Bible Study for Mar. 10: The problem with pleasure

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Eccl. 2
Gregg Potts, lay minister

The leisure industry is big business in America. Lots of money is spent on recreational vehicles, boats, jet-skis, time-shares, and kids travel-ball. All of this money is spent in an attempt to have fun. 

There is nothing wrong with having some fun, but life is more than just having fun. In the second chapter of Ecclesiastes, the writer explores if fun or things can bring him happiness.

And, the answer to that depends on your world-view. If you have a Christian world-view, your answer to that question will reflect your desire to bring glory and honor to the name of Jesus. But, if you have a secular world-view, your answer will be governed by the world’s standards. And, one of the standards of the world is leisure – having fun.

If you don’t believe it, drive to any city with a beach and see how many people are laying out on the sands of the beach. Drive to any college football stadium on a fall Saturday and see how many people have purchased tickets to see their team play. And, there is nothing wrong with having fun… man needs to have some fun… if he pulls the rubber-band for too long and too tightly, it will eventually snap. So will man, if he doesn’t have some fun. But life is not all about fun. 

In Eccl. 2:1-4 the writer says:

“I said to myself, “Come now, I will test you with pleasure. So enjoy yourself.” And behold, it too was futility. I said of laughter, ‘It is madness,’ and of pleasure, ‘What does it accomplish?’ I explored with my mind how to stimulate my body with wine while my mind was guiding me wisely, and how to take hold of folly, until I could see what good there is for the sons of men to do under heaven the few years of their lives. I explored with my mind how to stimulate my body with wine while my mind was guiding me wisely, and how to take hold of folly, until I could see what good there is for the sons of men to do under heaven the few years of their lives. I enlarged my works: I built houses for myself, I planted vineyards for myself…”

As we look at these verses, we see that…

Pleasure fails to satisfy the human heart

Solomon decides to test himself with pleasure. But after doing so, he discovered it was futile. Solomon concluded that pleasure was meaningless. It could fill the heart with laughter but, it was temporary. 

Solomon also experimented by indulging in wine (3). In doing so, Solomon fell for one of Satan’s oldest tricks; believing pleasure can be enhanced with the help of substances such as alcohol or drugs. Man thinks that a few drinks will wash all his troubles away, or a few drags off of a marijuana joint will get him high and he will forget all his troubles. But, our problems return – they don’t go away. So, pleasure doesn’t satisfy the human heart.

Possessions fail to satisfy the human heart

So, if pleasure doesn’t satisfy the heart, maybe possessions will. Solomon says, “I enlarged my works… I built houses for myself… I planted vineyards… I made gardens and parks and planted all kinds of trees… I made ponds of water… I even bought male and female slaves.”

Whatever Solomon wanted, he built it. Money was no problem! So, he built new houses, etc. But a new house or pond or vineyard doesn’t bring joy.  Joy is an inside job. A person living in a one-room house can be happier than millionaire’s living in a mansion.

Possessions don’t bring happiness   

In Luke 12, Jesus told a story about a certain rich man. The man built larger barns to store his harvest. After doing so, the man said, “Soul, you have a great amount of goods in store… be at rest, take food and wine and be happy. But God said to him, You foolish one, tonight I will take your soul from you, and who then will be the owner of all the things which you have got together?”

Possessions do not bring happiness. 

So is this all there is?

After Solomon had finished building he said,

“And I became great; increasing more than all who had been before me in Jerusalem, and my wisdom was still with me. And nothing which was desired by my eyes did I keep from them; I did not keep any joy from my heart, because my heart took pleasure in all my work, and this was my reward. Then I saw all the works which my hands had made, and everything I had been working to do; and I saw that all was to no purpose and desire for wind, and there was no profit under the sun” (Eccl. 2:9-11).

Affirming what Solomon said, the apostle John said, “For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world” (I John 2:16). 

A very wealthy man passed away and a memorial service was planned. Knowing the man was wealthy, one person asked, “How much did he leave?” 

Someone else replied, “He left it all.”

Indeed he did… and so does anyone else who devotes their life to the accumulation of wealth. There is nothing wrong with wealth. There have been many great Christian philanthropists; but, it is wrong if your life is consumed with it. When life is over, we leave all of our possessions. “Football star Tom Brady was asked this question on 60 Minutes. Brady had just quarterbacked the New England Patriots to their third Super Bowl. He said, “Why do I have three Super Bowl rings and still think there’s something greater out there for me? I mean, maybe a lot of people would say, ‘Hey man, this is what is.’ I reached my goal, my dream, my life. Me, I think, ‘… It’s got to be more than this.’ I mean this isn’t, this can’t be what it’s all cracked up to be.” When the interviewer asked, “What’s the answer?” Brady could only say, “I wish I knew. I wish I knew.” (cf. “Preaching the Word” – Preaching the Word – Ecclesiastes: Why Everything Matters. Interview available here.

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