to him. The sovereignty of God is implicit in this concept. God uses the lives of the wicked to achieve his own purpose. This verse is sometimes taken to mean that the Teacher views divine activity as hopelessly arbitrary and little more than an equivalent for “fate”. To the contrary, this verse does not present God as capricious but does relate to the biblical idea of the grace of God. To believe that one’s life is ruled by impersonal fate is intolerable; to believe that life is controlled by a personal God is comfort. (Duane A. Garrett, The New American Commentary: V14, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Songs, 296)
- God was scarcely involved in 1:2–2:23, being mentioned only in 1:13. Earlier argument referred to the earthly realm (1:3, 13-14; 2:3; 11, 17-20, 22) and only passingly mentioned God as the cause of frustration. But now God is controller of his world, creator of beauty, judge of injustices. Nihilism and despair turn to joy, beauty, God’s generosity, security and purpose in life. (New Bible Commentary, 612)
- Business is a thing that wise men have pleasure in. They are in their element when they are in their business, and complain if they be out of business. They may sometimes be tired with their business, but they are not weary of it, nor willing to leave it off. Here therefore one would expect to have found the good that men should do, but Solomon tried this too; after a contemplative life and a voluptuous life, he betook himself to an active life, and found no more satisfaction in it than in the other; still it is all vanity and vexation of spirit, of which he gives an account in these verses (Matthew Henry Commentary on Ecc. 2)
- Given these realities of human existence, emphasis is to be placed not upon the outcome of the work, but upon its performance. That is where satisfaction is to be found (2:24-25). It is the sinner who is occupied with gathering and storing up wealth (v. 26). The word sinner here is not used so much in a moral sense as in a pragmatic sense, indicating one whose focus in on the outcome of work rather than on its performance. Such an emphasis is tantamount to chasing the wind (v. 26).
The question to be answered is… What is the Teacher trying to communicate to us about true satisfaction in life?
Answer: The Teacher is trying to teach us that there is no true satisfaction or enjoyment apart from the hand of God. The things we chase after in our life will one day mean nothing to us. We cannot find meaningful satisfaction in the material goods we toil for in this life. There is nothing truly gratifying in this life that comes solely from our own toil. All good and perfect gifts (including and especially satisfaction) come from the hand of God.
The word for the Day is… Satisfy
What can we learn about true satisfaction from this text?
I. True satisfaction comes ONLY from the hand of God. (v.24) (Pr 14:14; 15:13; Ec. 9:7-10; 1 Cor. 7:17)
Isn’t it strange that the more you run after life, panting after every pleasure, the less you will find, but the more you take life as a gift from God’s hand, responding in thankful gratitude for the delight of the moment, the more life seems to come to you? Even the trials, the heartaches, the handicaps that others seek to avoid are touched with the blessing of heaven and minister to the heart of the one who has learned to take them from the hand of God. (Ray C. Stedman, Is This All There Is To Life, 39-40)
“He is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in him.” (John Piper, Don’t Waste Your Life)
How important it is, then, to keep God in the middle of our bank accounts, our possessions, and our portfolios. Picture your hands out in front of you, cupped together, palms up. In your open hands are all the things He has entrusted to you – money, cars, a home, furniture, everything. All of this is His gift (Jas 1:17). We are the stewards, and faithfulness is our charge. That means our hands must never close over the gifts, but remain open so that He may use them as required – and refill our hands.
The human impulse, of course, is to “clutch and clench” – to close our fists protectively. We then find ourselves facing limited resources. How can God fill us when there is no opening? And as long as we can’t loosen our grip, we cannot enjoy what’s there. (David Jeremiah, Searching for Heaven On Earth, 341)
II. True satisfaction does not come from stuff. (v.26) (Pr 15:15; 16:8; 30:8; Ps 37:7; Lk 13:4; 1 Tm 6:6; Heb 13:5; Mt 6:25-34; 1 Tm 6:10)
You may not appreciate hearing it, but Solomon is simply saying aloud what we all know to be true. Build what you want; save what you might; put it in the bank; liquefy it into stocks and bonds; drop it into real estate; place it anywhere you choose. You only control your wealth for a season, and then it’s out of your hands completely. As you draw your last breath, you withdraw your grip on all that you have labored to build under the sun. It’s a matter for others now. (David Jeremiah, Searching for Heaven On Earth, 37)
Man can find nothing in this finite life to give him an infinite peace. Man must go outside himself or he will live his life in despair. The only way a person can avoid this is by living in denial. (Tommy Nelson, A Live Well Lived, 37)
No biblical passage paints a grimmer picture of what it costs to succeed on human terms and how fragile that success is. Strain, toil, pain, insomnia – that is the currency with which we pay for success that we can neither fully gain nor truly keep. (David Hubbard, Mastering The Old Testament: Ecclesiastes, 91)
Meaninglessness does not come from being weary of pain. Meaninglessness comes from being weary of pleasure. (G.K. Chesterton, qtd. in Ravi Zacharias, The End of Reason: A Response to the New Atheists, 39)
CONCLUSION / APPLICATION: So what should we do with this?
