Wisdom from King Solomon at the End of His Life
We all need wisdom. This short book of the Bible is some of the deepest, most life-impacting wisdom for our world today. The book of Ecclesiastes was written by a king named Solomon. Solomon was the wisest and wealthiest man who ever lived. Today, people will pay thousands of dollars to go hear Warren Buffet, Bill Gates or a former President speak. Solomon actually had more money (in today's dollars) than Buffet and Gates combined. In addition, he was noted for his wisdom and people from all over the world traveled to learn from him. When he was becoming the king over Israel, God allowed him to ask for anything - Solomon (instead of asking for money, long-life or victory over his enemies) asked God for wisdom. God granted his request, and all these other things came with it.
Yet, Solomon is writing Ecclesiastes in his old age as he looks back over his life and despite being incredibly wealthy and successful, he looks back with regret. In fact, Solomon is probably the most disappointing person in the entire Bible. Solomon had so much, but he missed what was most important. Now, at the end of his life, he is begging those who come behind him not not miss it. Not to invest in things that are "meaningless" and "a chasing after the wind."
The beginning of Ecclesiastes is a little depressing. Solomon basically shows us the brevity of life, and how it will all go away so quickly. Then, he tells us what he so wrongly invested in during his life. There were four things that Solomon invested in, and these are the same four things that most people in our world invest their life in today:
Pleasure - Solomon outlines how he chased after pleasure. And, he did. Solomon had 700 wives and 300 concubines. He writes, "I denied myself nothing my eyes desire; I refused my heart no pleasure." (Ecclesiastes 2:10) Think about how people in our society run after pleasure today thinking it will satisfy - every form of entertainment, the best food, wine, pornography - but it only leaves us wanting more. We never have enough. Until, like Solomon, we are old and realize that this is "meaningless." As Solomon writes later in Ecclesiastes, it is good to enjoy life - and I believe God wants us to, in a wholesome way - but we must never allow our lives to be consumed with this insatiable desire for more pleasure.
Knowledge - Solomon writes how he also made his life's pursuit knowledge. And, he did. He studied everything that was available in the world at that time. He had the greatest scholars and centers of higher learning. The Queen of Sheba and others came just to listen to and learn from Solomon. Today, we still pursue knowledge relentlessly - we have degrees, graduate degrees and PhDs. We have Google, Siri, Echo and more. We have a fear of not knowing. And again, like pleasure, knowledge is a good thing. In fact, did you know Harvard, Yale and many other Ivy League Universities were started by Christians as centers of higher learning? But what happened there, can so easily happen to us - it becomes about the knowledge itself instead of Who gives the knowledge and what we do with it to help others and to further God's Kingdom. So, at the end of his day, Solomon writes, "For the wise man, like the the fool, will not be long remembered; in the days to come both will be forgotten. Like the fool, the wise man too must die!" (Ecclesiastes 2:16)
Work - Solomon also expresses how he poured himself into his work. And, history shows that he did. Solomon was a master builder. He built the Temple (an architectural marvel at the time), he built palaces and fortresses. He conquered nations. He built a stable for a 1,000 horses and chariots. He was brilliant and, by the world's standards, extremely successful. Yet, he was building his own kingdom - a kingdom that wouldn't last. How relevant this is for today! How many people invest their lives into the jobs and careers. While we should all do a great job with whatever we do, and we realize that God has wired us to do certain things really well, we can never allow our jobs to become more important than God or to sacrifice our marriage or family on the altar of our career. Solomon did, and the kingdom he built was divided after he died and his family was dysfunctional. Solomon writes, "I hated all the things I had toiled for under the sun, because I must leave them to the one who comes after me. And who knows whether he will be a wise man or a fool? Yet he will have control over all the work into which I have poured my effort and skill under the sun. This too is meaninglessness." (Ecclesiastes 2:18)
Money - Solomon had more money than anyone who has ever lived, and yet it was never enough. Now, money is not bad, in and of itself; in fact, money can be used for good - to do a lot of good. But, money can easily become the chief competitor for our heart. Why? Because it never satisfies. You never hear someone say, "I have enough money." And, this causes intense worry and consternation. Our faith and trust is really in money. Therefore, our world today pursues money. We check the stock market on our phones, we look at our bank accounts every day and we pray for God to give us more money. But, here's what we can learn - we will never have as much money as Solomon and he never had enough. Our faith cannot be in money, but in the God from Whom all blessings flow. If we don't control money, then it will control us. Solomon writes, "I have seen another evil under the sun, and it weighs heavily on men: God gives a man wealth, possessions and honor, so that he lacks nothing his heart desires, but God does not enable him to enjoy them and a stranger enjoys them instead. This is meaningless, a grievous evil." (Ecclesiastes 6:1-2) You can't take it with you. All of these things are temporary. Only God is eternal.
Finally, Solomon comes to the conclusion of the matter. Here he is passing on all of his wisdom to those who come after me. This is priceless wisdom! This is life-impacting wisdom! This old, wealthy, successful king who has seen it all and done it all now passes on to us this:
"Now all has been heard; here is the conclusion of the matter: Fear God and keep His commandments, for this is the whole duty of man. For God will bring every deed into judgement, including every hidden thing, whether it is good or evil." (Ecclesiastes 12:13-14)
Yes! There it is! From someone who has seen it all and done it all. Solomon boils it down to say, "Put God first in your life. Follow Him and trust Him with your whole heart." Don't you know how much Solomon wishes he would have followed this advice? Don't you hear him imploring those who are coming behind him? Wisdom is calling out to us from the generations - will we listen and invest our lives in what really matters?
It is so easy for us to fall into the same trap as Solomon - we can worship the gifts instead of the Giver. We can work to build our own kingdom (that will not last) instead of investing in His Kingdom (that will last forever). Jesus said it this way, "But seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these things will be given unto you." (Matthew 6:33)
Don't wait until the end of your life to get this life-impacting wisdom. Make pursuing Christ the dominant goal of your life, and He will add to you everything else. In fact, He will give you the desires of your heart and He will allow you to enjoy life. So, is Christ first in your life? Are you worshipping the gifts or the Giver? Where do you spend most of your time, money and thought? This will show you what you value most. Evaluate everything. Don't wait until you are old, and you look back with regret. Pursue Christ and He will bring fulfillment unto you now and forevermore.
Your best days are still ahead, so implement this life-impacting wisdom and reach your full potential for the glory of our great God!
Jeff Simmons is the Founder and Lead Pastor of Rolling Hills Community Church in Franklin, TN. He also serves as the President of Justice & Mercy International, a nonprofit that exists to make justice personal for the poor, the orphaned and the forgotten of the world. His faith in God and role as husband and father motivates him to be the leader he is and to do the work he has been called to.
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