He Tried It All
Big Idea: Wise King Solomon tested out ten philosophies of life and found them all, except the last one, meaningless. He finally understood that the only way to make sense of life was to keep God at the center.
Scripture: Meaninglessness, meaninglessness says the Preacher, Meaninglessness, meaninglessness All is meaningless. What does man gain by all the toil at which he toils under the sun? Ecclesiastes 1:2-3
The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man. For God will bring every deed into judgment, with every secret thing, whether good or evil. Ecclesiastes 12:13-14 ESV
A scientific view of life: We live a world that naively worships science as god. Solomon studied sciences which were not written about for hundreds of years after his death. The wind cycles, the water cycles, but saw them as a picture of the meaningless repetition of life. We, as humans are lost as tiny specks in the repetition of nature. What has been is what will be, and what has been done is what will be done. And there is nothing new under the sun. Is there a thing of which it is said, “See, this is new”? It has been already in the ages before us. Ecclesiastes 1:9-10 ESV
Hedonism: Solomon had money, time and wisdom beyond anyone. He was a billionaire with nothing, or no one out of his reach. Women, entertainment, palaces, gardens, wine; but nothing brought any more than fleeting satisfaction. And whatever my eyes desired I did not keep from them. I kept my heart from no pleasure, for my heart found pleasure in all my toil, and this was my reward for all my toil. Then I considered all that my hands had done and the toil I had expended in doing it, and behold, all was vanity and a striving after wind, and there was nothing to be gained under the sun. Ecclesiastes 2:10-11 ESV
Intellectualism: As much as Solomon loved learning, he perceived that in the end fools and wisemen all die the same death. As much as they invent, discover, or think of, they leave it all to their spoiled children. For of the wise as of the fool there is no enduring remembrance, seeing that in the days to come all will have been long forgotten. How the wise dies just like the fool!
Ecclesiastes 2:16 ESV
Existentialism: The philosophy of existentialism grew in the wake of WW2 because of feelings of futility. It proposes that we have no control in our world over religion or politics, but only in our personal reaction to life around us. Life cannot be thought out, but only lived as it comes.
Existentialist Frederich Netzsche said, “Regarding life, the wisest men of all ages have judged alike; it is worthless”.
Capitalism: capitalism, which is motivated by selfish drive and competitiveness, results in pride, oppression and injustice. We may rise to the top of the ladder, but as soon as we do, some younger, aggressive zealot climbs right over us. Then I saw that all toil and all skill in work come from a man’s envy of his neighbour. This also is vanity and a striving after wind. Ecclesiastes 4:4 ESV
Religion: This was a humanistic religious approach to God and is a picture of much of our culture in North America today. Recognize that God exists and try to be as good as you can, so he will treat you well and won’t destroy you. Let not your mouth lead you into sin, and do not say before the messenger that it was a mistake. Why should God be angry at your voice and destroy the work of your hands? Ecclesiastes 5:6 ESV
Materialism: Three primary pursuits drove Solomon – riches, family and health. Doesn’t that sound familiar to us today? Likely most of us Canadians have been influenced by the philosophy of materialism. Solomon had more wealth than we would dream of. He likely fathered hundreds of children, and likely enjoyed good health, but he wrote in his journal “my appetite is not satisfied”. If a man fathers a hundred children and lives many years, so that the days of his years are many, but his soul is not satisfied with life’s good things, and he also has no burial, I say that a stillborn child is better off than he. Ecclesiastes 6:3 ESV
Stoicism: A “who cares attitude” seem to sweep over the restless king. Passionless indifference to life was the natural defense mechanism that Solomon donned as he searched for answers to the big questions that we all face. “Man is thoroughly messed up and life is not fair.” A hardness enveloped his heart to protect him from hurt, but it didn’t work.
In my vain life I have seen everything. There is a righteous man who perishes in his righteousness, and there is a wicked man who prolongs his life in his evildoing. 16 Be not overly righteous, and do not make yourself too wise. Why should you destroy yourself? Ecclesiastes 7:15-16 ESV
Common sense: Leave God out of life – do the best you can. Be nice and treat those in control with respect and they will do the same for you. But his common-sense approach did not satisfy the spiritual nature within him. Solomon understood that all mankind, unlike animals, has an eternal spirit which God created.
Also, he has put eternity into man’s heart, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end. Ecclesiastes 3:11c ESV
After years of searching, Solomon summed up his conclusion, that life lived apart from God comes to one end; meaninglessness and despair.
Obey God – He’s in charge: In his old age, (he died at 60), Solomon got scared. He realized that it was not his prerogative to pick a life philosophy, like we would pick out a new car. God had already made the rules. He is the Creator and we are his creation.
His final conclusion after a lifetime of searching was to fear God and keep his commandments. Everything is ultimately meaningless unless God is in the center of our lives.
Remember also your Creator in the days of your youth, before the evil days come and the years draw near of which you will say, “I have no pleasure in them”. .. The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man. For God will bring every deed into judgment, with every secret thing, whether good or evil.
Ecclesiastes 12:1, 13c-14 ESV
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