Dr. Ed Young - Is Pleasure the Answer?
Narcissus is one of the classic figures in mythology. He was going home from a successful hunt, and he happened to go by a little pool of water, deep and crystal clear. And Narcissus looked in that pool and he saw his own image. And immediately, he fell in love with himself. He thought, "I've never seen any figure so beautiful, so handsome as that figure in that pool". And he walked over the edge and he looked at himself, and he said, "I'm more attractive then Apollo. I have more appeal than Bacchus". And he just couldn't take his eyes off his own reflected image. The only person who observed him was Echo.
Narcissus was the son of a river God. Echo was a nymph, a tree nymph. And she watched him and observed him and couldn't take her eyes off of him, and longed for his love, but Narcissus was so overwhelmed with his own appearance, with his own beauty, he could look in no other direction. He stood there for hours. He stood there for days. He didn't drink, he didn't eat. He became dissipated and suddenly he began to be ill, but he wanted to embrace himself more than he already had, and so he leaned over to go and hold the reflection, and he fell in the pool and drowned. The only remnant we have is Echo, that you might hear according to mythology, a little whisper of the beauty of Narcissus.
Starting the book of Ecclesiastes, the author is Solomon, King Solomon. He was a thoroughgoing narcissistic person, no doubt about it. He fell in love with himself. He was number one in everything he was about. And ladies and gentlemen, we live in a generation that is absolutely filled with narcissistic people, and many of us are caught up in it. The millennials, 18 to 38, are generally thoroughgoing narcissistic young people. How do we know that? Facebook, iPad, iPhone, Snapchat, Twitter, all these things in which they communicate with one another, and all of us are caught up in the same trap. We're becoming more and more narcissistic than any other generation in history.
I've been in a room with adults, just casual talking, and everybody in the room had out their phone or their iPad. And they were looking and talking all around the room. They were interested in somebody out there, over there, but had very little interest in what was going on at that place. And it's a sad thing to observe that, "Let me get my picture. Let me make sure that you follow me on Facebook and all the exciting, wonderful things that happened to me. I'm going to put them right out there in full view of the watching world that's just waiting to see the people I've seen and the places I've been and the thoughts that I have".
Narcissistic. We see it clearly in the study of Ecclesiastes. Solomon, this same Solomon who wrote Song of Solomon, a beautiful love story, this same Solomon who wrote the profound book of Proverbs, which tells us so much about relationships, life, marriage, business, profound book, Solomon. Though he professed to be a searcher, though he professed to be a philosopher, though he professed to be someone who did not know about God and really wasn't interested in God at this moment of his life, he was totally a narcissist. But my, what happened to him? If anybody had a fabulous beginning in their life, it was Solomon. He inherited a kingdom from David. He was brilliant. He had everything you want. He was tutored and mentored by a God-fearing prophet.
In the beginning of his life, read about it and turn with me if you would, if you have your Bibles, to the book of 1 Kings chapter number 3. And we're going to read about the early, early years of King Solomon. Chapter 3, verse 3, it says, "Now Solomon loved the Lord". Isn't that great? Somebody says your name, "Oh, that's somebody who loves the Lord". Then he says, "He walked in the statutes of his father David". God-fearing man, he loved the Lord, he walked under the statutes, the principles of the commandments. But then it has one little word there, "Except he sacrificed and burned incense on the high places".
What happened to Solomon? He married a lot of wives from other nations in order to bring peace to Israel and to have alliance for military and for trade purposes. But as he brought these wives into the land, he said, "Bring your own religion. We'll find a mountain, we'll build an altar on that mountain. We'll burn incense to your God, it's okay. We're a pluralistic kind of people". But they were not. They were a theocracy. But nevertheless, he used the means to find peace and purpose in Israel to meet the end that was there. He compromised. The Bible says in other places that all of these wives turned him away from God. But what a wonderful beginning, and God visited him. And we see here in the fifth verse, "In Gibeon the Lord appeared to Solomon in a dream at night; and God said," get this, "Ask what you wish me to give to you".
Can you imagine God say, "What do you want? Blank check. You need anything? You have any dreams, aspirations? I'll give it to you," God. And look how Solomon handled it. It's magnificent what he did. Verse 7, "Now, Lord my God, you have made your servant king in place of my father David, yet I am but a little child," see the humility. "I do not know how to go out and to come in. Your servant is in the midst of your people which you have chosen, a great people that there are too many to be counted or numbered. So give your servant an understanding heart to judge your people, to discern between good and evil". Ladies and gentlemen, the most important thing that we need in life is a gift of discernment.
