Community Group Study Notes
- Have someone in your group provide a brief, 2-minute summary of Sunday’s teaching.
- Why are the pleasures of this world temporary? What should that teach us about pursuing them in order to find meaning and significance?
- The Teacher of Ecclesiastes experimented with temporary pleasure in nine different areas (that he lists in chapter 2). Have any of these nine areas been an area that you personally struggle with? In what ways does pursuing this lesser pleasure compete with your pursuit of Christ?
- Read Hebrews 11:24-25. In this brief biographical sentence about Moses, what choice did he have to make? What “pleasures” would have been available to him? How did Moses see these pleasures as “fleeting” – and what difference did that make in his life?
- Interact with this statement: We can only live the good life when God is our highest pleasure. Based on what you heard in Sunday’s sermon, what does this mean?
- What is one action step you can take with what you heard in Sunday’s message?
On occasion when I haven't seen somebody in a while, I'll say something normal like, "How's it going," or, "What's been going on?" Normally I get a fairly standard response, but there are occasions where I get a different response when I say, "How's it going," and this is what I'll hear, "Living the dream." Have you heard that before? Here's what I've noticed though. In each of those settings where somebody has said that to me, none of those people have been women, interestingly enough. Now, you as a woman, may be saying, "Yeah, I'm living the dream." Maybe. I don't know. I haven't had a woman say that to me in response to, "Hey, how's it going," or "What's going on." But I have had men who have said, "I'm living the dream."
Well, I started thinking about that and of course I was kind of in my head going, "What dream? What dream are you living?" Right? Then I started thinking about it further, and I thought to myself, "They said they're living the dream as if there is one dream that all of us should be living, and they are the ones that are living that dream." It's the dream, right? They are living the dream. Everybody has it so I'm never quite sure what's being said when that happens. Now, if I press in a little, bit further on that, I start to figure out what they're talking about, because really what they're talking about generally speaking, not in every case, because sometimes people are just saying, "Living the dream," because they think it sounds cool, right? It doesn't mean anything to them. They're just like, "Living the dream, man. Ha. Ha. Ha." What does that mean? "I don't know. It just means, what's up? That's all, you know?
But some people, when they're saying that, they're really referring to the idea that they're living the good life. That somehow the life that they're living is like what life is supposed to be like at that moment. In other words, maybe they're financially independent finally, and so they're living the dream. Maybe they got a bunch of leisure time, so they're living the dream. Maybe they got that job that they wanted, and that pay that they wanted, and they're living the dream. Maybe they finally got that boyfriend or girlfriend, and now they're living the dream, you know? Maybe they're going to wine tastings, and traveling the world, and blah, blah, blah, and they're living the dream, right? That's what they're doing. That's generally what's being said. In other words, I'm able to do either what I want, or I can get what I want. It's something along that line. In other words saying this, I now have the ability to get the pleasures out of life that I want to get. I'm living the dream.
Well, the question, I guess, really, because all of us that are Americans, you know, with apologies to my Canadian friends, happy Thanksgiving, by the way, and those around the world who might be watching us livestream, as Americans, we feel like we're guaranteed these things, right? We're guaranteed the right to life, and to liberty, and the ...
... pursuit of happiness, right? We're guaranteed this. We get to chase after those things that make us happy, and nobody and nothing should get in our way, because we really have the opportunity to gain these pleasures for ourself. The question that I guess I would ask is, is that, for us to be able to live the dream, for us to be able to get the pleasures that we want, for us to pursue happiness, if we chase after happiness, will that actually give us lasting happiness? If we're chasing after happiness, will that actually bring us lasting happiness? Well, it depends, I guess. It depends on what happiness we're chasing, and where we find it, right, what the object of our happiness really is. It does depend.
Now, there have been people from a long time ago who were trying to figure these things out, right? People have been asking these kinds of questions, like, "What brings me meaning? What makes me happy?" They've been chasing after that for a long time. In fact, in the early 4th Century B.C. there was a Greek philosopher named Epicurus. He's kind of known as the father of this idea of seeking pleasure, this philosophy of seeking pleasure. That philosophy has a name that maybe you've heard used in, kind of our modern day culture and it's the term hedonism. Have you heard that term before? Just nod if you've heard that term before. Or pretend. Just nod and pretend like you've heard that term before, hedonism. Now, that word comes from a Greek word actually, because this was a Greek philosopher, right, and it's the word hedone. That word, hedone, means pleasures, or more specifically sensual pleasures, which, by that it means, pleasures that our five senses can garner, right? The senses that we can have in terms of pleasures.
