Two Things “The Preacher” Missed in His Search for Meaning

by Andy Wood on August 9, 2012

in Esteem, Five LV Laws, Following Your Passion, Life Currency, LV Cycle, Principle of Legacy

Having a dreary day?  Blues gotcha’ by the, um, big toe?  This’ll cheer you up… just read Ecclesiastes.

“Meaningless, meaningless!” says the Teacher.  “Everything is meaningless!”

Actually, it may not help your mood very much, except to remind you that it could be worse.  (If that doesn’t work, try the book of Job.  I hear it’s a big hit at parties.)

Anyway, Ecclesiastes, which means “the Preacher” was either written by King Solomon or by someone else to represent him.  It essentially describes the reflections of a man who got everything in life that someone would want to have.

He had wisdom.

He had no shortage of money.

He had any pleasure his wandering heart would ever wish for.

He had the praise and adoration of people.

The one thing he didn’t seem to find in all of that was any meaning to it all.  At the end of the day, he concludes, rich and poor, righteous and unrighteous, wise men and fools all wind up dead.  And all the things you spend so much energy working on are passed on to people who didn’t work for them.

“What a waste,” he moans.  “Vanity!”

There are some more hopeful things sprinkled throughout the book, such as remembering your Creator in the days of your youth, fearing God and keeping His commandments, and God making all things beautiful in His time.

But the main theme throughout the book is that while we live in a broken, freaked out world, the places we naturally resort to in order to make our lives easier or better, or the things we spend our lifetimes laboring for, are in the end a complete waste.

“I’ve had it all,” he says.  “And it didn’t do what it promised to do.”

We’ve learned better, right?

Oh well.  Poor Sol.  Maybe if we had a thousand wives and concubines to please, a nation to run (which means taxes to collect), and bills to pay on that scale, maybe we’d be moaning, too.  But we’re New Testament believers, right?

We have the gospel, right?

Preachers of our day know better.

Right?

Hmmm.  Not so sure.

If you listen to the voices that typically describe the pathway to ministerial success, you’ll hear one of three strands:

  • Get more knowledge/wisdom.  Not just about the scriptures, but about everything the theologians have had to say about theology and philosophy since time began.
  • Get more pleasure.  Build cathedrals of good times where people can have fun and be comfortable.  Measure your and the church’s success in terms of how good everybody feels.
  • Get more power and money.  The more funds you can raise, the more people you can command, the bigger entourage you can muster, the more of a somebody you are.

Somewhere I hear a dead preacher whispering from the grave, “Vanity!”  Something is wrong when the leaders who are supposed to know better measure their success or failure by the same general rules as Proctor and Gamble or the Democratic National Committee.

An Argument from Silence

In scanning through Ecclesiastes yesterday, I noticed something in the white spaces between the verses.  I read something that isn’t there.

Now I know that it’s dangerous to build an argument from silence.  Entire churches and denominations have been formed or misled because of arguments that start with, “Nowhere in the Bible does it say…”

But there are two things The Preacher didn’t mention in his search for meaning that are mentioned in other places in scripture.  And I just wonder if things would have been different if:

1.  He Knew His God.

He knew some things about righteousness.  He knew some things about theology.  But nowhere does The Teacher/King say that he really knew the heart of his God.  Not like Daniel said:  “The people who know their God will be strong, and carry out great exploits” (Daniel 11:32, NKJ).

The promise of New Testament Christianity is the possibility of knowing the heart – not just the commands – of your Creator.  Jeremiah promised it:

No longer will a man teach his neighbor, or a man his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’

because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest,”  declares the Lord.

“For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.”  (Jeremiah 31:34, NIV).

There is no vanity in knowing God, even though it’s a lifetime pursuit.  Paul said after 30 years of being a follower of Christ that his number-one aim was that he could “know Him, and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings” (Philippians 3:10).  Why?  Because that’s what cured him of terminal vanity!  Everything takes on new meaning – money, pleasure, wisdom, relationships – when you start to understand the Father’s heart.

2.  He knew his kids.

Everybody talks about Solomon’s wives and concubines.  But nobody talks about Solomon’s kids until Reheboam becomes king, and boy was he a piece of work.

Nowhere do you see Solomon praying publicly or privately for his children, as David had prayed for him.  Nowhere do you see the greatest, most admired man in all the land aspiring to be what my friend Allen calls “a rock star at home.”  Nowhere do you see him making sacrifices for his children, teaching his children personally (proverbs don’t count), or spending time getting to know them as people.

He was too busy building awesome buildings.

He was too busy working in his amazing gardens.

He was too busy managing his growing church country.

He was too busy collecting his pearls of wisdom.

I just wonder.

I wonder what it would be like.

I wonder what his testimony would be if just once Solomon’s sons rose up and called their father blessed because of the personal ways he poured into them.

I wonder what his testimony would be if his sons had declared that he taught them to be men, or if his daughters praised him for teaching them how a man should treat a woman.

I wonder how he would evaluate his life if his legacy was a new generation of adults who followed hard after the heart of their God.

I wonder then if the first words out of his mouth would be something other than, “Meaningless!”

 

Solomon’s life collided head-on into the vanity of the measures the world and yes, often the church today, uses for success.  Your life doesn’t have to.   Spend a lifetime getting to know your God and knowing your kids (even the adult ones).  Whether or not you have money, pleasure, positions or wisdom, you may actually decide your life was worth something.

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Martha Orlando August 9, 2012 at 11:38 am

Awesome post, Andy, salted with wisdom and peppered with humor (I do like your wit)! Yes, all is vanity when all we should be pursuing in life is a deeper relationship with the Lord. Didn’t Jesus tell us that all those things will fall in line once we have our priorities straight? 🙂
Blessings to you!
Martha Orlando´s last blog post ..Coming and Going

Andy Wood August 9, 2012 at 1:44 pm

You’re right Martha. And thanks for the encouragement. If you like the salt and pepper, wait’ll you see what I do with a mean garlic. 🙂

Martha Orlando August 9, 2012 at 5:30 pm

Lol! Garlic is a staple in our household! Has to be when hubby is half Italian. 🙂
Quick question, my friend – I’m not sure how we stumbled upon each others blogs. Are you on any Facebook blogging sites? If you are, it would be great to know which ones. If not, I would be glad to add you to some. You write wonderfully and have so much to contribute to the blogging community.
If you don’t want to answer here, you can e-mail me at marthaorlando@gmail.com.
Thanks, my friend!
Martha Orlando´s last blog post ..Coming and Going

Andy Wood August 10, 2012 at 7:52 am

Check your email.

As for the other question, well, see, I wrote this piece on Mayberry and you wrote this piece on small-town life and one of your regular readers saw my thing and commented on your thing to read my thing, then you read my thing and I read your thing and you commented on mine and I commented on yours and I thing, I mean think, that pretty much sums it up.

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