This weekly topic is an effort to recap the Wednesday night Bible study I teach at Sola5, my youth group. I hope it serves to help us all in contemplating the ceaseless riches of God’s grace as revealed through the Scriptures.
On a scale of 1 to 10, how satisfied are you with your life? This was the question that opened our Bible study last night as we took a look at Ecclesiastes 6. Everybody seeks satisfaction in life – we all want happiness, fulfillment, and contentment. People seek satisfaction in many different ways with varying degrees of success. In our passage, Solomon looks at the many things that people chase after while examining the fact that they do not necessarily bring satisfaction. Why do these things fail? What then, is the answer?
First, in verses 1-9, we examined several things that are failed attempts at satisfaction for people in our world. The first is obvious, and it’s a topic that has come up several times already in our Ecclesiastes study – wealth. Solomon, in speaking of a man who has much but no enjoyment (satisfaction) of what he has, mentions first great wealth and possessions. We lumped those two together for our discussion last night. All around us – made even more clear in light of our current economic conditions – people spend their lives chasing after money and all it can buy, thinking that prosperity will equal a happy life. Yet, as our current economy also shows, money is fleeting, and many who have it still are left with a great emptiness. The next item after those is honor. People seek satisfaction in how others think of them. This can range from a desire for fame to simply wanting to be impressive to those in our social circle. I mentioned last night how these first two pursuits betray themselves on a show like American Idol (I admit, yes, I’m a fan). Many of the contestants from rough backgrounds talk about how the show is a chance to have a happier life. They say this because the show offers the promise of fame and fortune. Now, is there anything wrong in wanting to be a famous singer? Not necessarily. However, seeking satisfaction in honor and wealth will never deliver. Want proof? Pick up a copy of any entertainment or celebrity magazine and look the lives that are in shambles, all while having everything under the sun.
The next failed source of satisfaction may surprise – it’s people. Our secular culture, when it’s trying to be noble, will say that money doesn’t matter, it’s people and relationships that are most important. While there’s truth in that, no human relationship can ever truly offer satisfaction. Solomon says that a man can father a hundred children and still never find fulfillment. There are few greater gifts that God has given than human relationships. The Bible puts an incredible premium on our family relationships, and on how we relate to fellow believers in the church. However, people are no perfect source of satisfaction. They die and are gone, and they can make mistakes and inflict unbelievable pain. As a source of satisfaction, they ultimately fall short. Next, we looked at life itself as a source of satisfaction. Solomon asserts that a man could live a thousand years twice over and still not find peace. Plug in here all the things in this world that we seek to fill our lives with in order to have joy and meaning. All of them, without exception, come up short. Take any endeavor, any field of greatness, and you will find some who had it all and still yearned for more. Finally, as Solomon speaks about the wandering the appetite, we looked at the way that many people seek satisfaction in the search itself. Questions are more important than answers, they say. The journey is more important than the destination. People embark on a never-ending quest for knowledge, and can wind up even more unfulfilled then when they started.
So what can fulfill? What can really bring satisfaction? In verses 10-12, Solomon shifts his focus, beginning to talk about “one greater than [man]” before asking the question, “Who knows what is good for man while he lives the few days of his vain life?” While he doesn’t supply an explicit answer here, his answer is clear to anyone who knows the theme of the book, or indeed, the overarching theme of the Bible – God. God alone can ultimately bring satisfaction. He has created us to enjoy his glory forever, and thus anything else that we try to plug in his place will never satisfy as we crave it to. We are wired for God, and nothing else can take his place. All those things we talked about – wealth, honor, people, life, searching – will never give the satisfaction and fulfillment that a life shrouded in God’s grace, basking in his glory, and submitted to his wisdom will bring. As I said, those things are not necessarily bad. The vital aspect is seeing those things as gifts from God. When we have that approach, we will see those things as subservient in our hearts to God, and channels for worship to God. Instead of looking at our possessions and saying, “These are mine and they bring me happiness,” we will say, “Thank you God for blessing me with these things. Help me to enjoy them in a way that reminds my heart of your goodness.”
So, on that 1 to 10 scale, how satisfied are you with your life? If the answer is low, or even just lower than you’d like, what is it you lack that causes you to be dissatisfied? If you find yourself seeking satisfaction in something other than Christ, I pray that you’ll see the radiance of his glory, which, as Psalm 63 says, is able to quench our deepest longings.