Hedonism, as a philosophy with ... if you were an epicurean, right, Epicurus basically said, I want to seek ... Kind of the highest meaning in life is for me to find pleasure in everything that I find. Not find pain. Not find sadness, but to be able to find pleasure in everything, and basically just kind of drink those pleasures all over the place, as much as I can, right, kind of eat them up, and that's what the highest order of life is. It's basically pleasure seeking. Now, in our day and age, there are people that are kind of modern epicureans, right. That we think that what we can do with life, like life doesn't have a lot of value for us in terms of meaning, and really, all we can do is just kind of grab these little pleasures as we can grab them, and that ultimately we think that, that may be what actually fills us up, what gives us meaning.
Well, I'd like to back you up a little, bit from Epicurus. He was the early 4th Century B.C., and if I could push you back on the timeline, anywhere from a couple of hundred to maybe five hundred years earlier, I want to remind us about what Coheleth said. We met him last week. He's the guy that we call the teacher in the book of Ecclesiastes. If you have a Bible in front of you, I want you to open to the book of Ecclesiastes, or I want you to scroll to the book of Ecclesiastes. If you don't know where it is, no sweat. There's a table of contents. If you pick up a Bible, you can look it up in the table of contents. Nobody's going to look at you weird. Ecclesiastes may be a hard book for you to find.
If you're looking for a general direction, open it up to the middle of the Bible, and just open it that way, right? I know some of you never look at your Bibles, because you've got them all memorized and plus you think I'm going to show you all these passages or whatever. That's fine. I want you to get used to looking at the scripture yourself, okay, in any way that you can. Open it up to the middle. You might have opened it up to Psalms. If that's a case, make a right. Go past Proverbs, and then find your way to Ecclesiastes, because I want you to be able to see what the teacher is saying.
Last week we talked about this teacher being one how is kind of on this pursuit and have this philosophy of life where he's basically arrived at this, that everything is meaningless. He's not been able to find meaning in life. But what we're going to see today is how hard he is pulling after or chasing after that particular idea. Notice what he says in Ecclesiastes chapter 2. We covered chapter 1 last week. Ecclesiastes, chapter 2, verse number 1, "I said to myself." Now, remember he's just talking to himself now. "I said to myself, come now. I will test you with pleasure to find out what is good."
By the way, that word there could be translated, what is the good life, in other words, right? He's looking for what the good life is, and so he's going to test himself. He said, "But that also proved to be meaningless." What we find is this, the teacher's talking to himself. He says, "Self, I'm going to test you. I'm going to see how well pleasures can get me to a place of meaning, and so I'm going to test you. I'm going to experiment. I'm going to try out a whole lot of things, and I'm going to evaluate whether, or not these things bring meaning, lasting meaning." Then he goes ahead and gives it away. They don't. That's kind of how he starts, right? He's talking about what he does, and he's like, "They don't. They just end up being meaningless." But I want you and I to be able to take a look at what he experimented with. I want you and I to take a look at what he studied, because in doing so, we might learn some lessons ourselves.
He came to the place where he said, "I've tried it all, man. I've tried all of this, and it turns out that none of this gives lasting meaning. None of this can do it." But sometimes you and I may need to be reminded of that, and so, I want us to track with him right through the text, and find out some, of the things that he experimented with, and where they ended up. In fact, they were temporary pleasures for him, but I want to show you the first one. He studied the temporary pleasure of amusement. These are all going to be kind of temporary pleasures that he studied, and the first one that he studied I'll call amusement. Notice what he says in verse number 2, "Laughter, I said, is madness, and what does pleasure accomplish? Laughter is madness."
Now, before I unpack this for a second, I want you to understand that the laughter does say in a number of different places that laughter can be really good for the soul. It's medicine for the soul. Have you ever had one of those days where, you know, maybe it was just an empty kind of day, maybe it was a drudgery kind of day, or maybe it was a hard kind of day, and there was something about the opportunity to laugh with somebody that really was good medicine for your soul? I don't take myself overly seriously. I take God seriously. I take the word of God seriously, but I don't take myself so seriously, and so there are occasions where I'll laugh with you at me. I don't know why you're doing it, but I'm allowed to laugh at myself. But you, as Christians, should not. Yet, you continue to do that from time to time, right?
Sometimes laughter is really good for the soul. But if we think that laughter, as an end in itself, is going to lead to lasting meaning, do you know what the teacher said? That's nuts. That's straight crazy. It is never going to be able to get you there. In fact, have you known people in your lives that basically used laughter as a cover, as a curtain, because they didn't want you to see behind, because they were going through heartbreak, and emptiness, and all of that stuff? What they did, is they always laughed at everything, or tried to make everybody else laugh, but you know that down inside, you know when that curtain got pulled back, that there was a lot of searching for meaning. That there may have been a lot of emptiness. There may have been a lot of heartbreak, and they were just using laughter as a cover.