A. Retool your heart so your satisfaction is found in the eternal: If you are living life under the sun, you are in fact, chasing wind. If you hope to find satisfaction in the temporal, your efforts will always come up empty-handed. (Mat. 6:19; Col 3:2)
God has ordered things so that all done here is vanity. It comes to nothing. Nothing in this world really matters because nothing lasts. So help them see that they must not become too strongly attached to anything. (Jay E. Adams, Life Under The Son, 26)
The greatest lie we sometimes are told is that in pleasure lies our fulfillment. I would say pleasure unbounded by sacredness will leave you emptier than before. (Ravi Zacharias, “The Death of Truth and the Decline of Culture” event video, 42:28)
Solomon says that the only way we can find real enjoyment and meaning in life is by getting in touch with something infinite. God has to come to us and give us something that we don’t have. Man under the sun – man doing it on his own – will inevitably end in despair, futility, and death. If we are ever going to find something that is good, we’ll have to get it from the hand of God. (Tommy Nelson, A Live Well Lived, 38)
B. Live life under the Son: Find your satisfaction in Christ regardless of what you are doing and be content with what you should be contented with. (Pr 14:30; Lk 12:15; 1 Pt 1:17; Lk 3:14)
The conclusion of 2:24-26: The purpose of life cannot be found in any one of the good things found in the world. All the things that we call the “goods” of life – health, riches, possessions, position, sensual pleasures, honors, and prestige – slip through man’s hands unless they are received as a gift from God and until God gives man the ability to enjoy them and obtain satisfaction from them. God gives that ability to those who begin by “fearing,” that is, believing, Him. (Walter C. Kaiser Jr., Everyman’s Bible Commentary: Ecclesiastes, 59)
C. Get ready to wage war against the culture and yourself. (Rom 8:5-8; 13:14; Gal 5:17, 24; 6:8; Jas 1:27; 5:3; 1 Jn. 2:15-17; 3:13)
“Greed, envy, sloth, pride and gluttony: these are not vices anymore. No, these are marketing tools. Lust is our way of life. Envy is just a nudge towards another sale. Even in our relationships we consume each other, each of us looking for what we can get out of the other. Our appetites are often satisfied at the expense of those around us. In a dog-eat-dog world we lose part of our humanity.” ― Jon Foreman
I really struggle with American Christianity. People in America grow up in a culture that worships pleasure, leisure, and affluence. I think the church is doubly damned when it uses Jesus as a vehicle for achieving all of that. Many people believe that if you give a tithe to the church then God will make you rich. Why? . . .If you give a tithe, you get rid of ten percent of the root of all evil. You should be giving ninety percent because God can handle money better than we can. (Rich Mullins, A Devotional Biography, 149)
Most men pursue pleasure with such breathless haste that they hurry past it. (Soren Kierkegaard)
Worship Point: True worship comes increasingly easy to those who increasingly find their satisfaction in the Source of true satisfaction, Jesus.
Spiritual Challenge: Embrace the fact that living your life under the SON is the only way to find true satisfaction in your work and every other area of life. Look to Jesus for your satisfaction and start living for the eternal.
