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Wealths Passing Value
Scripture: Ecclesiastes 2:1-16; Matthew 16:24-26
Track 3 of 10 in the Pipe Dream series
Running time: 58 minutes, 13 seconds.
The slogan for todays lifestyle can be reduced to six single words: If it feels good, do it! These words might not be written on a bronze plaque somewhere for everyone to see, nevertheless, they are sandwiched between the lines of our advertisements, and hidden within the scripts of our commercials. Our music has this theme all through it. It is in our movies and TV shows. If it feels good, do it!

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Mike Nobis Speaker: Mike Nobis
Sunday School Teacher, Former Elder at Madison Park Christian Church. Mike is President of JK Creative Printers & Mailing in Quincy, IL. He is married to Pam and has three children, Tom, Tyler and Jennifer. Mike has three grandchildren: Ryne, Ivy and Alicia.

View all sermons by this speaker.

Ecclesiastes 2:1-16
Wealth’s Passing Value

According to Solomon, everything under the sun, without God in our lives, is meaningless. Outside of God, there is no way of gaining satisfaction. Last week we talked about how apathy rules in a world without God. If there is no God in life, then who cares anyway? Anything goes but anything doesn't satisfy.

But if this is true, as Solomon has written, then why do people (including Christians) try so hard to find satisfaction and fulfillment in things and pleasure?

The slogan for today’s lifestyle can be reduced to six single words: If it feels good, do it! These words might not be written on a bronze plaque somewhere for everyone to see, nevertheless, they are sandwiched between the lines of our advertisements, and hidden within the scripts of our commercials. Our music has this theme all through it. It is in our movies and TV shows. If it feels good, do it!

All of this might seem ultra modern and this problem might seem new, but the roots go way back to the ancient Greeks. They coined the term, Eros. Eat, drink and be merry for tomorrow we die. Today in our culture, we say, “ You only go around once”.

If you remember, Ecclesiastes was written by a man who had the highest office in the nation. He was the King. His nation enjoyed peace and prosperity. His very name, Solomon, mean peace. His 40-year reign of peace followed 40 years of war from his father David. The nation had a sort of a yawning, aching desire to lie back, relax, and enjoy life for a while attitude.

Remember, the theme of this book is life under the sun or under heaven. In other words, the king was looking under the heavens to find happiness without God. In the first chapter he looked in education, science and found that both left him empty. Surly there has got to be something that can satisfy me Solomon thought. So he begins his journey down the Eros road to find it.

Ecclesiastes 2:1 (NIV)
I thought in my heart, "Come now, I will test you with pleasure to find out what is good." But that also proved to be meaningless.

What is wrong with this verse? What is typical for many people and unfortunately, many Christians? Before Solomon started on his pleasure journey, with whom did he consult to get advice? He didn't consult with a single person.

How many ventures do you start or decisions do you make in life where you rely on other’s opinions but fail to include God in your plans? Why is that? Why do you think Solomon didn't get advice from others about this? What lessons could he have learned about this journey from the life of his father David?

Solomon doesn't beat around the bush. He lets us know how that journey went. What was the final outcome? Why?

Matthew 16:24-26 (NIV) Then Jesus said to his disciples, "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it. What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul? Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul? Jesus said, "If any man will come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me."

A college president, William Banowski interviewed Hugh Hefner. He wrote of this encounter:

I was made keenly aware of the universal appeal of Jesus during one of my conversations with Hugh Hefner in Chicago. As we talked, Mr. Hefner surprised me by saying, "If Christ were here today and had to choose between being on the staff of one of the joy-killing, pleasure-denying churches, he would, of course, immediately join us." What most offended Jesus' contemporaries, and what modern men find even harder to accept, is His insistence that to find life we must first lose it. Hugh Hefner writes: "We reject any philosophy which holds that a man must deny himself for others." The playboy cult holds that every man ought to love himself preeminently and pursue his own pleasure constantly. Nowhere is the clash between popular playboyism and the ethical realism of Jesus any sharper than over how the good life is to be achieved. Hugh Hefner tells us to get all we can. Jesus tells us to give all we can. Because the clash is total, there is no way to gloss over it. The popular philosophy teaches that to get life you must grab it; Jesus taught that to win we must surrender. The conflict is absolute and irrevocable.

What is false about this statement and what is true? Do Christians today agree with Hefner by the actions they do and the things the try to acquire?

