BIBLICAL PERSPECTIVES/The emptiness of life without God
Wednesday, March 7, 2012 11:30 AM
This is a book about the search for satisfaction, the search for significance, the search for happiness. We realize that we are made for something more, and so we are all on a quest for meaning and happiness and blessedness. The problem is we often pursue it wrongly and we seek the source of happiness and blessedness and satisfaction in the wrong things apart from a saving relationship with God through Jesus Christ. In Ecclesiastes 6, the Preacher cuts us off from the various escape routes of meaninglessness in life. For if we are living without God, no matter what satisfaction we are experiencing, we will realize that it does not answer our deepest need.
I. God has not built life for anything apart from Him to satisfy (vv. 1-6).
He explores five "escape routes" in this passage. In verses 1-2, he goes right back to riches. He says that riches alone will fail to satisfy, and he gives one case in point, he tells this story of a man who has worked really hard; he's made a lot of money and he's gotten what he desired in the scope of his vocation and yet, he dies, doesn't experience it and somebody else enjoys the fruit of his labor.
We all know of wealthy people that work hard and get to enjoy the money they make, but his point is simply that it doesn't always happen that one enjoys the riches one has accumulated. Moreover, it's not only that some of them die and don't enjoy them, but some live and still don't enjoy them. He has already said that wealth and the enjoyment of wealth are two different things. Being able to enjoy the wealth that God has given is a gift from God. Just because you have wealth doesn't mean that you can truly enjoy it.
The Preacher is not just someone who sees the worst part of life; he's simply saying, "The fact of the matter is that as I look around me, I see people with riches and they do not have satisfaction. Therefore, satisfaction must not come from riches." He's saying that if it ever fails to bring satisfaction, then riches cannot be the source of satisfaction.
Secondly, in verses 3-6. He paints a picture of a man who lives a long life and has lots of children, but at the end of his life his children turn their backs on him and he doesn't even have a proper burial. He calls us to look around at people who have invested their lives in family and see the heartbreaks that are there - children and grandchildren who have broken the hearts of parents and grandparents; husbands and wives who have broken one another's hearts and estrangement from parents. There are all manner of problems with family.
We worship family today; so many people seek a release from materialistic culture by making family a god in our own day. They get married and think that marriage is going to be the place where they find ultimate satisfaction. Then suddenly, you find out that she recognizes all your weaknesses, and you're not as nice as her dad, and it's hard work, and it's rough going. Suddenly, the thing that was going to provide you satisfaction is the source of your greatest heartbreak.
I'm not making light of those things by any stretch; enjoying family, marital relationships, and children, is one of the great blessings of life when received from God. Solomon is saying if wealth is the place that you're seeking true satisfaction or if family is the place that you're seeking true satisfaction, then you are in for a deep, deep disappointment.
Then he speaks of long life, of living a thousand years twice. Even that fails to satisfy because people never seem to learn from the experience of previous generations. They continue to look on wealth as the road to satisfaction. They continue to think that family will provide them all the meaning that they've ever wanted or needed.
They think that long life will bring happiness, and their hopes are always disappointed until they learn to trust and follow God. Life is unsatisfying and leads to hopelessly careening from one thing to the next until being buried on some lowly hill or under some tree. God has not built us for life to satisfy us apart from Him.
II. Our work can't provide ultimate satisfaction (vv. 7-9).
Our labors in this life can't satisfy our mouths much less our souls, he says. "All man's labor is for his mouth," he says, "and yet the appetite is not satisfied." Our work, our labor fails to satisfy our temporal needs much less our deepest needs.
And what our work produces cannot be the ultimate source of satisfaction whether temporal or eternal. Whether your life is busy and complex or easy and simple: God remains the one who enables us all to enjoy the fruit of our labors.
III. Our words can't fix this reality (vv. 10-12).
He goes on to note that mankind can't talk and explain and philosophize his way out of this mess. "Whatever exists has already been named. Their many words which increase futility," he says in verse 11. He's saying that words and philosophy and wisdom and reflection fail to satisfy and bring meaning. In fact, words increase futility. God has made us for Himself and our hearts are restless until we rest in Him.
Everyone knows that quest because God has made us to seek for ultimate satisfaction, and we see that even in pop culture, you could be listening to Bono and U2 singing "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For," because so many do not find it. What we need is something that will be adequate for every day, that will be life long, and not merely passing, which can cope with the inherent futility of this earthly realm and the brevity of life. What we need cannot be found here, it can only be found in God under heaven, the Preacher.
Satisfaction cannot be found in going to the right school, joining the right sorority or fraternity, marrying the right person and settling in the right neighborhood and living the right kind of life. It is not wealth, work, or a perfect family; it is found in God and Him alone through Jesus Christ.