Find Meaning Under the SON
11th Sunday after Pentecost
Find Meaning Under the SON
What would you do if you were the richest person in the world? Bill Gates is the second richest person in the world. His net worth is around $67 billion. How would you feel if you had that much money?
What would you do if you were the smartest person in the world? Most people in the world have an IQ in the 90-110 range. Some are below, some are above. One half of one percent of people are considered geniuses with an IQ over 140. Then there is Terrence Tao, who had a Ph.D from Princeton University by the age of 20 and may have the highest IQ in the world with a score of 230. How would you feel if you were that smart?
Or, what would you do if you were the richest person in the world and the smartest, wisest person in the world at the same time? Well then you would know what it was like to be king Solomon.
King Solomon, the son of king David, had it all. He was given special wisdom from God that made him the wisest person that ever lived. People from all over the world would come to hear him speak. Even today his words in the Bible books of Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and Song of Songs are incredibly profound and extraordinarily relevant.
With that wisdom Solomon was also able to acquire unparalleled wealth. He lived in a massive palace with gold furnishings and precious materials everywhere. He built towers and gardens and vineyards and more for himself. He had 1,400 chariots and 12,000 horses. He received 50,000 pounds of gold every year—and that was just the gold. And when he tired of all those possessions he also had 700 wives and 300 concubines to enjoy.
When we say that that Solomon had it all—he really had it all. It’s Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous times 10. It’s the kind of thing that we see in movies. It’s the kind of thing where we daydream and say, “If only I had all that. If only I won Powerball. Then I could retire. Then I could take care of my kids for good. Then I could build that school for you, Pastor.” (If I had a dollar for every time I heard that, maybe we could build the new school building.)
Doesn’t it seem strange then to hear what king Solomon has to say about all of this? The richest, wisest man maybe ever in the history of the world says this in the first lesson today: “Meaningless! Meaningless! . . . Utterly Meaningless! Everything is meaningless.” Solomon had anything he wanted. He could go anywhere he wanted. He could do anything he wanted. Yet he says that everything is meaningless.
That seems almost a bit offensive, doesn’t it? Meaningless?! How can you call everything meaningless? I’m struggling through life. I’m trying to make lemonade out of lemons, trying to be happy with the few things that I do have. There are a million things I would do if I had millions of dollars. My life would be a million times better if I had millions of dollars. Everything I work so hard for every day Solomon simply had. And he calls it meaningless? Come on!
But remember these are the words of the wisest man ever. So he must have a reason to say this. We see those reasons in the next paragraph. Here’s what an older, even wiser Solomon says reflecting back on his life: “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 in to which I have poured my effort and skill under the sun. This too is meaningless.”
This is the first meaningless thing to Solomon: He worked so hard to make his life better and acquire so many possessions, yet everything he had was going to be left to someone else. At some point he was going to die and his children, or someone else, would take everything he worked hard for. And who knows if that person would be wise or foolish—would keep it all or squander it all? Yet everything that he poured his heart into someone else would eventually control. Meaningless!
This meaninglessness led to despair. Verse 20: “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.”
The more Solomon realized that all of the fruits of his hard work and his wisdom and his skill would be left to someone else, the more he began to despair. He was truly troubled that he had so many things, yet as soon as he died he would lose it all. If Solomon was an American he would say, “That’s not fair!” Or in his words, “Meaningless!”
Solomon concludes then in verses 22-23: “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.”
His final conclusion was almost too much to bear. Not only did he work hard in pain and grief night and day, not only was he eventually going to die, not only was someone else going to get all his stuff, but he also had this realization: He really wasn’t going to get anything out of it. All of his earthly labor and toil and pain and grief, all of his wealth and riches, all of his wisdom—it truly was in fact meaningless.
Are you there yet? Are you with Solomon? Do you see the meaninglessness? Or are you still grasping onto that sinful desire, that craving down deep inside that wants to find meaning in the things of this world?
It’s hard to fight, isn’t it? Like the foolish rich man in the gospel today, we want so badly to have big barns to store all our stuff. And when we get more stuff and our barns get old, then we want to build bigger barns—but this time with a terracotta tile roof, nice stonework trimming, and a pool and lanai out back. Like the foolish rich man we would love to eat, drink, and be merry. If only we could store up endless piles of money in the bank. If only we could enjoy the fruits of our labors with nice TVs and countertops and plush Lay-Z-boy recliners.
Like foolish young Solomon we keep searching for happiness in the things of this world. Maybe we’ll never have 12,000 horses and an income of 50,000 pounds of gold a year. But maybe if we have three cars, a motorcycle, a boat, a jet ski, a mountain bike and a racing bike—maybe then we’ll be happy. Or if we finally get all of our home upgraded the way we like it . . . Or if we finally pay off all our debt . . . Or if we can retire early and go on lots of vacations and cruises . . . Or if we can get our kids through college and set them up to be rich and successful—maybe then we’ll be happy.
