The Futility of Pleasure

The Futility of Pleasure

“I said to myself, ‘Come now, I will test you with pleasure.  So enjoy yourself.’ And behold, it too was futility.”

Ecclesiastes 2:1-11

             

            In his pursuit of meaning and purpose in life, Solomon embarked on a journey that would take him down many paths.  However, these are not just the paths a person takes when they are unhappy, but the paths that all people take as they seek to find the significance and happiness of life.  In his pursuit of meaning, he embraces different avenues representing all people.  As we read the book of Ecclesiastes, we must see ourselves.  The pursuits of Solomon serve as a mirror to reflect our pursuits in seeking to discover meaning, purpose, and contentment in life.

            The first path Solomon proposes is the one we are most familiar with in our consumer-driven society, and that is the pursuit of pleasure and possessions.  To find joy in life, he embraced the lifestyle that has become the mantra of our culture:  If it feels good, do it. Thus, he sought all the pleasures and comforts life has to give.  Life is short, so find what is enjoyable and go for it.  So, he pursued a life of joy and comfort.  He built gardens so that he might enjoy all the pleasures of fine food.  He built parks to find enjoyment in the quiet of a lakeside retreat.  He brought in workers who would take care of all his needs.  He possessed great wealth, so he could obtain anything he desired.  If he wanted it, he got it.  

            In his pursuit of happiness through pleasure, accomplishments, and material possessions, he found that he was pursuing an illusion.  All these things promised fulfillment but never delivered.  No matter how much we seek happiness through pleasure, we are forever confronted with the emptiness inside.  There is always something else that promises us fulfillment if we just attain it.  But in the end, they fail to deliver.  We equate happiness and enjoyment with meaning, so we tenaciously pursue what we believe will make us happy.  We go to church and evaluate the music by its entertaining and exciting nature.  We judge the pastor by how much his message uplifts us and makes us feel good rather than how much it challenges us.  We want an “uplifting” message rather than a transformational message.  Amazon becomes our constant companion as we look for the latest and greatest gadget based on the illusion that if we buy it it will bring a new level of contentment and happiness.

            For all our pursuits of pleasure and materialism, we are still confronted with the same worries, the same problems, and the same struggles. Pleasures and material possessions may let us forget our troubles for a moment, but they never free us from them.

            This is not to say that these things are evil.  God gives us life to enjoy, and part of that enjoyment includes attending a captivating concert or relaxing by a mountain lake and enjoying the quiet scenery.  However, Solomon reminds us that these things do not provide true meaning and purpose in life.  Contentment does not come from accomplishments, pleasures, or possessions.  Contentment only comes from our relationship with God.  The essence of life is found in the pursuit of Him so that when we follow Christ and truly walk in fellowship with Him, we find joy and meaning in life that is eternal rather than temporal.  Too often, we fall prey to the “If only…then…” delusion.  If only I had a new car, then I would be happy.  If only I had a better and bigger house, then I would have fulfilled.  And the list goes on. While these things may give us momentary happiness, they fail to provide lasting contentment. The only real substance in life that offers lasting joy and peace is our relationship with Christ.   This is the only pursuit that brings true satisfaction. 

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