First Presbyterian Church of Blackwood
21 E. Church Street
Blackwood, NJ 08012
Sermon Notes (Sunday ~ August 30, 2020)
Rev. Dr. Mouris A. Yousef, Pastor
Ecclesiastes 6:1-9; Mark 8:35-37
You may know that under King Solomon, the Kingdom of Israel was in its golden age. Solomon reigned 40 years during which Israel enjoyed peace, prosperity, and gained the respect of the neighboring nations. But even during these times of peace and prosperity, Solomon wanted the people of Israel to understand that success and prosperity don’t last long. All human accomplishments will one day disappear, and we must keep this in mind in order to live wisely. If we don’t, we will become either proud and self-sufficient when we succeed or sorely disappointed when we fail. Solomon’s goal was to show that earthly possessions and accomplishments are ultimately meaningless. Only the pursuit of God brings real satisfaction. Therefore, we should honor God in all we say, think, and do.
In Ecclesiasts chapter 6, Solomon is trying to help us think through the folly of seeking to enjoy life apart from God. In Ecclesiastes chapter 6, Solomon asks an important question: what would you do when the world is not enough? German Philosopher Immanuel Kant, said, “Give a man everything he wants, and at that moment, everything will not be everything.”
An airline pilot was flying over the Smoky Mountains and pointed out a lake to his co-pilot. “See that little lake? When I was a kid, I used to sit in a rowboat down there, fishing. Every time a plane would fly overhead, I’d look up and wish I was flying it. Now I look down and wish I was in a rowboat, fishing.” When the world is not enough.
Satisfaction that is based on the things of this world is an elusive pursuit. We go after what we think will make us happy, only to find it doesn’t. Often times, we were happier before we started the quest. How can the world not be enough? How is it possible for a person to have all that he/she desires and still not find satisfaction? We see this lack of satisfaction in our astronomical rate of consumer debt. We’re not satisfied with what we have so we go into debt to live just a bit better than we can afford. Then, we suffer anxiety with the pressure of being able to pay all our bills. Dissatisfaction is a mark of our culture.
Ecclesiastes 6 is just what the doctor ordered. Solomon had the “world,” but as he has throughout Ecclesiastes, he is lamenting that the world is not enough. He is still not satisfied. In Ecclesiastes chapter 6, Solomon shows the emptiness of several of the categories of life that we’re told bring satisfaction. They didn’t for Solomon and won’t for us. Here is a list of things left Solomon deeply dissatisfied:
First: Wealth, Possessions, and Honor vv.1-2
Listen to what the Preacher says in Ecclesiastes 6:1-2, “There is an evil that I have seen under the sun, and it lies heavy upon humankind: those to whom God gives wealth, possessions, and honor, so that they lack nothing of all that they desire, yet God does not enable them to enjoy these things, but a stranger enjoys them. This is vanity; it is a grievous ill.” Neither wealth, possessions, nor social statues can bring us satisfaction.
Our world is obsessed with money and status. What kind of car we drive, where we live, the clothes we buy, job title, etc. It’s an endless list, but it doesn’t satisfy. We may have everything but satisfaction. The irony is, as verse 2 indicates, “but a stranger enjoys them.” The stranger is never identified. It could be an adversary; it could be sickness; it could be domestic conflicts that drain the zest out of life. For some, the “stranger” is death. Solomon says it’s “a grievous ill.” Wealth, possessions, and social status never bring lasting joy. They’re here today, gone tomorrow.
Second: Family vv. 3
Solomon says in verse 3, “A man may beget a hundred children.” In Bible days, having lots of children was a sign of God’s blessing. It was an agrarian culture. More children helped you be a successful farmer. It was an economic asset to have a big family. Also, in a culture where you often had to defend yourself, having your own in-home army, gave you an advantage. But the Preacher says, having a big family, having a hundred children, doesn’t guarantee satisfaction because satisfaction is found by first enjoying God, then His blessings.
Third: Longevity vv. 3 & 6
Twice in verses 3 and 6, Solomon says, “A man may beget a hundred children, and live many years … Even though he should live a thousand years twice over, yet enjoy no good—do not all go to one place?” Solomon’s point is that if your life is marked by pain, hardship, calamity and tragedy, what good is it if you live even 2,000 years? It’s just 2,000 more years of sorrow and those who live such lives want to live shorter ones, not longer. Longevity isn’t everything. In fact, long life is not an end in and of itself. It’s the quality not the quantity of our days that count.
Fourth: Work and Careers vv.7-9
In verse 7-9, the Preacher gives us one last thing that doesn’t satisfy the longing of human’s heart, namely our careers or professions. Finding satisfaction in our careers is often an elusive dream. Solomon warns us that work can’t bring ultimate fulfillment, but many still don’t believe him. So people keep switching jobs and fields, thinking satisfaction is out there somewhere but to no avail.
Personally, I find genuine joy in my job. I hope you do too. Work is a gracious gift from God. Work makes life compelling. It teaches us about ourselves and gives us the pleasure of fruitfulness. But if you approach your job as the reason for living, you’ll end up down one more dead end. “All human toil is for the mouth, yet the appetite is not satisfied,” the Preacher says in Ecclesiastes 6:7
So, what does the Preacher is saying to us today? Simple. Have the world; own the world, but without God, you will still be discontent. It’s only when God is at the center of our life that we experience real joy in the gifts that God gives. The fear of the Lord is not just the beginning of knowledge; it’s also the source of satisfaction. “What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul?” says Jesus in Mark 8:37.
Friends, I think the ability to enjoy life comes from within. It’s a God-thing. It’s a matter of character not circumstances. Having money, family, a job, and living a good long life are all blessings, but we must first find our satisfaction in God and then enjoy what God has given us while we can. Satisfaction is found by enjoying God and then His blessings. If we reverse that, we’re in trouble. God first and everything else comes after that. This order is important because it puts everything into perspective. In the Name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen!
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