Some of the people that have made the world laugh through the course of years like Robin Williams, you find out that he made the whole world laugh, and he made everybody around him laugh, but inside something deep, and hard, and ugly was going on in his search for meaning and fulfillment. Or Jim Carey, who said the same thing, whose made everybody on the planet laugh in a variety of different ways, yet he's been longing for and searching after the idea of meaning, and all behind this kind of laughter. Why, because laughter as an end in itself can't get us to full meaning. It can't get us to full satisfaction, and so, the teacher says, "I tried that as a temporary pleasure, to see if that would do the trick, but it didn't, and in fact, it just makes you crazy, because you realize you can't laugh at everything, and that there are deeper questions sometimes that come up."
But there was another one, and it was this, the temporary pleasure of intoxication. Now that I have everyone's attention, I want you to notice what the teacher says in the next verse, verse number 3. He said, "I also tried cheering myself with wine, and embracing folly, my mind still guiding me with wisdom. I wanted to see what was good for people to do under the heavens during the few days of their lives." Now, so what the teacher does, it says, you know when I ... At the very least what we know about this passage of scripture is that the teacher said, "I'm going to try the sensory experimentation with wine, and try, and cheer myself in that direction, to see how that goes, this kind of fleeting pleasure."
He consumes the wine and he says, "My mind is still guiding me." What he's saying there is, he's actually saying, "I'm going to evaluate how this is." That ... because remember he's testing himself. "I'm going to evaluate this before, and during, and then maybe afterwards," but where I believe, and where many scholars believe, that he also experimented with intoxication, is because he said, "I wanted to test, kind of see if wine could gladden my heart, and I embraced folly." In other words, he led himself to a place of being intoxicated with strong drink, seeing if that would lead him to a place of meaning and fulfillment. Obviously it didn't, and I sure wish we'd get that message. I really do, because one of the things that I think that we forget about is, how we can embrace folly, in a significant way when it comes to alcohol.
Now, let me pause for just a second, so that you understand where I'm at and where I'm coming from. I'm on record as saying, even in my preaching ministry here, that I don't think that the consumption of alcohol in every scenario is sin. I don't think the Bible embraces that, to be quite honest with you. In other words, is a believer free to occasionally have a glass of wine? Or is a believer free to, if they wanted to have a beer? Yeah. Those things are kind of moral neutrals in themselves. It's kind of how we use them.
But here's what I will say. While I do say that I can't make the argument from scripture, certainly the scripture makes an argument against intoxication every time, and says that is sin every time, right? But even though you might have the freedom in Jesus Christ to have a glass of wine as a celebration or whatever, right? I'm not begrudging that, or judging that, or being a legalist around that idea. But while I still say that there are times when you consume alcohol where it's not a sin, I need to remind you of something. There are many times in the consumption of alcohol that it is sin, and you need to hear that really clearly, and I'll tell you why, because in the day and age that we live in, alcohol consumption is actually on the rise, not only in the number of people that are consuming it, but the amount that they're consuming.
I saw recently that The Journal of American Medical Association, in their psychiatry portion of that journal, printed a study by Grant, Chou, and Saha, and here's what they said. They said, "Not only are more Americans drinking, but Americans are drinking more." They did a 10 year study relative to all of this, and here's what they found. They found that people who are now high risk alcohol drinkers are increased 30% over the last 10 years, and that people who have alcohol use disorders have increased 50% over that 10 year period.
Listen believer. Listen Christian. I want to help you with something. Keep that in mind next time you post your martini pic on Instagram, because what you might be doing with all those followers that are following you, is you might be causing a brother or sister to stumble, and that's not okay. You see, I had to make a choice about what the Bible teaches, and about what my freedom enables me to do, and about the posture that I'm going to have relative to that stuff. I don't stand in judgment in relationship to anybody.
You know, it's funny, if I'm in a restaurant or something, not only are people looking, "What is the pastor drinking," right, and generally speaking, here's the answer, water. It's the clear thing, right? But I also know that I run into people in restaurants, and of course, you know they're thinking to themselves, "Oh, man, there's the pastor. I don't know what I'm going to do. I don't know what I'm going to do. I hope he misses me. I hope he doesn't say anything," you know? Then I'll kind of walk by him, be like, "Hey, what's going on?" They're like, "Hey, nothing. Everything's cool. Everything's cool. Waiter, water. Another two waters for us. Another couple of them. I've been, shew, man I'm dehydrated. I've been sucking down so much water. Water, water, water!"
Right? I'm not standing in judgment of you, right? That's not my job. But here's what I will tell you. The choice that I have made, is that, do I have the freedom as a believer in Jesus, if I wanted to have a glass of wine with my wife? Sure, I've got the freedom to do that. If I wanted to have a beer, do I have the freedom to do that? Sure, I have the freedom to do that. But you know why I don't? You know why I don't, because my love for all the people that are looking at my life, and wondering, "What does the pastor drink? What does the pastor do?" Even though I've got the freedom, listen to this, my love for them trumps my freedom. My love for them, trumps my freedom. In other words, my freedom takes a backseat to my care and concern for people. I don't want them to trip, because of my life.