Ecclesiastes 2:1-11 (NIV)
I thought in my heart, "Come now, I will test you with pleasure to find out what is good." But that also proved to be meaningless. "Laughter," I said, "is foolish. And what does pleasure accomplish?" I tried cheering myself with wine, and embracing folly--my mind still guiding me with wisdom. I wanted to see what was worthwhile for men to do under heaven during the few days of their lives. I undertook great projects: I built houses for myself and planted vineyards. I made gardens and parks and planted all kinds of fruit trees in them. I made reservoirs to water groves of flourishing trees. I bought male and female slaves and had other slaves who were born in my house. I also owned more herds and flocks than anyone in Jerusalem before me. I amassed silver and gold for myself, and the treasure of kings and provinces. I acquired men and women singers, and a harem as well--the delights of the heart of man. I became greater by far than anyone in Jerusalem before me. In all this my wisdom stayed with me. I denied myself nothing my eyes desired; I refused my heart no pleasure. My heart took delight in all my work, and this was the reward for all my labor. 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.

Notice all the things that Solomon tries and uses to gain pleasure? What were the things and did they give him what he wanted?

Laughter – Bring on the comedians. Jokes are great. But how far do we have to go to keep them funny? When they are no longer funny, then what? What is the result? Foolishness or madness

Wine – Note that Solomon was not a drunk in a gutter somewhere. We was wealthy and educated. He wanted to be guided to all realms of pleasure through alcoholic beverages. He embraced folly while doing it. What pleasure can be found in a bottle? Why is social drinking such a big thing these days? What about our generation today? What about our kid’s generation? What are they looking for there? What

Work – He tries architecture. He decides to build beautiful structures. (verses 4-10) Notice these were not projects for the people, they were personal projects. Look at how many times he uses the words “I” and “ my” in these verses.

Have you ever gone to a very important place by yourself? Maybe it was a famous historical place? Or a place of great beauty? It might have been a place you always wanted to go? Is it more meaningful seeing or experiencing these places with someone or by yourself?

Can you see Solomon standing by himself in all the splendors he had built and enjoying them? What was missing? What would you do if you were Solomon? Look at verses 7-8. Notice, it didn't say I had a lot of friends who came to visit me. He had to buy or acquire them. In all his wealth, he was a lone.

Look at verse 9. We will see this statement several times in Ecclesiastes. He mentions that he still had his wisdom. What do you think he is saying by that?

In all that he had accomplished, he still had ideas. The wisdom he is talking about is human wisdom. If it were Godly, he wouldn't be doing what he was doing. Because his ideas didn't satisfy, he kept on building more and more things, and acquiring more and more things. To some people who have everything, they go insane. This was not Solomon’s problem. He had more ideas but he knew they wouldn't satisfy either.

What happens when you have exhausted yourself accomplishing things and realize that all you have done meant nothing? What do you do now? Look at verse 11. What conclusion does Solomon come to?

The story is told of a farmer who had lived on the same farm all his life. It was a good farm, but with the passing years, the farmer began to tire of it. He longed for a change--for something "better." Every day he found a new reason for criticizing some feature of the old place. Finally, he decided to sell, and listed the farm with a real estate broker who promptly prepared a sales advertisement. As one might expect, it emphasized all the farm's advantages: ideal location, modern equipment, healthy stock, acres of fertile ground, etc. Before placing the ad in the newspaper, the Realtor called the farmer and read the copy to him for his approval. When he had finished, the farmer cried out, "Hold everything! I've changed my mind. I am not going to sell. I've been looking for a place like that all my life."

Ecclesiastes 2:12-14 (NIV)
Then I turned my thoughts to consider wisdom, and also madness and folly. What more can the king's successor do than what has already been done? I saw that wisdom is better than folly, just as light is better than darkness. The wise man has eyes in his head, while the fool walks in the darkness; but I came to realize that the same fate overtakes them both.

I find these verses fascinating. In all that he did, he did not find satisfaction. For most people, this would drive them to madness. But this didn't stop him. He felt there had to be something out there that could satisfy. So he comes to a conclusion, “If the physical doesn't satisfy, then let’s look into the mental areas in life.

The pattern is true, it always seems that once a person acquires great wealth, they then start to think and that gets them into trouble. Wisdom seems to be this thing out there that gives their great wealth validity.

True or False: You are better off going through life using your head and being careful in all your decisions.

Human wisdom will also fade.

According to Solomon, are you better off being a person who goes through life using his head and being careful in all his decisions or like a man who really doesn't care what happens and blows the lid off of life and does whatever he wants?

Ecclesiastes 2:15-16 (NIV)
Then I thought in my heart, "The fate of the fool will overtake me also. What then do I gain by being wise?" I said in my heart, "This too is meaningless." For the wise man, like the fool, will not be long remembered; in days to come both will be forgotten. Like the fool, the wise man too must die!

Look at verses 15-16. What gain does a man have when he acts wisely on all his actions? Where does he end up in the end? Name me some men and women who today are considered very smart and wise. What have they done with their wisdom? What achievements have they performed? How are they different than someone who is a fool and really doesn't care about what happens in his life or others?