If you don't have discernment, your life is going to stay messed up from now till you leave this earth. Poor choices, poor decisions, poor relationships, not knowing exactly what to do. God gave to Solomon wisdom, and wisdom is expressed through discernment. And he was greatly gifted. Under the sun living, follow me carefully, Solomon was the most successful man who's ever walked on this earth. Did you know that? In terms of human success, no one who has ever lived comes close to the success that Solomon had. And we're going to see by far he was the wealthiest person who ever lived, and in some ways perhaps the most brilliant person and gifted person who had ever lived. Solomon is a philosopher. He is a seeker, he is a searcher. He forces those who read this book honestly and intelligently to face the big questions of life.
For example, I could pick anybody out and say, "Stand up, I want you to tell me who are you". How would you define your life? How would I define my life? I heard a story that, years ago, Andy Williams gave a concert in a rest home at the peak of his fame. And he sang beautifully and magnificently, and all of those in that senior citizen home just applauded. They were thrilled. And he went up to one woman and the little lady said, "Sir, you need to go professionally. You've got great talent that the world needs to listen to". And Andy Williams looked to her and said, "Do you know who I am"? And she said, "No, but if you'll ask that lady at the desk, she'll tell you". Profound question, who are you? Who am I? Solomon, Solomon forces us to ask those big questions. Solomon was looking for it, I-T.
What is it? He was looking for meaning. He was looking for significance. He was asking the question, "Well, what's life all about? What's valuable about life? What contribution can I make? What will give me happiness? What will give me meaning"? And ladies and gentlemen, everybody here is looking for the same thing, though we may not realize it. What's life all about? What's valuable about your life? What's significant about my life? Solomon forces the reader to deal with the big issues of life that most of us don't like to deal with. We want to be surrounded by racket, or activities, or noise, or hobbies, or movement, or people. But you read and study Ecclesiastes, it says, "Hold everything," and presents the gigantic questions that all of us not only need to ask, but need to find answers to. Nothing more profound than, who am I? Who am I?
But Solomon doesn't give up. He says, "Life without meaning, it has no value". But he takes us through 12 chapters, and in the 2nd chapter, look at what he says. He said, "I said to myself". It's good to talk to yourself, isn't it? He says, "Come now, I will test you with pleasure to enjoy yourself. And behold, it," there's that little word "it". "And behold, it too was futility". See, he's looking for it. What is it? Significance. What is it? Happiness. What is it? Meaning, meaning in life. And then he says, "I'm going to go through some situations here. I'm going to test everything that I can to see if, in any one of these endeavors, I will find significance, happiness in life". And he walks us through them, why? As he walks through these, I hope you and I will walk with him 'cause we get caught up in these same kind of pursuits.
You know, what's it all about? You know, who am I? Where am I going? Where did I come from? What's my purpose? Will I make any difference that I live two, or three, or four score on this earth? And look what he says, he starts off and says, "Come now, I will test you with pleasure. So enjoy yourself". And he already tells us in the beginning he tried pleasure, it was futility. But look at the pleasure, he said verse 2, "I said of laughter, 'It is madness,' and of pleasure, 'What does it accomplish?' I explained with my mind how to stimulate my body with wine while my mind was guiding me wisely, and how to take hold of folly until I could see what good there is for the son of man to do under heaven and the few years of our lives". He starts off with pleasure. Logical place, isn't it?
I want to find meaning in life, happiness in life, let's just try pleasure. He started off with humor, laughter. Some people like to fill their life constantly with laughter and humor, and you can't get serious a minute. It's almost a protective kind of layer. I like laughter. Man, I like having fun. I love pleasure, all of us do, but when we get so caught up in our own humor, in our own cutting remarks, in our own lifestyle, we're covering up for something. Solomon says there's no pleasure in constant laughter, there's no pleasure in pursuing these, in wine in his day and whatever the addictive things would be. And I would say that's true today. When there is emptiness, it has to be filled with something. And tragically, the younger generation and many of us are filling our lives with things that take away our happiness now and will shorten your life radically. That is absolutely true.
So, we look at Solomon and we learn from him. He said, "I'm going to try pleasure". He said, "I didn't find any meaning in pleasure". And then he says, "I'm going to try projects. Surely I'll find meaning there". Look at verse 4, he said, "I enlarged my works. I will build houses for myself". Note the plural in all of these, "And I planted vineyards for myself. I made gardens and parks for myself. I planted in them the kind of fruit trees. I made ponds of water for myself from which to irrigate the forest of growing trees". Myself.