Now, some of you are clapping for real. Some of you are going, "Ha, ha, ha, ha, ha. Ha, ha, ha." Here's all I'm saying. This isn't a judgment statement. What I'm trying to remind you of this, is that our brothers and sisters who have now come to faith in Jesus, and who are working through, by the way, addictions in their life, and they're in our church, and they're meeting together with brothers and sisters in Christ, and then when you're on your social media kind of espousing a narrative of a, "Oh, look at me with the good life. This is me," and they're your followers, it's not helpful to our brothers and sisters, who are struggling with addiction, because there's no such thing as moderation with an addict.
There's no such thing. They can't do that, and we want to help our brothers and sisters. We don't want to hurt our brothers and sisters, so we've got to make sure that when we exercise our freedom, we are doing so in a way that doesn't cause them to stumble, that doesn't violate our conscience. Think about that, and I say that to you in love, not in judgment in any way. I just say it to you in love, that, that's something you ought to pay attention to and think about, because it isn't just about us. By the way, we don't want the world looking at us, thinking that the narrative of our life is, we've just got to drink in all of the small pleasures of life, because that's all we've got to grab onto. We want them to see something different.
The teacher said, "I tried this, but it didn't get me anywhere." It was a temporary pleasure. You know what else he tried, accomplishments. That's what else the teacher tried to say. "You know what? I'm going to test this, and see if this brings lasting meaning." Notice what the scripture goes on to say in verse 4. The teacher says, "I undertook great projects. I built houses for myself, and planted vineyards." You know what he found out, and this is where kind of some of the Solomon-like comparisons start going on now, right? "I built great houses for myself. I did great projects. These were awesome." I don't know about you, but have you ever done a great project? Maybe it was a great accomplishment, a goal that you set out for. Maybe it was an academic goal, right, to graduate from college, or maybe to get your Masters or a Doctorate. Or maybe it was a project that you did with your hands. There was this special thing that you were going to do, and you were going to build it, or you were going to, you know, whatever, right?
Then when you finished it, like a little bit later on, six weeks down the line, you finished it, and you were kind of like, so that's done, right? It didn't bring lasting significance. The title that you got in front of your name, with the position change, or with the academic standing, or the satisfaction that you got in the job that you finished, and the project that you completed. Now it's done, and now people can look at it, and go, "Man, that is awesome," and you kind of go, "Yeah, it's awesome. It's done," right, because it doesn't bring lasting satisfaction.
Now, I saw a 60 Minutes interview with somebody that Buffalonians love to rib a bit, when it comes to athletics, Tom Brady. Now, I know that everybody's like, "Boo! Tom Brady!" I get it. He plays for the opposing team, and we boo them, and all that stuff, and we can do that all in fun. But what I found interesting was this. One of the hard things to argue is that Tom Brady is one of the greatest quarterbacks to ever play the game. I didn't say he was the greatest, but he's in the conversation, right, one of the greatest quarterbacks to ever play the game. He's got all kinds of Super Bowl wins, and he's appeared in a bunch of Super Bowls. He's got money coming out of his ears, right? He married a super model.
Then he's having a conversation on 60 Minutes, and the interviewer says to him, "Man, you've won all these Super Bowls. You're on one of the most dynamic teams in a period of time that's ever been in the NFL. You've got contract money that's crazy, and endorsement deals. You're married to a supermodel. Blah, blah, blah. What is it about all that?" Here's what Tom Brady says. He says, "After accomplishing all these things, I kind of said, 'Is this is? Is this all there is?" Why, because accomplishments by themselves will never lead to lasting meaning. That's what the teacher discovered, and all of us when we start plowing down that black hole, we discover it too.
You know what other temporary pleasure won't lead to full fulfillment? Paradise. You're like, "What? What are you talking about?" Well, notice what the teacher then said in verse number 5 and 6. He said, "I made gardens and parks, and planted ..." Everybody look with me for a second. I know I told you to look at your Bibles, but now look at me, just for fun. You're like, "Just make up your mind, Jerry. "I made gardens and parks, and planted," read this with me, "All kinds of fruit trees." Now just let that sit there for a minute, alright? "All kinds of fruit trees in them, and I made reservoirs to water groves of flourishing trees."
In other words, he's saying, "Man, I made basically this garden paradise." But you know what the teacher's doing, because of the echo of the words that he used in there, those of us who are careful readers, and we are, because we just carefully read that. Those of us who carefully read that, we heard the words of Genesis 2, "The Lord God made all kinds of trees grow out of the ground, trees that were pleasing to the eye, and good for food." Do you know what the teacher's basically saying? "Here's what I tried to do to give myself meaning. I created a garden paradise. I created a garden paradise for myself, and do you know what that led me to understand? That too is meaningless."
