Dr. Ed Young - Never Satisfied
We're starting the Book of Ecclesiastes, Ecclesiastes is the book of sheer philosophy. It's the only book in the Bible that presents life without God. It's a book about meaninglessness, but it has a great deal of meaning. Say, "How can this be"? We've already discovered that it asks all the big questions of life that all of us need to ask, we must ask, we should ask, but we sort of gloss them over and avoid them. And when we come head to head with them, it gets a little hard. We have to think and therefore we sort of hide these, but it deals with all the big questions. "Who am I? Where did I come from? Where am I going? The real big one, why am I here? Why are you here? Why am I here"?
Really big questions. This is what Solomon, writing his out biography kept asking over and over again and he came to the same conclusion, we'll see it for 12 chapters. He said, "Life does not any significance". He said, "Everybody's life is like spitting in the wind. It's smoke, has no eternal value. It's empty. It's void, has no lasting significance". Now, we know that ancient man was most fearful of death. Medieval man was most fearful of hell. Modern man, we're most fearful of life that has no meaning, no significance. And therefore, Solomon is the ultimate philosopher. You know the difference between philosophy and theology? I've tried to state this many times. The philosopher says, "I'm looking for God". The theologian says, "God is looking for you".
Philosophy are words going up. Theology is the Word of God coming down. Philosophy is looking for a life that has relevance. Theology gives us a life that gives relevance. So, we're in a book of philosophy. "Boy, do I need that"? Absolutely. Every searcher, every honest person, every doubter, every skeptic, every believing Christian needs to understand what Solomon is doing to us in the Book of Ecclesiastes. He's waking us up saying, "Ask this most basic question". And you say, "You mean Ecclesiastes is void of any reference to God"? No, I didn't say that. God is spoken of in Ecclesiastes, but God is pictured almost in a deistic view. The deists believe that God created the world and then he backed away from the world and said, "Lots of luck, I'm out of here," deists.
Sometimes you think he's a pantheist. Pantheism is God is in everything. He's in the rocks. He's in the moon. He's in the stars. And sometimes you say, he's a pantheist. Sometimes Solomon sounds like a Hindu or a Buddhist and to summarize all that he says, "The real genius of life is to not have a life, is to nullify life, is to make life a simple vacuum and not respond to vacuums, not respond to mountaintops, or valleys and they would say, life should be mmm, mmm, mmm. No motions, no right, no wrong, no up, no down, mmm. And when you get to a nirvana and you're mmm, then when breath leaves your body it's no big deal because you're just absorbed up into the eternal mist". Sometimes Solomon sounds like that so there's references to God, but it's not the God that we know and Abraham, Isaac, Jacob reveal to Jesus Christ. He's looking at the things under the sun. He's a philosopher.
One school of philosophy said life is just a matter of chance. That's nihilism, roll the dice. "Man, you sure were lucky, you're last name's Rockefeller, man, boy". Life is just a thing of chance, nihilism. Sometimes we see Solomon as a nihilist if you look at it closely. Sometimes life is a thing of choice. That's secularism, humanism. "I determine my own destiny. I am the master of my fate. I'm the captain of my soul. I run my life by what I do and the choices and decisions that I make". Some people look at life like that and once in a while you see old soul, old man, that's where he's coming down. And sometimes you see life as chosen, that's determinism. We really don't decide your DNA, your environment. Every decision, every choice you and I would make is already predetermined. Now, they can't decide who the determiner is, but that's one philosophical view of life.
So, we read through Ecclesiastes we see all kinds of things and that's healthy for us to understand, ladies and gentlemen, what life is like for those who consider life only on the basis of what's under the sun without any real relevance or understanding of transcendence of him who is above the sun. What a difference. You see, God has set down two poles for us. There is good and there's evil. There we have it. As long as we're clear as biblical theologians, as Christians, as to what is good and what is evil, we're in good shape, but what has happened to us? There's sort of a muddy, muddy, muddiness that's created between that which is good and that which is evil. I could take many things to illustrate that I think I'll use sex. Awakened two men back here, I'm sorry.
