Experimenting on oneself
Ecclesiastes 2: I said to myself, “Let’s go for it — experiment with pleasure, have a good time.”
One of the experiments of Solomon is to see if pleasure produces lasting happiness. As a powerful king he has all the resources necessary for this experiment. He builds exquisite palaces and gardens, acquires an army of servants, amasses enormous wealth, and fills his life with beautiful women. He reports, “Everything I wanted I took.” Many people at least attempt this approach to happiness, although few have the resources to pull it off. Because of that, they remain convinced that just a little more of this or that will do the trick. They think that once they arrive at that point they’ll be truly satisfied. Solomon, though, does have it all. Not only that, he goes into this experiment with his eyes wide open. His verdict? Solomon says it’s all like collecting smoke. He’s left empty and even dejected. He says he worked hard at making it all happen, expecting to arrive at a place of personal happiness and satisfaction. “Surely,” he thought to himself, “just one more palace, just another million dollars, just the right woman and everything will come together.” However, he ends up thinking it’s all a waste of time. In spite of this ancient verdict of Solomon, we still tend to believe the big lie that not only is pleasure the answer, but that it’s all there really is to life. It’s no wonder that “taking up the cross” is such a foreign language to us.
Take Away: Happiness isn’t found in possessions. It can only be found by the way of the cross.
No more business as usual
Ezekiel 7: They throw their money into the gutters.
The prophet tells us some of the things he does under God’s command to get the attention of people. Ezekiel isn’t an easy going guy; he’s a rugged, no-holds-barred kind of preacher who makes us think of Elijah or maybe John the Baptist. This prophet does weird stuff and then preaches hard, crushing sermons. In one sermon he describes the end of business as usual for those who’ve turned their backs on God. He says that the day’s coming when people will toss their money aside because it will be meaningless and useless. I’m reminded of the last power outage we had in our neighborhood. Somewhere a breaker had thrown and every household in our area was without electricity. I couldn’t help but laugh at myself when, for a fleeting moment, I thought, “Well, I can’t do my work; I guess I’ll watch some TV till the power comes back on!” It took me a nanosecond to realize how silly that thought was. Without electricity that nice TV was nothing but a big paperweight! Today, as I consider Ezekiel’s warning that the money they think is so important is going to be simply thrown away as so much rubbish I’m reminded that a day’s coming when all the “stuff” I tend to think matters will be just another piece of trash. I’ve got to keep that in mind and discipline myself to major on the majors while minoring on the minors of life!
Take Away: All the “stuff” we have will, ultimately, be worthless – so, invest in that which matters in the long run.
Lamentations 4: Gold is treated like dirt.
The “gold” Jeremiah’s talking about isn’t the precious metal. He’s talking about the precious people of God. As Jerusalem lay under siege and then fell to the merciless invaders, he saw the most valuable “commodity” of all kicked aside and treated as worthless. When the devastation was finished, he saw people scavenging for a bit of food or even some kind of clothing to protect them from the elements. It was a horrible thing that Jerusalem fell. It was sad that all the valuables from the Temple were broken up and carried off as spoils of war. Worse than those things though was the devaluing of humanity. I sincerely pray that I’ll never see anything like what Jeremiah witnessed. Still, I take seriously the more general truth that’s found here: people are more important than things. I need to give thought to how that truth is demonstrated in my life. It may be as simple a thing as my dropping down on one knee to really listen to a child or it may be quite complicated, for instance, dealing with a boss who frustrates me to death but has deep hurts of his or her own. It’s good to be reminded today that its people who are true “gold.”
Take Away: People are more important than things.