I know this first hand. Here's why, because I served ... Before serving in Buffalo, I served eight years at a church in South West Florida. Nobody in South West Florida is actually from South West Florida. They're all from here, you know, or places like this, right? Here's what I noticed. When I was ministering in South West Florida, and again, I was eight years with these people, do you know what I figured out? Everybody that was moving there was either moving there running toward paradise, or running from problems thinking paradise would solve them.
The thing that they never really realized right away was, they brought themselves with them, and that was the problem. That like, paradise couldn't solve the problem, because their brokenness came with them. They couldn't outrun the problems, and they couldn't just move into paradise, because they were running toward it, because they were seeking after it, because they thought maybe it would give them something, and it didn't. They started having to come to places where they understood, "Oh, maybe I have to look for meaning in a different place," and it opened the door of the gospel for us, when we were ministering in Florida.
Another temporary pleasure was that of possessions. In fact, notice what the teacher says in verse number 7, "I bought male and female slaves, and had other slaves who were born in my house. I also owned more herds and flocks than anyone in Jerusalem before me." Again, this is like Solomon type of language, right? In the context of that day, we're talking about, "I've got a ton of employees, and I've got a ton of product," right? He said, "Even having all of this stuff, I possess all of these things. I've got a big organization. I've got a lot of employees, and I've got a lot of products, and that by itself is not actually doing anything for me."
Do you know that I have known some people ... not everyone in this case, but I've known some people who owned lots of properties, had lots of businesses, and had tons of toys, and I wanted to be around them about as much as having a root canal with no anesthesia. They were zero fun to be around, because they were miserable. I'm not saying everybody in that place is, because if believers have been transformed to know how to utilize that for the glory of God, that's a different thing altogether. But I have been around people in that world, and it's like, you've got all of this stuff, and you're still feeling empty, because you realize that all that you possess is never going to get you where you want to go.
You know what another one was, a temporary pleasure? He experimented with wealth. Notice what he says in verse number 8, "I amassed silver and gold for myself, and the treasure of kings and provinces. Leave that up for a second. He says basically, "Look, I've got my own coin. I'm super rich. I've got my own silver and gold for myself, and," listen, this is kind of Solomon language, "And the treasure of kings." In other words, "Foreign tribute being given to me, and the treasure of provinces," which was probably taxation over other provinces." He's like, "I've got my own coin. I've got foreign dignitaries giving me coin, and I'm getting coin out of taxation from people, and do you know where that led me? Nowhere. That did not solve my inner ache. It did not fix my problem."
The Bible, here in Ecclesiastes, talks about this in a more extended way later on, and we'll come to that in soon enough time in near term weeks. Notice the next one though. It's the temporary pleasure of entertainment. Watch what the teacher says here in verse number 8, "I acquired male and female singers." Now, you're going, "Okay, that's cool. He's got like his own show, The Voice, you know," right? It's like Jerusalem Idol. We've got all of these cool things that he can have, right? He's got male and female singers, and they're going to entertain him, right, because he's got, apparently, time on his hands, so he needs to be entertained. He's got all this stuff, but now he's going to try this as a temporary pleasure, and see if that works.
Now, here's what's interesting, because these are kind of Solomon-like parallels, right? If you look back at the time of Solomon, and you see the singers that were around at the time of Solomon, it was an all male choir, because they were Levites. This was a Levitical choir. Interestingly enough, the teacher says, "That's not going to do. I need male and female singers." Do you know why, because when you start pushing the envelope in terms of trying to find meaning, and everything else is coming up empty, do you know where you leave yourself? Bored. You're bored, and so, you know what you have to do? Something different, because you're bored. Enough with just the all male choirs. I need males and females singing for me. I need to be entertained.
Unfortunately, that's a case that we have in our own cultural context, right? It's extraordinarily incredible to me that we have a hundred million channels on our television. We can watch everything we want to watch on demand. We can watch it from our phones if we're not home. We can record it. We can stream anything we want to. You can play games in front of a computer, but you don't even have to play them by yourself. You can actually get on a headset and play them with other people that are streaming at the same time. You can actually watch streamers as they are playing, even though you're not playing. You're just watching them play. You've got all of this going on, and yet we can honestly say lots of times in our lives, "I'm bored. I don't have anything to do." What? What do you mean you don't have anything to do? Go outside. Throw a Frisbee. Fly a kite. Get a job. Something, right?
That last one was funny. I actually thought so too. Get a job. But you know what's crazy about that? It's that boredom, listen to this, boredom leads to distraction. Distraction leads to temptation. Temptation leads to indulgence. Indulgence leads to emptiness, because we find that it brings us, not the pleasure that we thought. Instead of occupying ourselves with the things that God calls us to occupy ourselves with, we feel like we're bored, because we're looking for entertainment. "Amuse me," right, because we just want to entertain ourselves to death.