There was a day 50, 60, years ago when there was a general consensus in the culture of the United States that sex was exclusive to marriage. No one much debated that 50, 60 years ago. But then finally we moved into another kind of vein and sex was okay if you're engaged, if you have a ring, you stated yourself. Sex is all right if you're engaged. And then it moved down, "Well, sex is okay if you really love each other, I love you, you love me. That makes this intimate relationship okay". And then it moved down a little further and said, "Well, if they're two consenting adults, it's fine". And then it moved down, "It's simply a recreational thing. It's a natural instinct that is fulfilled. It has no eternal, or relevant, or sacred meaning". And that's what's happened to us.
You have good and you have evil and now it's all muddy in here in so many areas of ethics. You say, how did it happen? We've looked at this before. When our high schools, and colleges, and universities have, for decades, said there's no right, there's no wrong, what is true for you and true for me may be two different things and there are no absolutes. This is where you end up and you have a whole score of Harvey Weinsteins appearing on the scene and you wonder, whoa, where did this come from? When there's no absolutes in our culture, this is the results. And some of those who are a part of the sort of functional agnosticism, they say, "Oh man, this is a terrible, terrible thing". This is what has been advocating situational ethics for generations.
We've been teaching, we've been teaching over and over again. And that is life lived without any reference to God above the sun, and this is exactly what Solomon is talking about in his autobiography, the latter years of his life. We call it the Book of Ecclesiastes. Look at chapter 4, Solomon says, "Then I looked again at all the acts of oppression," I'm using injustice, "which were being done under the sun. And behold I saw the tears of the oppressed," those who were caught in injustice, "and that they had no one to comfort them; and on the side of their oppressors was no one," it says, "comfort but to confront them". He talks about injustice. There's sort of a built-inness of all of us to recognize injustice. Injustice it's all around us. We learned it as children.
Remember the story of Cinderella? Yeah, Cinderella, you remember she was brought up by an evil stepmother, had terrible stepsisters. They hated her. They abused her, but they had the ball and she went, and she had on that glass slipper, and the prince saw her and fell in love with her. And she had to leave early because the chariot was turning into a pumpkin. If you hadn't read it, you ought to read it. Keith reads it every night before he goes to sleep. But it's a wonderful story and all the prince has is that glass slipper and he's trying to find who it was that wore that glass slipper. He goes around trying it on all the young maidens and he tried it on there was the evil stepsisters, and they tried to get in that glass, it really wouldn't fit them, but he slipped it on Cinderella and she became his princess. That's injustice that was counted by justice, right? Beautiful story.
Now, what if one of those evil stepsisters had somehow squeezed in that glass slipper? That would be wrong, wouldn't it? That would be injustice. See, we're taught early on the difference between justice and injustice. We see it today. We see so much injustice in our society. You know what Solomon says? He said it doesn't matter if there's justice or injustice. He said, "it doesn't make any difference any way, we're all gonna die, doesn't matter". That's what life is like under the sun, a lack of a cry for justice, injustice, makes no difference. And then Solomon moves from injustice, he moves to success. He deals with success. He said, "Well, maybe success will give meaning". Verse 4, he said, "I have seen that every labor and every skill which is done is the result of rivalry between a man and his neighbor". He said, "This too is meaningless, this too is vanity".
