You have put gladness in my heart, more than when their grain and new wine abound.
Solomon’s first stop on his journey to find meaning in life was pleasure. So in Ecclesiastes 2:3, he tried wine: “I explored with my mind how to stimulate my body with wine while my mind was guiding me wisely.” Notice that Solomon did not get rip-roaring drunk; he used alcohol moderately to guide him. Do you hear people saying the same thing today? “I will drink just a little bit of alcohol to add some pleasure to my meaningless life.” But it did not work for Solomon. He said, “I explored with my mind . . . 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” (v. 3).
Solomon could not find meaning in wine, so he looked next to his home. Look at verses 4-5: “I enlarged my works: I built houses for myself, I planted vineyards for myself; I made gardens and parks for myself and I planted in them all kinds of fruit trees.” That word translated as “parks” comes from the same Persian root from which we get “paradise.” Solomon was saying, “I am going to renovate my house and create a paradise and see if that can bring me joy in life.”
Now, there is nothing wrong with spending money on yourself or your home. But may I remind you what God said to His people years later when they returned from the exile? The temple of God was in ruins, and God said, “Is it time for you yourselves to dwell in your paneled houses while this house lies desolate?” (Haggai 1:4). In other words, “Don’t you have your priorities a little mixed up?” God gave you money so you could enjoy this life. But God’s Word says to compare what you are spending on yourself to what you are spending on God’s work.
Solomon spent a lot of money on himself, but that did not bring happiness either. So next he looked to sexual pleasure. He said in verse 8, “I provided for myself male and female singers and the pleasures of men–many concubines.” But did that bring him happiness? No–it was futility.
You may remember Gay Talese. He wrote a groundbreaking book called “Thy Neighbor’s Wife” about the sexual revolution of the 1960s and ’70s. An interviewer once asked him, “So few of these ‘liberated’ people wound up happy. Why?” Talese said, “Maybe too much was made of sexual pleasure. Sex doesn’t matter that much, isolated from the relationship.” That is the same conclusion Solomon came to about pleasure in Ecclesiastes 2:11: “All was vanity and striving after wind and there was no profit under the sun.” Pleasure does not bring meaning or joy outside of a relationship with God.
Today’s devotion is excerpted from “The Three Ls of an Empty Life” by Dr. Robert Jeffress, 2009.
Andrew Romano, “Interview: Why Gay Talese Got Naked for His Book,” Newsweek, April 17, 2009, https://www.newsweek.com/interview-why-gay-talese-got-naked-his-book-77543.
Scripture quotations taken from the (NASB®) New American Standard Bible®, Copyright © 1960, 1971, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission. All rights reserved. www.lockman.org.