You've seen it, right? People binge watch some show, like for, you know a month-and-a-half they start with a clean face, have a beard at the end, you know. They've been binge watching this show for a long period, of time, right? Then it's like, they're Tweeting out to their friends, "You've gotta watch this series, man. It is amazing!" If it's that amazing, why do you then, the next day, have to start another one, of a different series, because it doesn't last. That's why. I'm not suggesting that it's not okay for us to be entertained from time to time. I'm not suggesting that at all. I'm saying, it doesn't bring us lasting meaning.
Here was another temporary pleasure the teacher tried. Sexual indulgence. Sexual indulgence. In fact, you'll see it quite clearly in the text. Notice what he says in verse number 8, "Not only did I acquire male and female singers, but I acquired a harem as well. The delights of a man's heart." Let me pause you right there, and I'm just going to ask you, will you trust me that when you read this in Hebrew, it's really clear what he's talking about? Trust me. A harem. Now, this is obviously Solomonic language, right? He's making this comparison to the lifestyle of Solomon. You remember Solomon's lifestyle? He had a way with women, a few of them.
Here's what it says in 1 Kings, chapter 11, "King Solomon, however, loved many foreign women besides Pharaoh's daughter. Moabites, Amonites, Edomites, Sidonians, and Hittites. They were from nations about which the Lord had told the Israelites, "You must not intermarry with them, because they will surely turn your hearts after their gods. Nevertheless, Solomon held fast to them in love. He had 700 wives of royal birth, and 300 concubines, and his wives led him astray. And as Solomon grew old, his wives turned his heart after other gods, and his heart was not fully devoted to the Lord his God, like David's was." I won't read you the rest. Basically, he just went, bom, bom, bom, burr. It was way down hill.
Think about that for just a second. Number one, David is marrying ... This is a good principle, just as a reminder, by the way. Solomon was marrying foreign wives who were not followers of God. The issue wasn't about their citizenship. The issue was about where their heart lay, that their heart was not after God. They were following pagan gods, not the one true God, and because he married, not one, not two, 700 of them, and then decided, "That's not enough. I need 300 concubines who I'm not obviously fully married to, but nonetheless, they can be around for me." That's a thousand women. Let me just do some quick math for you, okay? A thousand women. If Solomon wanted to have a meal one-on-one with one of these ladies, he could do that, have a meal with a different lady morning, noon, and night, breakfast, lunch, and dinner. It would take him almost a year to see them all. I don't even know what that's all about, like on an emotional and relationship level. Like, good luck with that.
But actually what the writer of Ecclesiastes is talking about is at the level of intimacy, the level of indulgence. Solomon was busy, and guess what? It didn't bring him satisfaction, and the teacher says, "That didn't do it. That didn't do it." Listen, if Solomon or the Solomon-like teacher comes to that conclusion, you better pay attention, because sometimes you're trying to find your meaning in attaching yourself sexually to somebody, as if that is going to be your ultimate fulfillment. Think again, because that alone will not be it. You see, that's what I'm reminded of. You've got people who've got more time, more money, and more fame than they know what to do with, and I'm reading stories week in and week out of how they're having to check into sex addiction rehab. Why is that? I'll tell you why, because they're looking for meaning in the wrong place. My heart breaks for them. They're looking for meaning in the wrong place.
By the way, this isn't just about celebrities. This is about every single one of us, because what we do is, we open ... Listen. We get bored. We get distracted, and that's where we get sucked in. Maybe you get sucked in virtually through pornography of some kind, and that's where you get sucked in, and somehow think, maybe that in these temporary pleasures that you're experiencing, that somehow this is going to bring lasting fulfillment. It will not, and it is no wonder that there is such relational brokenness in the culture that we live in, because this is what we're doing with our lives, because we're bored. We're distracted. We're looking for meaning, and we're looking in all the wrong places, men and women alike.
He said that wasn't it, but he had another one, the temporary pleasure of fame. Now, stay with me here for just a second, because notice what he says in verse number 9. He says, "I became greater by far than anyone in Jerusalem before me, and in all this, my wisdom stayed with me." In other words, "I was able to evaluate all this. I became greater by far than anyone in Jerusalem before me. I was famous, and guess what? That did not give me lasting meaning either, and I was famous."
Listen, I'm really concerned about this one in our culture. I'm really concerned about it, because as I exegete the culture, as I kind of pull our culture apart and look at it, look under the hood, this is a problem in the culture that we live in, particularly with younger generations. Let me explain. I read a study. I do that sometimes. I read a study from UCLA psychologists, Uhls and Greenfield. This was in 2011. The study was called The Rise of Fame, and here's what they did. They studied how the media is communicating values to younger people, and what they did is, they chronicled 16 of these values that are being communicated. They wanted to study those 16 values through the course of a 10 year period from 1997 to 2007. Now, the interesting this is, that in 1997 the number one and number two values being communicated to all of these young men and women were this, a feeling of community, and benevolence. That's not a bad thing at all.