He talks about competitive man, how we compete today. I know a man who came to this area many, many, years ago. He could speak very poor English. He applied to be a dishwasher and the owner of the restaurant said, "You don't speak English well enough". He said, "I'll work hard. I'll improve my English". He said, "No, I can't hire you". And the young teenager looked at him and he said, "Sir, one day I'll come and buy this restaurant from you". And the owner just shrugged his shoulders and six years went by. He got a job washing dishes in another restaurant. He saved, he worked. He saved and he worked. And finally when things were sort of down in the market and restaurants business was not blooming, he walked in a coat, and a suit and tie, and talked to the owner, and made him an offer, and bought the restaurant. And he looked at him said, "Do you remember me"? He said, "No, we've never met". He said, "Oh yes, I was the young man that you wouldn't hire me a dishwasher and I told you one day I'd come back and buy this restaurant". He said, "I just bought it from ya".
True story. I like competitiveness. He's talking about some people work and they're competitive. That's their whole life. And then he comes and talks to another kind of man on the road to success. He said, "The fool folds his hands and consumes his own flesh". We do an injustice in this country when we provide all the means of staying alive to someone who is healthy and strong. We take away their dignity, we take away their life, and I don't think we ought to help anybody who is healthy and strong as long as there's an unmanned mop or broom anywhere in this area. We do it injustice. That's not right and that's what Solomon's saying. He said, "You eat your own flesh at this".
So, here's a competitive man. Here is a person who becomes a lazy man, and that's what happened with the idea of entitlement. And then he moves he says, verse 6, "One hand full of rest is better than two fists full of labor". In other words, he's saying there has to be balance in our vocational endeavor. There has to be hard work over here, but there has to be rest over here. See, that's balance. Somebody just works, works, works, works. "Oh, I'm doing it for the family. I'm doing it so we'll have". And they wake up one day and say, "Oh what's wrong with my kids? They're so rotten". I'll tell you what was wrong, mom or dad weren't there when they needed to be there, that's what's wrong. They lost balance, work, recreation, recreation, rest work, rest, work, rest. He's pointing out the balanced kind of person who moves through life.
Then he moves and talks about another kind of person, someone who is a soloist, someone who just lives in and of himself. It's a picture really of the Christmas personality Scrooge. He said, "There was a certain man without a dependent, having neither a son nor a brother, yet there was no end to all his labor. Indeed, his eyes were not satisfied with riches, he never asked, 'And for whom am I laboring and depriving myself of pleasure?'" He just worked all the time, worked all the time, and he accumulated more and more. He said, "Look I what I've done". No reason for it. Let me tell you something, ladies and gentlemen, success in the world's eye and failure in the world's eye, they both lie to you. And I'll try to say it now. I should save it for later but I cannot.
Success is simply being as best you can where God would have you in his plan and his purpose and using his gifts to make a difference in this world. That is success. You can't measure in any kind of tangible way. That's what Solomon's telling us. He talks about injustice. He talks about justice. He compares them. He said, "Well, it really doesn't make any difference in the long run". He talks about success, he talks about faith. "Well, it really doesn't make any difference in the long run. Doesn't have any meaning. We're all gonna die". And then he moves down, he talks about loneliness. Verse 9, "Two are better than one because they have a good return for their labor. For if either of them falls, the one will lift up his companion. But woe to the one who falls when there is not another to lift them up," talking about loneliness. It's a difference in being lonely and being alone.
I spent a long time every week for many, many, many years alone. It's a part of my vocation. It is what I must do, I have to do. Being alone is good, fine, it's healthy, it's invigorating if you know how to handle it. Being alone, but it's another thing to be lonely. He said, "Well, it doesn't matter whether you're lonely or not ultimately because life makes no sense if like is like spitting in the wind". Oh Solomon, oh solo man. Then he comes and talks about popularity and he talks about a king. He said, "Here's an old king who got old and wouldn't listen to anybody else". And then he says, "A young king comes along and he listened to people, and the old king popularity failed". He says, "I've seen all the living under the sun throng to the side of the second lad who replaces him". He said, "There's no end to all the people, to all who were before them, even the ones who will come later will not be happy for him".
