“Vanity of vanities,” says the preacher; “Vanity of vanities, all is vanity.” – Ecc 1:2
Solomon (who wrote this verse) lived a life that most people desire, and strive to live. He was rich. He had whatever he wanted. He had any relationship he wanted – as many of them as he wanted. He built great things, and accomplished great projects. He had great political power. There isn’t one worldly thing that anyone could desire that Solomon didn’t have. If he didn’t have it, it was simply because he didn’t want it.
Whatever my eyes desired I did not keep from them. I did not withhold my heart from any pleasure. – Ecc 2:20
What a life! It’s the life that most people dream about – a life where you get whatever you want.
Sounds great doesn’t it? But it wasn’t so great. So much so that it left Solomon in a state of depression. Look what he says:
I hated life because the work done under the sun was distressing to me, for all is vanity and grasping for the wind. – Ecc 2:17
Solomon came this conclusion by experience. He came to the conclusion that everything in this world is empty and unsatisfying. Everything was vain, like grasping the wind.
Have you ever tried to grasp the wind? You might think that it’s possible, and you may spend your whole life trying to do it. But every time you think you’re about to get ahold of it, it slips through your fingers. The same is true with trying to find satisfaction in this world.
I had a friend named Matt that I used to work with. He was a partier and pleasure seeker. I liked him, though, because he was an honest person. He would talk, every so often, about his quests for pleasure, and I would do my best to avoid him during those times. But now and again he would mention a phrase that exposed the honesty of his heart. The phrase was, “It’s overrated.”
He would say things like, “Drinking is overrated, partying is overrated, etc.” What did he mean by that?
When someone says that something is overrated, they are saying that the experience of a thing never measures up to the hype and the talk about it. It’s like hearing everyone talk about how good a certian movie is, and then, when you go see it, it’s not so great. The movie was overrated.
Matt would talk about his pleasure seeking, but he was always honest enough to say that it was all overrated. It’s never as good as the talk. It always leaves you flat. It never fulfills you the way that you think it would.
This is the exact same thing that Solomon was saying. He pursued all these things because it seemed so obvious that this was the pinnacle of the human experience, but after having it all he realized that it was not.
This is hard for some people to understand, because the deception is so great. Our bodies and our minds lust after the things of the world, and because they do, we assume that to fulfill them will be the answer to our dissatisfaction. We assume that if we can just scratch that itch, then all will be great. It’s not the case.
Look at the things we crave:
I’m sure I missed a few, but this gives you the idea.
Rarely do you find a satisfied person. In my experience, I’ve found people that, either, are still pursuing some ‘thing’ to make them happy and complete, or else they’ve accepted the ‘fact’ that life sucks. And if you do find a satisfied person (whose satisfaction is not in God), just wait. When the novelty of what they have recieved or acheived has worn off, dissatisfaction will creep back in. Such will be until they die.
This is very sad. It is especailly sad for the hosts of people who decide not to live the lives that they think they’ll have to endure. So when all hope is lost of acheiving the thing they desire, they just end it. Very sad. Very, very sad.
The world won’t satisfy you, nor the things of this world. Don’t spend your whole life figuring that out yourself. It will be a terrible waste.
Solomon wasted his life figuring it out. But not just him. Look at the plethora of movie stars, musicians, rich people, and others who have ended in overdoses, suicides, multiple divorces, and disgrace. Time and again we see those who rise up to the top of human achievement and success, only to see them crumble away in their misery.
Moses, however, was the opposite example. Grown up in a palace, he had a similar life to Solomon. But Moses saw through the deception of sin, realizing that it was just a passing pleasure, offering no true fulfillment. Instead he saw that true fulfillment was only found in God, and he was ready to suffer with God’s people for it.
By faith Moses, when he became of age, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God than to enjoy the passing pleasures of sin, esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt; for he looked to the reward. – Hebrews 11:24-26
Solomon ended in shame, whereas Moses enjoyed a meaningful life and sweet communion with God. Even in Moses’ last days God was with him, and the Lord’s own hands laid him to rest.
What a testimony! What a life! And what an ending!
The bible talks about our ‘deceitful lust,’ and the ‘decietfulness of sin’ that draws people away from God (Eph 4:22, Heb 3:13). Why is it called deceitful? Because it lies. Our own sinful desires speak to us, but what they say is not true. They say, “Look, you are dissatisfied. It’s because you don’t have this or that. It’s because you don’t have a girlfriend or boyfriend. It’s because you don’t have enough money. Pursue these things, give your life and health to have them or you’ll never be happy.” Lies! Lies, lies, lies! Don’t fall for it! Don’t believe it! It’s the same lie the devil spoke so long ago in the garden. The flesh is a bottomless pit. It will never be satisfied.
Jesus, however, has come that you might have life, and life more abundantly. Jesus has come that we might have joy, and that our joy might be full. Even in the midst of trials and tests, the servant of God sings a song of perfect contentment and happiness that he has found in serving Jesus.
But, alas, many don’t believe this. They write off the happy Christians they know, saying, “that works for them. I’m glad they’ve found what makes them happy.” All the while they listen to the lies of their own lusts, longing for the day they might be fulfilled. Oh how disappointed they will be.
One thought on “The Unsatisfying Nature of this World”
People have a tendency to feel like they want something when their priorities prove otherwise. Want to be rich? You’d go out and find a way to do so. There are guys doing it every day. If you’re not rich, it just means you want other things more; basically whatever you’re doing when you’re not trying to become rich. We all get exactly what we work for in life. If you want to change your life, change what’s important to you.
So there’s a key. You work for the things that are important to you, and if it turns out you wanted the wrong thing, you change priorities and work for the other thing. There’s a point where satisfaction occurs because you’ve found the right thing. It’s easier for others, honestly. I personally feel fulfilled when I’ve finished composing scenarios, music, and schemes. I’m also fulfilled after a few hours lifting heavy in the gym. These things are just more important to me than anything else.
So Solomon had riches and women, but they obviously weren’t the things he wanted to work hard for in order to be fulfilled. Same with Matt and his partying. I believe the conclusion would be: There are obviously more people that care about the wrong thing than there are people that care about the right thing, and though you may not have found things that fulfill you, you can always change your priorities and work hard for the things that do.