Those are really good values, by the way. If the media's going to be communicating anything, that's a really good thing. The shows that these kids are watching are kind of espousing community feeling, and benevolence. Great. But something shifted significantly, because when they measured this in 2007, community feeling and benevolence were not number one and two anymore. They were number 11 and 12 on the list, and do you know what had risen to number one? Fame. Fame. That the greatest thing, the greatest value coming from the media that is trying to disciple our kids is that you need to be famous. Now, they're saying it in subtle ways. They're showing it in different ways, but that was the primary thing.
Isn't it extraordinary that in 1997 fame was 15th out of 16 values that they studied, and in 2007, number one? That should remind us of something. We are setting young men and young women up for failure by communicating to them that really the only way that they're going to find true meaning, lasting meaning in life is to be famous. That is a mistake, and by the way, it's also destructive. In fact, look at the younger generation who becomes really famous, and watch what is happening in their lives. They can't handle that level of fame and glory, because human beings weren't made for that level of human glory. God alone is made for that, and we're trying to steal that in some way, and it is incredibly destructive.
He's experimented with all of these things, and they were selfish pursuits, right? If I were ... I'm not going to go back. I've got that slide, but I'm not going to go back. If you read that, verse 4 through 9, here's what you keep saying, "I did this for myself. I did this for myself. I did this for myself." That's what we were reading, and none of that gets you where you want to go. How did he conclude, in verse 10 and 11? He said this, "I denied myself nothing my eyes desired. I refused my heart no pleasure. My heart took delight in all my labor, and this was the reward for all my toil. Yet, when I surveyed all that my hands had done, and what I had toiled to achieve," listen to this three-fold statement, "Everything was meaningless, a chasing after the wind. Nothing was gained under the sun. Everything was meaningless, a chasing after the wind. Nothing was gained under the sun."
Now, this is the result of what a hedonistic lifestyle looks like, a lifestyle that just looks for pleasure here, pleasure there, pleasure here, pleasure there and I'm going to keep myself occupied by just making myself pleasured in whatever way I can figure out to do that. The teacher was trying to tell us, "Don't do that. Don't do that. You'll come up empty." Some of you have been trying to do that. Some of us, in our lives, we try to do that, and we keep coming up empty. In fact, the New Testament warns of us of it as well, because even though we have this ancient literature in the Old Testament, the New Testament church had to be reminded of this truth too. Basically, they need to be instructed by Jesus and by the apostles that, hey, hedonism is not going to get you where you want to go. In fact, that Greek word hedone, it's used a handful of times in the New Testament, and every time it's used, it's not used favorably.
In fact, take a quick look. Here's what Jesus said, when he was telling us the story or the parable of the seed and the sower. He said, "The seed that fell among thorns stands for those who hear, but as they go on their way, they are choked by life's worries, riches and hedone, pleasures. As a result, they don't mature. In other words, the seed of the word of God, it gets choked out in us, because all we're doing is seeking after the pleasures of this life instead of understanding what the great pleasure really is. Listen to how the apostle Paul said this in Titus. He said, "At one time, we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived, and enslaved by all kinds of passions and hedone, pleasures." We were enslaved by them, because we were trying to suck the life out of them, because we thought that's the only thing that can give us lasting meaning.
Notice what James went on to say in chapter 4, "What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don't they come from your hedone, pleasures, desires, that battle within you. You desire, but do not have, so you kill. You covet, but you cannot get what you want, so you quarrel and fight. You don't have, because you do not ask God, and when you ask, you don't receive, because you ask with wrong motives that you spend what you get on your hedone, pleasures." Then notice what is said in 2 Peter, chapter 2. He says, "Of those ungodly people, they will be paid back with hard for the harm they have done. Their idea of pleasure is to carouse in broad daylight, and they are blots and blemishes reveling in their pleasures, while they feast with you."
Then notice what Paul said in 2 Timothy 3. Mark this, "There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy without love, unforgiving, slanderous without self control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited," here it is, "Lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God. Lovers of pleasure than lovers of God, having a form of godliness, but denying its power. Have nothing to do with such people."
You see, when we start trying to pursue what the good life is, ladies and gentlemen, we're not going to find it when we start trying to grab all of these small pleasures, and act as if they can bring us full significance and meaning. What do we get from Ecclesiastes chapter 2, where we are understanding what the teacher is trying to say to us? Well, I told you, sometimes we have to come to our own conclusion, and here's the conclusion that I don't want you to miss today. We can only live the good life when God is our highest pleasure. It's that simple. We can only live the good life when God is our highest pleasure. In other words, this is what we could call a form of Christian hedonism, when God is the great pleasure that we seek. That term was coined by a guy named John Piper. Some of you may know him, a pastor and theologian in Minneapolis, Minnesota. He used that term, Christian hedonism, because he's trying to point people to the idea that our greatest pleasure, our greatest satisfaction is going to be found in God himself.
