The Futility of Life Without God
There is a remarkable little book sandwiched between Proverbs and Song of Solomon called, Ecclesiastes, and it’s very pertinent to today, despite being written in approximately 930 – 970 BC. Based on the evidence, it’s highly likely that the ‘preacher’ or ‘teacher’, mentioned in this book is no less than King Solomon. He speaks of life, “under the sun” and this term is used 29 times in the book. It should be understood that this term is a euphemism for life without God. Inevitably, without Christ, our lives can become mundane and lack purpose as we endure the apparently meaningless toil of humanity, down through the ages. This book investigates the meaning and purpose of life and comes to the conclusion that without God, it is truly futile. Only God himself can reveal our unique purpose in life as He is our creator. How can the creation possibly know its purpose unless it actively seeks out the creator and architect of its destiny. It’s speculated that Solomon wrote this book in his old age, having lived a godly life for the most part but also having strayed from Jehovah God during his lifetime. He speaks with wisdom having experienced life on both sides of the moral fence. His conclusion is this, “all is vanity and vexation of spirit (1:14)”, indeed my friend, all is vanity and vexation in this life, if we choose to live it apart from God, because without Him, we are led to gratify our soul-ish desires with the pleasures of the flesh. This book has a skeptical tone from a man, who through experience has seen both the injustices and futility of life which he documents in great detail. But he has also paid the price for straying from God during his lifetime. He then provides the answer to man’s woes in the very last sentence of his book.
As the King of Israel Solomon had vast resources at his disposal and began to try many earthly endeavors in order to fill the gaping vacuum in his heart, which everyone inevitably feels when they are disconnected from the living God. In Ecclesiastes 3:11, Solomon explains why men and women are not satisfied with life, because God has put “eternity in their heart” and nobody can find peace and satisfaction apart from Him. St. Augustine also said “You have made us for yourself and our hearts are restless until they rest in Thee.” Friend, the eye cannot be satisfied until it sees the hand of God, and the ear cannot be satisfied until it hears the voice of God.
Instead of seeking God, and coming to the realization of the truth, man instead seeks power, property, sexual gratification and artistic entertainment to fill the gaping hole in his heart. Sound familiar? Although there is approximately a 3000 year gap between the time this book was written and today, these lustful forms of self gratification have not changed throughout modernity. People still seek lasting fulfillment today in the pleasures and uncertain riches of this world, only to find them elusive and unfulfilling in various forms of drinking, sex, entertainment, possessions, drugs, power etc. and the list goes on.
Unfortunately, these vices only provide temporary relief for a disease that’s in fact terminal and that disease is sin. Man down the ages, has sought to fix the world through governmental and political means, without looking at himself firstly as he remains ever blind to his own decrepit sinful condition. These forms of self gratification only serve as sedatives, stimulants or pacifiers which cause us to forget the cares of this world ‘for a season’ but they each have their own unique and potentially severe repercussions.
Seeking to fill the void of life without God
There is a lie sown into our Western culture that if we could only be ‘rich enough or famous enough, or popular enough,’ then all our problems would simply go away. If this were true then the lives of the rich and famous would bear testimony to this. However, looking at the lives of the Hollywood celebrities, rich and famous in the tabloids today, this premise is definitely not justified. They too are fallen creatures in need of a Savior and their litany of sexual promiscuity; alcohol addiction and even drug addiction, are all cries for help, or at least attempts to alleviate the pain of their aching heart. But celebrities are no different from the rest of us. Their mistakes are magnified because of their vast media exposure. Having more opportunities to sin on a grander stage only compounds their problems and doesn’t provide a means for escape, because their futile attempts offer no lasting respite or path to the truth. Having more opportunities to sin is akin to adding fuel to the fire, not a means to put the fire out. We all have to put out the fire in our hearts and only the blood of Christ can do it.
Finding purpose in this life
The basic philosophical questions of ‘who am I?’ and ‘what am I doing here?’ have plagued every generation, including this one. King Solomon no less has expounded upon the search for meaning and its futile pursuit without God. Truly without God life is meaningless, and empty. There are many themes discussed by King Solomon in the Book of Ecclesiastes and they can be surmised as follows:
- The futile pursuit of riches: – Echoed by Christ himself in Matthew 6:19-21, Solomon has much to say concerning ‘mammon or materialism’. He discusses that making dishonest gain at the expense of others and acquiring a lifetime of wealth, only to have someone else spend it after your death is a futile endeavor (Eccl 2:1-11, 18-26; 4:4-6; 5:8-14). Riches do not satisfy the eyes or soul and won’t bring happiness. Those who love silver and gold will always want ‘just a little bit more’. Take it from this author, the richest man ever to have lived.