Our sinful selves just want and want and want. We hardly even realize it we do it so much. But look at your house and your possessions and your vehicles and your mobile devices and the kinds of food that you eat and clothes that you wear and compare that to how other people in the world live. Or compare that to what you spend on God’s kingdom or on the poor and needy. We all are so much like the rich fool, like young squandering Solomon. It’s so much a part of our American culture that we barely even recognize it anymore.
But listen to the wisest man that ever lived. You can’t take any of it with you. You might build the nicest house on the block, but eventually it’s going to go out of style. You might have the nicest clothes, but they are going to ware out. You might have thousands or even millions saved in a bank account, but you can’t spend it once you die.
No matter how hard you labor, work, or toil, no matter how much blood, sweat, and tears you put in, no matter how much wealth you acquire or how comfortable you are living or how much you set up your children for success—you will eventually die and will instantly lose it all. As Solomon would say, “Everything under the sun is meaningless.” That’s a hard reality to face. It brought Solomon, the richest and wisest man ever, to complete despair.
Wouldn’t it be nice to find a purpose then? Wouldn’t it be nice to find something that is meaningful? Wouldn’t it be nice to find meaning for your life? Well you can. But you won’t find meaning under the S-U-N. You will, however, Find Meaning Under the S-O-N, Jesus Christ.
In a life that is so transitory and ephemeral—so quick and short lived—Jesus gives us a life that will last forever. In a life where we work hard and labor and toil, Jesus gives us a life where there is no work or labor or toil. In a life where we are constantly chasing after riches that count for nothing, Jesus gives us a life with endless riches. In a life where we eventually die and lose it all, Jesus gives us a life where we gain it all and only go on living forever. We have no purpose, no meaning, no value, no riches here in this life. But Jesus has given us something to look forward to with real value and meaning—eternal life in heaven.
It wasn’t cheap either. The cost for us to have something to look forward to, to have riches and glory, to have meaning was the price of his holy precious blood and innocent suffering and death. The life of the Son of God is worth so much more than any amount of gold or silver or precious jewels. But Jesus paid that price to pay for all of our sins. He shed his blood to wipe away our endless materialism and greed and vanity. He died to give us something to look forward to after our death.
If you want to find something meaningful, if you want to find meaning for your life, then Find Meaning in the Son of God. He forgives all your sins. He gives you a new life as God’s child. He gives you eternal life in heaven. There is nothing more meaningful than living a life of thanks for him. There is nothing more meaningful than serving him. There is nothing more meaningful than sharing him with others. There is nothing more meaningful than looking forward to the better life waiting for us in heaven.
Solomon, the wisest man that ever lived, finally started to realize this as an older man. The book of Ecclesiastes is a brilliant book that explores how meaningless this sinful world is, but yet the meaningfulness that is possible to find in our God. Listen to his wisdom in the next two verses: “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?”
First, we can find meaningfulness in the satisfaction of living the lives that God has given us. Maybe we aren’t rich. Maybe instead of 12,000 horses we just have two cars that barely run. Maybe instead of 50,000 pounds of gold we barely bring in $50,000 in a year. Maybe we do have to work hard and labor and toil our whole lives. But we can eat and drink and find satisfaction in that. No matter where we are in life, we can find enjoyment in God. Everything we have, no matter how much or how little, is a gift from God. And he’s given us the greatest gift of heaven. This is the satisfaction that believers can have in this life.
Thus Solomon concludes: “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.” Those who only chase after riches and worldly things will find, like the rich fool with his barns in the gospel, that eventually God will take it away and you will have nothing at all. But to the person who pleases God—to the believer who trusts in him—God gives wisdom, knowledge, and happiness. God gives us the perspective of being wise enough to know that we can find happiness and meaning only in him.
I asked earlier what you would do if you were the richest, smartest, wisest person that ever lived. Hopefully none of us ever find out. With all those worldly treasures and blessings comes nothing but trouble, sadness, and despair. They are all meaningless.
Give thanks to God for your normal life. Give thanks to God that you have to work hard, that you aren’t filthy rich, that you have problems and pains. These things are all reminders from God that we have something else more meaningful. We have Jesus Christ.
Living for him, giving to him, serving him, sharing him—this is where I find happiness and true meaning in life. Most importantly, I have eternal life in heaven to look forward to—that is the most meaningful thing I could ever want or imagine.
Do you want to be the happiest, wealthiest, wisest person that ever lived? Do you want to have it all? You already do. You have Jesus Christ. You have meaning under the S-O-N.
Posted on August 5, 2013, in Church, Sermons and tagged Church, David, Ecclesiastes, Ecclesiastes 1, Ecclesiastes 2, Fool, Foolish, Meaning, Meaning of Life, Meaningful, Riches, Sermons, Solomon, Wealth, Wisdom. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.