The Problem with Pleasure

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We live like millionaires. I don't have a million dollars, nor am I expecting to any time soon. But compared to the majority of the world's population, the average American lives like a millionaire.

Fifty years ago, flight travel was uncommon for most Americans, not anymore. Looking back to the sixties, the average home was smaller than today, cars were bigger, gas was way cheaper, and salaries were a lot smaller.

Unless you've traveled to under-developed nations—what I call MOTROW—the idea that you live like a millionaire may seem hard to accept. But if you ask those who want to immigrate to the US, you might start to understand.

And yet, with all that we have and is available to get, we still want more. King Solomon, who was beyond wealthy and able to pursue as much pleasure as he wanted, realized the problem of pleasure.

Scripture

I thought to myself, “Now I want to experiment with pleasure and enjoy myself.” But even this was pointless. I thought, “Laughter doesn’t make any sense. What does pleasure accomplish?” I explored ways to make myself feel better by drinking wine. I also explored ways to do [some] foolish things. During all that time, wisdom continued to control my mind. I was able to determine whether this was good for mortals to do during their brief lives under heaven. [vss 1-3]

I accomplished some great things: I built houses for myself. I planted vineyards for myself. I made gardens and parks for myself. I planted every kind of fruit tree in them. I made pools to water the forest of growing trees. I bought male and female slaves. In addition, slaves were born in my household. I owned more herds and flocks than anyone in Jerusalem before me.[vss 4-7]

I also gathered silver and gold for myself. I gathered the treasures of kings and provinces. I provided myself with male and female singers and the pleasures men have with one concubine after another. So I grew richer than anyone in Jerusalem before me. Yet, my wisdom remained with me.10 If something appealed to me, I did it. I allowed myself to have any pleasure I wanted, since I found pleasure in my work. This was my reward for all my hard work. [vss 8-10]

But when I turned to look at all that I had accomplished and all the hard work I had put into it, I saw that it was all pointless. [It was like] trying to catch the wind. I gained nothing [from any of my accomplishments] under the sun. [vs 11]

(Ecclesiastes 2:1-11 GW) [Context– Ecclesiastes 2]

Key phrase— What does pleasure accomplish?

[bctt tweet="What does pleasure accomplish?"]

Digging Deeper...

What is the spokesman's (Eccl 1:1) intended pursuit? What was his conclusion afterwards?

What does Solomon say was a constant guide to him? How was it helpful?

What are the things Solomon did and what did he acquire in his pursuit of pleasure?

What was his (Solomon's) realization, and what helped him arrive at it?

Reflection...

Way too many of us fantasize what it would be like to be really rich and powerful. Do you think not? Look at who and what we venerate. Athletes and entertainers make outrageous amounts of money, and live at a level we can only imagine. CEO's receive huge salaries and bonuses, and act as if they deserve it, even when their companies lose money.

Even within the church, many pastors and leaders of ministries receive well-above-average salaries, while churches claim to build bigger and better buildings for the kingdom. This tells me we haven't learned from the wisest and wealthiest king of Israel. The problem of pleasure, and wealth, is that it's never enough.

Make it personal...

Read through the Scripture text again to consider and answer the following questions

Do you secretly (or not so secretly) wish you could win the lottery, or get rich some other way?

What are the things you find yourself daydreaming or fantasizing about?

Do you envy or resent people whose lives seem better than yours? Or, do you envy and resent them?

What do you think is key to being content with the life you already have?