Ecclesiastes 2:1-11

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Monday, January 27, 2020 0 comments

by Katie Erickson

Pleasure is a good thing, right? We all like it when things are going our way, when we get to spend time with people we enjoy doing things we like, and when we have material blessings that bring us pleasure. In our society, we often go to great lengths to not only avoid displeasure but to pursue those things that bring us happiness.

As we continue our journey through Ecclesiastes, the first two chapters focus on how various aspects of life are meaningless. In the Teacher’s quest for meaning in life, he has looked at nature and wisdom and found both to be meaningless, so now he investigates pleasure in today’s passage of Ecclesiastes 2:1-11.

If the material things of this world make us happy, then surely they should provide fulfilled meaning to our lives, right? First, the Teacher surrounds himself with laughter (verse 2), but that only kept him happy temporarily. Next, he tries drinking wine to give himself pleasure, but not too much that he doesn’t have his senses to analyze the experience (verse 3). This, too, does not satisfy him.

In verses 4-6, the Teacher tries to find meaning in doing great things. He builds houses for himself, and he plants vineyards, gardens, and parks. He planted fruit trees for pleasurable foods. He built water reservoirs to water all these. Of course, being king, the Teacher did not physically do the work himself, but he used these things as a creative outlet to fulfill his desires to accomplish good things, hoping that would bring him not only pleasure but meaning to his life.

Next in verse 7, he buys slaves to do more great things in his household, and he also acquired more livestock, hoping that all of these material things would bring meaning to his life. In verse 8, he builds his financial wealth and then acquires singers and a harem of women. By worldly standards, he had everything that all people would ever strive for! He was the greatest man alive. In all this, he states that he kept his God-given wisdom intact (verse 9).

The Teacher sums up his pursuit of pleasures in verse 10: “I denied myself nothing my eyes desired; I refused my heart no pleasure. My heart took delight in all my labor, and this was the reward for all my toil.” He had the means to be able to do and obtain whatever he wanted, and he did so - all for the purpose of determining what would give meaning to his life, of course. He did feel delighted and rewarded for all of this of course, but not enough to give his life true meaning.

We see that all these pleasures did not fulfill the Teacher in verse 11: “Yet when I surveyed all that my hands had done and what I had toiled to achieve, everything was meaningless, a chasing after the wind; nothing was gained under the sun.” We may feel like riches can buy us all the things that we need to be happy, but the Teacher did that and it didn’t work out that way for him. Everything was still meaningless. All of these pleasures were still like chasing after the wind, and he really didn’t gain anything that truly mattered.

We as humans get so caught up in the things of this world. I know it’s cliche to say how we’re all trying to “keep up with the Joneses” or have the latest and greatest thing, but it is true, isn’t it? We may be content with what we have for a time, but then a newer and better thing comes out and we just have to have it!

I myself have experienced that. Technology is one of my weaknesses. Multiple times I’ve bought a new iPad, laptop, phone, or another gadget when the one I had really did work just fine. I always come up with some way to justify the purchase to myself, and after I order something new, I always anticipate its arrival with excitement. When the new gadget arrives, sometimes it does bring me happiness for a while; other times, it’s disappointing to find out it doesn’t work the way I hoped it would. But either way, the “joy” that it brings me is truly only temporary.

We experience that same thing with relationships with other people too. Maybe you’ve just met or started dating someone, and the relationship is so new and exciting and amazing! But after a while, the newness wears off and maybe you start to see some of that person’s flaws. That may take a short time or not happen for years. Or maybe the person you thought was loyal to only you cheated on you with someone else, and the “joy” you had early on is now replaced with betrayal.

We see from the Teacher and from our own life experiences that the pleasures of things or people will never truly satisfy us. It all ends up being meaningless in the grand scheme of life. Sometimes it takes us a while to figure that out, but that is where everything does lead in this fallen world.

Don’t get me wrong, pleasure is not inherently a bad thing. But we need to make sure our focus is properly aligned. We can experience happiness with the things and people of this earth, but if we’re solely focused on them then we’ll miss what’s important - a relationship with God who created it all. He is the only thing that can truly give our lives meaning and lasting pleasure. We need to continually thank God for giving us all the things in our lives that do bring us joy, even if it is only temporary, and remember to keep our focus on Him for true pleasure in our lives.

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