What's he saying? Here's somebody in a position of leadership and all of a sudden, people turn against him. He's not popular. Here comes some young person in the leadership, everybody's applauding them but Solomon says there'll come a day he'll make some wrong decision and they'll boo the person they've applauded. He said that's the way it is with popularity. A hero today, a goat tomorrow. Ever played quarterback? How many of you've ever played quarterback on a football team, little league, whatever kind? You know how it works, doesn't it, folks? I'll tell you, "Boy, you were great, and what happened to you today? That was yesterday". Ever preach a sermon, "Boy, pastor, that was some sermon but, boy, this week, the wheels came off".
You see, we can go from mountaintop to valleys and let the world control our destiny and our feeling. And Solomon says, "You know, it doesn't make any difference whether you're on top or bottom, whether you're a hero or you're being booed". He said, "It's all without meaning". Boy, Solomon is right, except he leaves out the most important thing. You can't reckon with life on a flatland, humanistic, secular basis. You end up right where Solomon is, life is spitting in the wind. But when the understanding that the S-O-N from above the S-U-N entered into time and space and gave us the ability to know Jesus Christ, and we look at those areas of philosophies in life we talk about, we discover that we are chosen and also we have to make a choice.
In Jesus Christ, we were chosen for God's so loved the world that whosoever, that's anybody regardless of circumstances. We were chosen and now we have to choose, and we choose to receive Christ to run my life and I'll not run my life, to run your life and you'll not run your life. And then all of a sudden, we're in the family of God and all of a sudden, all of these things we encounter begin to take on new life and eternal meaning. After the beatitudes, Matthew 5, all the happy, happy, happy, happy, happy, blessed, blessed, blessed, blessed, blessed, you get there and you know what Jesus says? He said, "Those now who have been chosen and they have chosen me to come into their life," he says, "Guess what? Guess who you are". He said, "You are the salt of the earth". He says, "You are the light of the world".
Boy, that is gigantic. He said a salt that's lost its flavor... by the way, salt never loses its flavor. It uses its flavor when they put a little pinch of salt in a bowl of soup that big, you won't taste the salt, will you? So, we are salty as we're in Christ, but we lose our tang, our flavor, our thrust of our Christian life when it's so watered down with so much stuff that we do and we're involved in this world. It gets watered down. That's what... how salt loses its flavor. And what about light? You're the light of the world. Take these four things that we're dealing with just in this one chapter, and you take someone who is in Christ Jesus and their life is salty and their life turns on the lights. Take a salty Christian and someone who turns the light on in justice, watch injustice run.
Watch the power brokers who are pushing all the exploitation of people get out of the way when we simply turn on the light of our lives and we pour salt in that situation. That'll take care of injustice in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. And then you come and you take the next thing that we have. Not only was there injustice, there was success. "Well, I'm not as successful". You take success and define it as discovering the will and purpose of God as to where you are and where I am, all of a sudden, there is a salty life. There is a life that turns lights on, wherever you go illuminates every dark place, all of a sudden, that is success that will last here and forever.
See, the difference when you bring Jesus Christ in these situations, changes everything, revolutionizes everything, takes things that are passing in transit and makes them permanent and eternal because it's a part of the kingdom of God almighty on this earth. See, the difference we have? And loneliness, can anybody be really lonely when you know there's the salt of Jesus in your life? There's the light of Christ lighting up all the dark places in your life. There's no room for loneliness. There's only room for ministry, and meaning, and significance as you touch the lives of others. Boy, it's such a powerful thing when you take all of this that's Solomon is whining about, and doesn't understand, and thinks, "I can't make rhyme or reason out of it," and you plug in a salty Christian that life is lighted up by Jesus Christ.
Let me tell ya something, it's a whole new world there. Popularity doesn't make any difference. They can boo or cheer, but you're on the team of God almighty and you are salty and you're lighting up everything. You know God's a part of your life. See what happens when you take him who is above the sun and invite him to come into your life while we're under the sun. It takes care of everything and it makes a life that seemingly does not have significance be eternally meaningful.