Read: Ecclesiastes 8:10-17
Reflect: Growing up, I had some great conversations over games of pool. One especially stands out with Bob, a good friend from High School. He wasn’t a believer, but he always wanted to talk about “religion”. I think he wanted to convert me. Not sure what he wanted to convert me to, but I enjoyed the conversations. He was very smart, and had an inquisitive mind, always asking questions which I couldn’t answer. (Which I really liked). One Friday night after work, about 2 am, we were playing at the local pool hall. We had just gotten into one of those conversations about God and the Bible when he asked me this, “Can I get rich and make a lot of money and still believe in your Jesus?”
I think King Solomon had that same question. Futility, meaninglessness, wickedness, chasing after the wind, are all words used in Ecclesiastes, and that in just the first chapter! It’s a book that asks some tough questions (like Bob’s) and it’s not exactly a book you read to your children at bedtime. It is the confession of a man who lived life to the fullest and discovered in the end that he didn’t have all the answers.
I could have told Bob that Solomon, who was very rich, looked over his life and summarized that life could be pointless. Unless a man puts God at the center of everything, it was like “chasing the wind”. No one can comprehend what goes on under the sun. Despite all his efforts to search it out, man cannot discover its meaning. Even if a wise man claims he knows, he cannot really comprehend. (8:17) Bob didn’t realize he was asking “under the sun”, from an earthly perspective. Bob might have been startled with Ecclesiastes 12:13, Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man. Making a whole lot of money won’t fill the hole in a person’s life.
Bob and Solomon both asked questions similar to Mathew 16:26, What shall it profit a man if he gains the whole world and lose his own soul? Solomon gained vast riches and the full benefit of all its pleasures. However, his bottom line, his total satisfaction, added up to zero. The message is clear: true meaning in life is found only in a relationship with God (8:12). Many men have followed the path which Solomon had taken and ended up realizing they ended up poorer than when they first begun.
Apply: If Bob had asked the question differently, it would have made a whole lot of sense, but to begin with “Can I get rich?” is a nonstarter. There are a lot of possibilities in life. Bob could have gotten rich, or he could have lost everything. He could have gotten cancer, or he could have run marathons. He could have even been blinded from a pool stick getting poked in his eye. But amidst the possibilities, the unusual and the mundane, the only thing that matters, the only thing that is meaningful, and the only thing that brings true joy, is Jesus Christ. Make him the Lord of your life and everything else falls into place. Bob didn’t accept Christ that night, but I believe we got a little closer to what life is all about: Jesus.