Quotes To Note:
Solomon isn’t telling us to forsake our children or deny them a reasonable inheritance. The same man writes, “A good man leaves an inheritance to his children’s children” (Prv 13:22). Providing for our loved ones after our death is part of Christian stewardship. (David Jeremiah, Searching for Heaven On Earth, 37)
Some time ago, an aspiring television star was given a shot at a network series. He went to the NBC studios, saw his name on a parking space, found the crew treating him like royalty, and admired the star on his dressing room door. The series pilot was shot in five days, but television executives rejected it. When the young actor left, no one said good-bye, the name was gone from his parking space, and his dressing room was locked.
“All the success was like smoke,” he said. “I couldn’t get a handle on it; like cotton candy, once it was in my mouth it was gone.”
Our culture is a cotton-candy world – sugary, and seductive – a pink swirl of empty calories. Today you might be the “flavor of the month,” with Hollywood or Wall Street at your command. Tomorrow your pockets may be as empty as your soul. (David Jeremiah, Searching for Heaven On Earth, 38)
“A man can do nothing” – there is no inherent value in him that makes it possible for him to extract true enjoyment from the things he does.
What does then? He tells us:
This too, I see, is from the hand of God, for without him, who can eat or find enjoyment? (2:24-25)
Here is the true message of the book. Enjoyment is a gift of God. There is nothing in possessions, in material goods, in money, there is nothing in man himself that can enable him to keep enjoying the things he does. But it is possible to have enjoyment all your life if you take it from the hand of God. It is given to those who please God. (Ray C. Stedman, Is This All There Is To Life, 37)
To the man who pleases God is given the gift of joy. (Ray C. Stedman, Is This All There Is To Life, 37)
It is wonderful that this book – and the whole of the Bible – teaches us that God wants us to have joy. In his letter to Timothy, Paul said, God “richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment” (1 Tm 6:17). (Ray C. Stedman, Is This All There Is To Life, 37)
Death is a haunting reality diminishing the value of wisdom, erasing the memory of even the wise, and transferring our hard-earned gains to persons unsuited for them. All this the wise man made clear. Yet he did not counsel his pupils to give up on life. Instead, he came to an alternative conclusion that modest enjoyment was possible. (David Hubbard, Mastering The Old Testament: Ecclesiastes, 91)
In Orthodoxy, Chesterton wrote that most humans rejoice over the insignificant and despair over the essential. However, that isn’t the last word, Chesterton averred. “Man is more himself, man is more manlike, when joy is the fundamental thing in him, and grief the superficial. Melancholy should be an interlude… praise should be the permanent pulsation of the soul.”
Why does joy go deeper in humanity than pain? Because joy is at the heart of our relationship with God and was the basis of Adam’s initial walk with God. One day that joy will be restored as the basis of our redeemed walk. So often now joy lies manacled by the equivalent, or excessive, sorrows of life. And while we can hear joy shouting its existence, even while imprisoned, it will one day break free and embrace all the saved in its delight. Pain is a vicious interloper that will one day vanish. In the new world, free from restriction, joy will once again prevail, rippling like waters through stony heights. (Virgil Hurley, Speaker’s Sourcebook of Illustrations, 124)
The religion that makes a man look sick certainly won’t cure the world. (Phillip Brooks)
If there lurks in most modern minds the notion that to desire our own good and earnestly to hope for the enjoyment of it is a bad thing, I submit that this notion has crept in from Kant and the Stoics and is no part of the Christian faith. Indeed, if we consider the unblushing promises of reward and the staggering nature of the rewards promised in the Gospels, it would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased. (C.S. Lewis, The Weight of Glory, 3-4)
“We often miss opportunity because it’s dressed in overalls and looks like work” ― Thomas A. Edison
“Work without love is slavery.” ― Mother Teresa
The soul is wider than creation, broader than space; give it all, it would be still unsatisfied, and man would not find rest. You say, “That is strange: if I had a little more I should be very well satisfied.” You make a mistake: if you are not content with what you have you would not be satisfied if it were doubled. “Nay,” says one, “I should be.” You do not know yourself. If you have fixed your affection on the things of this world, that affection is like a horse-leech; it cries, “Give! give!” It will suck, suck, suck to all eternity, and still cry, “Give, give!” and though you give it all, it has not gotten enough. (C.H. Spurgeon, Sermon #244, January 9th, 1859)
He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose. (Jim Elliot, October 28, 1949 journal entry)
“A bank is a place that will lend you money if you can prove that you don’t need it.” – Bob Hope