Wednesday, August 26, 2009
Wisdom Wednesday: Ecclesiastes 2: Pleasure, Wisdom, Folly and Work
For those of you that missed last week’s Wisdom Wednesday, we are continuing our study on the book of Ecclesiastes. Today, a look at Chapter 2.
I love to go to Wal-Mart. Yes, it’s a secret sin that I am exposing. Why do I love it? I go to the electronics section and look at the big screens. Oh yeah, I am a believer in Tim Allen’s thesis of “More Power!” I have three regular televisions in my house. I have the 27” beauty that was the first set that my wife and I bought together when we moved into our first apartment. It was the biggest that fit in her entertainment center. We originally had to watch everything on my 20” television that I bought from Montgomery Ward with my first teaching paycheck in 1992. It still works well. The third television was bought when we moved into the house in 2006. It was 32” of big TV. It was on sale at Wal-Mart for $299 and I heard grief over that television for months because I bought it without permission.
But I stand there. I endure the Miley Cyrus ads to see sports in high definition. That’s the biggest reason I want the new television. I want 42” or bigger. Bigger, better, crisper picture. Oh yeah, my testosterone rises just thinking about it. Watching the Steelers win another Super Bowl or watching the Mountaineers or Illini play college basketball, that’s what I want to see. Sure, CSI would be in high def too. That might not be so good. Of course, Dora, Barney, Elmo, Oscar the Grouch and Telly would be too. The kids would love it, but me, not so much.
The pure pleasure of watching the games aren’t enough. At that point, I want to invite my friends here over to watch the games. I’ve always wanted excuses to have parties. Sure, it might not mean as much to watch the Saint Louis Cardinals in the World Series, but a Steelers Super Bowl beating up on Brett Farve might be nice.
Anyhow, that would be pleasure for me. To entertain with the big TV, friends in my life and sports on the set. I know that sounds slightly vain. That I’d invite all my friends over to watch a game that means nothing in our long term lives on a big television. The sad thing is that I’ve only had less than a dozen people in my house to have fun since I moved in three years ago. You buy a big house, fancy things and hope that you can attract people to come over and look.
It’s part of “The American Dream” saying that “Hey man. I have this house, two cars, three kids and all this stuff. Please, please come over.” Isn’t that what we really say.
That was Solomon’s problem as we begin Chapter 2 of Ecclesiastes. I want to laugh. I’ve built this great place. Come eat and drink with me and let’s have fun! He’s got riches. He’s got slaves. He’s got more sheep than you can shake a stick at. Heck, he even had singers. That would be cool. Come home and have your singers belt out a theme song as you come in the house. Maybe a little bit of “Movin’ on up!” “Hey. We’re movin’ on up! To the east side, to the deluxe apartment in the sky!” You get the idea. That would rock. At least for a few days.
Solomon then says in verses 10-11, “I denied myself nothing my eyes desired; I refused my heart no pleasure. My heart took delight in all my work, and this was the reward of my labor. Yet 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.”
He had it all, saw it all and lived it all. It was nice, but in the end, as Richard Marx once sang, “Don’t mean nothin’! Don’t mean nothin’ at all!”
Solomon then turned his attention to wisdom and folly. While he admitted that wisdom was better than folly in verse 13, smart or dumb, we’re all going to die. He says that even the wise man would not be long remembered and that like the fool, the wise man too must die (verse 16).
So with that analysis, he hated life in verse 17. Why? Because even his work was without God and it ate at him. It’s even worse in his mind to leave all the rewards behind to someone else and who knows if that person just might be a fool.
Verse 23 isn’t quite as despairing as Tennessee Ernie Ford’s 16 Tons. “16 Tons and what do you get, another day older and deeper in debt…St. Peter don’t ya call me cause I can’t go, I owe my soul to the company store.” But Solomon asked and answered the question, what do you get for all this work, “All his days his work is pain and grief; even at night his mind does not rest.” Have you ever tossed and turned thinking about work? Thinking about the bills that come because of life or work, or worse, both?
But there is hope children of God. Verses 24-26a say, “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.” So it’s great to have dinner with people you love. God wants that. God wants us to love what we do. So when we please God, we get a big trifecta of goodness. We get wisdom, to help us get wiser. We get knowledge, to grow our heads a little smarter. Finally, we get happiness. The happiness of relationship with a God that loves me so much that he wants me to have the other two as well. And friends, oh yes, he wants me and you to have friends abundantly.
I love you guys!