In fact, in the first 11 verses, in the first 11 verses of chapter 2 of Ecclesiastes, he mentions I 21 times. You think he was a narcissistic? Looking for it, meaning. He tried pleasure, didn't find it there. Boy tried projects. All of these things he did, he was a horticulturist, a gifted someone in agriculture, and certainly he built the temple. How long did it take for him to build the temple in Jerusalem? Magnificent edifice. Took him seven years. He also built his own palace. You know how long it took him to build that? Thirteen years. Over 30,000 workmen. You see, he did it for myself. I'm going to build projects, put my name on it, get bigger and better and more, and maybe in this I'll have meaning, I'll have significance. My life will count for something. But he got through, he said, "That's all vanity. Pleasure, you don't find meaning there. Projects, you don't find meaning there".
And then he moved on, he said, "I'm going to try something else here. I'm going to try wealth and possessions". Verse 7, "I bought male and female slaves and I had homeborn slaves". He was the first ruler in Israel ever to make slaves of his own people, the first one. He said, "And I possessed flocks and herds larger than all who preceded me in Jerusalem". You read about the number of animals that he had under his power in his ranches, it's unbelievable. They're listed there, a lot of it in 1 Kings. And he said, "I collected for myself silver and gold and the treasure of kings and provinces". He collected one year 666 shekels of taxes. Do you know how much that is? Twenty-five tons of gold. You can take all the multibillionaires in the world and put them together, they can't even touch the wealth of Solomon.
The most successful man, the wealthiest man who's ever lived under the sun. And now, he's trying to find meaning in life, and he's running down all these traps and all these trails. He said, "I didn't find it in pleasure, I exhausted myself there. I didn't find it in projects, all the things I built and constructed, eye candy for myself". And then he moves on, he said, "I just hoarded things, things of value, property, gold, silver for myself". He said, "I didn't find meaning in my great wealth". But then he said, "Ah, this is where I'm going to find significance". And look at this, the latter part of verse 8, "I provided for myself male and female singers and the pleasures of men, many concubines".
Now, he's going to fulfill all of his passions. He's going to find meaning there. And I'll tell you, do you know Solomon had 700 wives, 300 concubines? He perhaps had the largest casting couch in history. He exalted himself in sensuality. And he said, "It's empty, you find no meaning. No significant", He said, "That's not it. That's not it". I thought as I looked at this in the latter parts of these 11 verses, Solomon says, "I was a great man". And he was. My goodness he was. He said, "I was filled with pride". He said, "Look what all I did". Man, trace his life, nobody's close. There's nobody in second place, ladies and gentleman. You can't name them. He said, "I was great, I had it all". And he expressed all of this pride, but he said, "As I marched down every stream, tried everything, went through all the avenues, faced all the big questions," he said, "I came out empty, void". He said, "All of it has no meaning, has no significance, did not lead to happiness".
Quite a testimony, isn't it? Maybe it'll awaken some of us who are going down some of those dead end trails that'll take the life and the joy out of you, that will guarantee you'll never find meaning and significance in this life. And I thought about, are there any modern-day Solomons running around? I wonder who that would be. These are replicas of the Super Bowl rings that Tom Brady has, absolute replicas. There they are, he has five Super Bowl rings. Tom Brady is handsome. Narcissus couldn't have been anymore handsome than Tom Brady if you've ever seen him, right? He's articulate, he's intelligent, he's a great athlete, probably the best quarterback who's ever played the game. You can debate that. He's been married to two beautiful women, models. He's been everywhere, done everything. He has more money that he could spend probably in several lifetimes.
You can't find a figure more like Solomon I think off the top of my head. I could name one or two, but I'll rest that, than Tom Brady. Five Super Bowl rings. If I had five rings, you know, I would wear them all the time and I would wear them on, you know, both hands in case those over here didn't know that, and I would go around and you'd say, "Well, you've been to Super Bowl". "How did you know? How could you tell? I try to keep that, I try to make a very low profile here of what I've accomplished". And Tom had won only three Super Bowl rings a few years ago. He was interviewed on "60 Minutes," a very profound interview.
I want you to look verbatim of something that what was said. He said... this is Tom Brady, I don't know where he is today, by the way, this was after only three Super Bowl rings. He says, "I mean, I'm making more money now than I thought I'd ever make playing football". Kind of an understatement. He said, "Why do u have three Super Bowl rings and still," listen, "think there's something greater out there for me? I mean, maybe a lot of people would say, 'Hey man, this is what,'" there's that word, "it is"!
Surely you've reached a life that is meaningful, this is what it is. A lot of people would say that. He said, "I reached my goal, my dream, my life is," Tom Brady. But then there's the rest of the interview there, "60 Minutes". Brady says, "Me, I think..." By the way, this is almost like a prayer, "God, there's got to be more than this"! And the narrator said, "What's the answer? What's the answer, Tom"? He said, "I wish I knew. I wish I knew". I would say to this Solomon-like personality, it is not an it. It is Jesus Christ.