When you stop and think about your life, what is the one thing that you think if you had (or had more of), would make your life better? We are going to demystify that question by examining the life of a man who had it all and yet said it was worth nothing. That man is Solomon.
Ecclesiastes 2:4-10 records, “I undertook great projects: I built houses for myself and planted vineyards. I made gardens and parks and planted all kinds of fruit trees in them. I made reservoirs to water groves of flourishing trees. I bought male and female slaves and had other slaves who were born in my house. I also owned more herds and flocks than anyone in Jerusalem before me. I amassed silver and gold for myself, and the treasure of kings and provinces. I acquired men and women singers, and a harem as well — the delights of the heart of man. I became greater by far than anyone in Jerusalem before me. In all this my wisdom stayed with me. 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 for all my labor.”
Solomon sought to use his wealth and wisdom to find meaning in life and pursue things that would bring meaning to life.
He says, after listing all the things he did and enjoyed, Ecclesiastes 2:11, “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.” Now I am not saying that Solomon’s life was so bad and that he never experienced times of happiness or of value. God used him to relate to us many of the great wisdom from proverbs, the experiences of love in the Song of Solomon. While he experienced moments of happiness and relevance, overall, it was all worthless and meaningless to him as it left him ultimately empty, as he himself admits.
1 Kings 11:1-3, 6, “King Solomon, however, loved many foreign women besides Pharaoh’s daughter — Moabites, Ammonites, Edomites, Sidonians and Hittites. They were from nations about which the Lord had told the Israelites, “You must not intermarry with them, because they will surely turn your hearts after their gods.” Nevertheless, Solomon held fast to them in love. He had seven hundred wives of royal birth and three hundred concubines, and his wives led him astray… So Solomon did evil in the eyes of the Lord; he did not follow the Lord completely, as David his father had done. Solomon went from marrying one foreign wife to having 700 wives and 300 women on the side.
C.S. Lewis in his classic, “The Screwtape Letters,” which is written as a satirical series of letters from a senior Demon named “Screwtape” to his nephew named “Wormwood,” who is a Junior Tempter, writes to his young protégé saying, “Indeed the safest road to Hell is the gradual one–the gentle slope, soft underfoot, without sudden turnings, without milestones, without signposts.” Satan is not looking to get us to go from a “nice, upstanding citizen” to a murderer overnight. No, 2 Corinthians 11:14 says, “Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light” and he is looking for us to just compromise our faith a little, because those little compromises eventually turn into a lot of compromise.
His focus was on himself according to Ecclesiastes 2:4-10. His focus was not at all on the Lord. Contentment and joy is not possible apart from the Lord and our pursuit of Him. Solomon gradually drifted from the Lord by taking that first small step of compromise. On the other hand, Paul writes about finding contentment in Philippians 4:11-13, “I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through him who gives me strength.”
The secret of contentment is a constant and continual focus on the Lord, not on ourselves. John 15:4-5, “Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing… ESV We fall off the path that leads to fullness and meaningfulness when we aren’t abiding closely with the Lord and that leads us to take small steps of compromise in our faith. With the grace of God and with the power of His Spirit, we have the enablement to abide in Him.