In fact, the way he defines it is this way. He says, "God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him. God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him." You see, that's what Christian hedonism is. That's when we are saying our pleasures are really to be found in God as our great pleasure. Now, Piper and others who kind of forward these kinds of ideas, they were influenced by thinkers that came before them, not the least of which is one of my heroes, C.S. Lewis. C.S. Lewis had a really great way of kind of viewing this, because his contention was this. Our desire for pleasure is not too big, it's too small. Our desire is not too big. It's actually too small, because according to Lewis, we have big desires for small pleasures, and small desires for ultimate pleasure.
But see, ladies and gentlemen, this is where we get it all upside down, because the gospel kind of reminds us that God loved us even in the midst of our sin, even in the midst of our brokenness, and so Jesus came, and while we were yet sinners, he died for us. That means that he stood in our place and he took upon himself the wrath, the justice of God that was due us, because as sinners, our sin must be judged. God is not, as a holy God, just going to kind of wink at, and sweep it away, and go, "Eh, whatever." He's not going to do that. God is holy, and as a result of being holy, there was only one way that you and I, who are broken and sinful, could ever be reconciled to him, and that is if one who is holy stood in our place and took upon himself willingly the justice of almighty God. That's exactly what Jesus did. He who knew no sin became sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
As the result of his death, his shed blood for our forgiveness and his resurrection from the dead, satisfying the justice of God, that now by faith in Jesus, we can be reconciled to the God who made us and who made everything that exists. That is the greatest pleasure imaginable. But all we're doing is using our big desire for pleasure on lesser pleasures, instead of using our big desire for pleasure on the ultimate pleasure, knowing God through Jesus Christ, because only then ... Listen to this. Only then, when we know our greatest and our highest pleasure, will all the other pleasures of life be purified. We can then learn what it looks like to enjoy the life that we lead, and understand the small pleasures that we have, but we understand them through the lens of the great pleasure of knowing God through Jesus Christ.
When are we going to give up the idea, brothers and sisters, ladies and gentlemen, when are we going to give up the idea that we're going to use all the energy of our great desire to spend on small pleasure that doesn't last, and instead we realize that the great energy of our great desire can be spent on the greatest pleasure of knowing God and being known by him, through which all of the other pleasures of life become clearer and more purified and ordered. You see, the only way you and I will ever live the good life that the teacher was looking for, is when God himself is our highest pleasure. Let's bow our heads together.
I wonder if you showed up today, and you have some identification with the teacher. You've tried finding meaning in your life in every other way, but in God. You've searched for it. Maybe it was through trying to attain to fame, or sexual indulgence, or accomplishments, or whatever. You've searched, and you've searched, and you keep coming back empty. You keep realizing, "I've tried that. I've squeezed everything I can out of that, and it doesn't last." Well, I'm here to point you to one who does last, the eternal God, and the eternal God is the one we sang about just a little, bit ago. Eternal. Ever abiding. Everlasting. It is only in Him, and in relationship to Him, that we can find lasting, meaningful significance in this life and understand the reality of the life to come.
If you've never come to that place where you've put your faith and trust in Jesus, in what he's done to secure your ability to be reconciled to God, I can't think of a greater need that you have in your life. There isn't one, and so, if that's you, when we dismiss in a moment, I would love it, if you would come by, speak to one of our pastors, or one of our prayer partners right in the Fireside Room. We'd just love it, if you'd do that. It's right out in the atrium. You can come by and talk to them. They're not going to spend forever with you, but they'd love to talk to you about what it means to begin a relationship with God through his Son Jesus by faith, and to start to understand how life can have fullness, and significance, and meaning, what you were destined to be in Him.
Father, for others of us, maybe we've been reminded today that even though we are followers of Jesus, and have been transformed, that maybe it's through the vehicle of our flesh, or maybe it's through the world's culture that lures us in, or maybe it's through the hand or the influence of the enemy of our soul, but we've been caught up. What we've done is, we've started seeking small pleasures with our big desire, and we're forgetting about our highest pleasure, our greatest pleasure, the pleasure that orders all, of the other ones. Father, I pray that you would help align our hearts and our minds to recognize that we're never going to be able to show a world a narrative that says that there is meaning, and there's hope, and there are things bigger than just the small pleasures of this life.
If our life looks like a rat race, all we're doing is trying to acquire pleasure, upon pleasure, upon pleasure, because we need a world, not to see us looking exactly like they do, but to see us looking different in the sense that we are ordering all of our pleasures, because our great hope, our great meaning, our great fullness, and our great satisfaction is found in relationship to you. In your presence there is fullness of joy, fullness of pleasure. God, would you help us to learn what it means to hold you as our highest pleasure, so that the world can see truly what the good life looks like, because of the grace you've shown us in Jesus? We pray that you'd strengthen us to do that, because we want to be lights in the midst of darkness, because the world needs to see this. May you use us as those kinds of vehicles, and ambassadors, and priests to be able to show the world this very thing. We pray in Jesus' name, Amen.