- The cyclical nature of timing and events:- “9 The thing that hath been, it is that which shall be; and that which is done is that which shall be done: and there is no new thing under the sun.” (Ecc 1:9) There is nothing new today as God has seen it all before. Even with the advent of technology man finds new ways to sin as his heart is corrupt. The saying that ‘History often repeats itself’, has merit based on this scripture and students of history can testify to history’s repetitive nature.
- That salvation through knowledge is vanity – Many think that if they’re smart enough they will escape the fires of Hell. The Gnostics believed this too in the early church period to their detriment. However Solomon saw that although wisdom far exceeded madness and folly (2:2-13); death pays no deference to the wise over the fool. The wise will die and the fool will die and without Christ they’re going to the same destination. ‘Smarts’ won’t save you in the day of judgment my friend. Man has eternity in his heart and temporal earthly things can neither satisfy nor save.
- The temporary nature of ungodly men – Man fades away like the grass and all the pursuits of fame and fortune will be forgotten within one or two generations. Only that which is done for God will be remembered (Ecc 1:3,8) and nothing lasting was ever performed by man without God. No generation is different from the rest and man will one day be blown away like “dust in the wind” (1:11).
- Justice and equality are elusive – We only have to read the latest news headlines to know this is true, i.e. that life is not fair. Yet God promises to vindicate those who are His (Deut 32:43 & Psalm 18:47) in this lifetime or the next. Man expects fairness and justice because his conscience demands it, yet since the days of Kings (I Sam 8:6) this has been evasive. Freedom is contended for in every generation and is never granted by default. Freedom is never free, it comes at a price.
- The secret is to be content – The spiritual appetite cannot be satisfied with soul-ish endeavors. Labor is its own reward whether we have much or little (5:10-12). To be content is to be rich, yet the rich man is seemingly never content. The Apostle Paul stated that contentment must be ‘learned’ (Phil 4:11) and it doesn’t come automatically. Yet, even if the rich learned to be content, they cannot be fully satisfied as a spiritual problem cannot be solved by physical means. Money is a poor master but great servant. We serve God and let money be our servant, not vice versa. Only in Christ are we content and enjoy the peace and joy of our salvation.
Follow God and find contentment
In his closing statement, King Solomon reveals the secret to living a life of contentment and satisfaction, he ends by stating, “The conclusion, when all has seen heard, is: fear God and keep his commandments” (12:13). This is the essence of the book, don’t miss it, life can only be truly enjoyed when we are in union with God, and the secret is to fear God and keep His commandments. Only by living within God’s boundaries can we live a fruitful and satisfying life. After all, the society in which Solomon lived thousands of years ago was not too different from our world today. Solomon saw injustice to the poor (4:1–3), crooked politics (5:8), incompetent leaders (10:6–7), guilty people allowed to commit more crime (8:11), materialism (5:10), and a desire for “the good old days” (7:10). It sounds like something out of the pages of USA today.
Solomon experimented with life and discovered that there was no lasting satisfaction in possessions, pleasures, power, or prestige. He had everything, yet his life was empty! There is no need for you to repeat this experiment, someone has gone before you and shared his findings. Let’s accept Solomon’s conclusions and avoid the heartache and pain that must be endured when we experiment in the laboratory of life. These experiments are costly and one of them could prove fatal.
Man always wants something new but there is nothing really new under the sun. Everything in this world ultimately brings weariness and people long for something to distract them or deliver them. The Athenians in Paul’s day, spent their time “in nothing else, but either to tell, or to hear some new thing” (Acts 17:21). But even while they are speaking, seeing, and hearing these “new things,” they are still dissatisfied with life and will do almost anything to find some form of escape. Of course, the entertainment industry is grateful for this human hunger for novelty and takes advantage of it at great profit, with its never ending conveyor belt of TV shows, DVDs, movies, magazines, gadgets and fashion trends etc.
Solomon wrote, of course, about the basic principles of life and not about methods. As the familiar saying goes: Methods are many, principles are few, methods always change, and principles never do. The ancient thinkers knew this. The Stoic philosopher Marcus Aurelius wrote, “They that come after us will see nothing new, and they who went before us saw nothing more than we have seen.” The only people who really think they have seen something new are those whose experience is limited or whose vision can’t penetrate beneath the surface of things. Because something is recent, they think it is new; they mistake novelty for originality. It’s time my friend to give your heart to Jesus today, lay down the heavy burdens and live an exciting life connected to God!
|Senior Pastor Carl Joseph desires to see God move in power in the downtown Denver area. He is joined in the ministry by his wife, Amy. In his spare time, he rides his motorcycle and plays golf.|