Monday, April 15, 2013

Ecclesiastes 2: Death is the Ultimate Leveler

Eccl 2:4-9 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 men and women singers, and a harem as well — the delights of the heart of man. I became greater by far than anyone in Jerusalem before me. In all this my wisdom stayed with me. 
Eccl 2:17-26 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. I hated all the things I had toiled for under the sun, because I must leave them to the one who comes after me. 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. So my heart began to despair over all my toilsome labor under the sun. 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. What does a man get for all the toil and anxious striving with which he labors under the sun? All his days his work is pain and grief; even at night his mind does not rest. This too is meaningless. 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, for without him, who can eat or find enjoyment? 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.

Freddie Mercury (1946-1991), the lead singer of the British rock band Queen was once quoted as saying, "You can have everything in the world and still be the loneliest man. And that is the most bitter type of loneliness, success has brought me world idolisation and millions of pounds. But it's prevented me from having the one thing we all need: A loving, ongoing relationship." 

Solomon came to the same conclusion about 3,000 years ago. Solomon  had everything any man would have wanted--wealth, women and wisdom. On top of that, he was a great builder. Beside the temple of Jerusalem named after him, he also built  houses, vineyards, gardens, parks and reservoirs. He amassed gold and silver that he could never use in his lifetime. But this is his verdict as he comes to the end of his life: "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" (Eccl 2:11). In other word, a waste of time! No wonder he says, "I hated all the things I had toiled for under the sun, because I must leave them to the one who comes after me. 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" (Eccl 2:18-19).

If in our life, all we are striving is to achieve wealth and wisdom that are this-worldly, then our enjoyment of these blessings will end at our death. We won't be any different from those without wealth and wisdom. We will go as we have arrived, bringing nothing with us: "everything was meaningless, a chasing after the wind; nothing was gained under the sun" (Eccl. 2:11). 

Even so, Solomon concludes this chapter with some wise words for us to consider: "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, for without him, who can eat or find enjoyment?" (Eccl 2:24-26) In other word, we can only enjoy life and work in the light of our relationship with God, for apart from God, we are are NOTHING. So Jesus says: "I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing" (John 15:5). There can be no enjoyment of life and work apart from God, as Freddie Mercury found out belatedly: just before he died of AIDS: "But it's (wealth) prevented me from having the one thing we all need: A loving, ongoing relationship."

At the end of the day, it's not our possessions or wisdom that gives satisfaction to life, but having a loving, ongoing relationship. Only God can provide us this loving and ongoing relationship that Freddie Mercury was looking for.

Lord, You have said that eternal life is knowing the true God and Jesus Christ whom You have sent. May we have this loving and eternal relationship with You today. Amen.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Feel free to leave your comments.