You Can Have It All

Pastor Ken Gast

Ecclesiastes 2:1-11 (NIV) I said to myself, “Come now, I will test you with pleasure to find out what is good.” But that also proved to be meaningless. 2 “Laughter,” I said, “is madness. And what does pleasure accomplish?” 3 I tried cheering myself with wine, and embracing folly—my mind still guiding me with wisdom. I wanted to see what was good for people to do under the heavens during the few days of their lives. 4 I undertook great projects: I built houses for myself and planted vineyards. 5 I made gardens and parks and planted all kinds of fruit trees in them. 6 I made reservoirs to water groves of flourishing trees. 7 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. 8 I amassed silver and gold for myself, and the treasure of kings and provinces. I acquired male and female singers, and a harem as well—the delights of a man’s heart. 9 I became greater by far than anyone in Jerusalem before me. In all this my wisdom stayed with me. 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. 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.

Twister. Have you seen the movie? It goes back quite a way, but it has been on TV quite often. In fact, it was on TV the day I wrote this message. It involves a number of people who chase after tornadoes, winds that swirl dangerously. It is a perilous chasing as the devastating tornado can suddenly turn and attack those chasing it. The reason for the chase is scientific data, but often this is not accomplished because the tornado does such unexpected things or it simply dies out before the data can be gathered. Would you consider being such a wind chaser? Well, you and I, at least at times, are wind chasers, the kind Solomon spoke of in the Old Testament reading a few minutes ago. It is an entirely different kind of wind, but just as dangerous and disappearing. So as we continue our series on “The Lies We Believe”, today we focus on the lie, “I can have it all.” Solomon’s inspired words would dispel that lie with this truth today: GOD’S PEOPLE ARE NOT WIND-CHASERS. I. They recognize the things in life that are meaningless. II. They find meaning in God’s presence in their life.

In the view of many Solomon had it all. He was extremely wealthy, blessed with great worldly wisdom, owned all sorts of property, was king of one of the greatest nations on earth at the time. Unfortunately, he to a degree blew it all. He was convinced by foreign wives to chase after foreign gods instead of the Lord. He lost the great wisdom that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom and the promises of the Lord in the coming Savior was what he should chase after. The book he authored by inspiration of the Holy Spirit is called “Ecclesiastes”, which in the Greek Septuagint translation of the Bible means, “teacher”. King Solomon would gather his people in great assembly and teach them awesome things. Some think this book was one of his teaching lectures. What did he and God want the people and us to learn from this portion of the lecture and all the rest of his teaching? Basically, that God’s people are not wind chasers.

As Luther said, one really needs to read the whole book to get full impact of what the teacher is teaching. In fact, one really needs to read the context of the whole word of God. But let’s start here. Solomon began, “I thought in my heart, ‘Come now, I will test you with pleasure to find out what is good.” Solomon is talking to himself. He was perhaps now an elderly man who looked back on how he had lived much of his life. Recall, he had it all. He could well afford many kinds of pleasure, banquets of more food and drink than one can imagine, much laughter as he and his friends lived it up, too much wine and embracing folly, things beyond what God considered good and right. All these things he chased after to see if they were the good things of life. And it didn’t stop there.

He wrote, “And I undertook great projects.” Indeed, he did. While he does not mention the temple the Lord had him build to worship the Lord, he built great houses for himself. In fact, the palace he built for himself took five years longer to build than the temple of God. He went on to tell, “I built gardens and parks, I bought slaves, I owned more herds and flocks than anyone in Jerusalem, I amassed silver and gold, I acquired singers, I had a harem.” Indeed, in I Kings we are told he had 700 wives and 300 concubines. He summed it all up by saying, “I denied myself nothing my eyes desired; I refused my heart no pleasure.” In the eyes of the world it appeared Solomon indeed had it all. Yet, how does he describe it? “Everything is meaningless, a chasing after the wind.” None of this got him in good standing with the Lord. None of this was lasting. None of this gave real hope and lasting joy. It was all a chasing after the wind, meaningless, temporary and disappearing offerings of the world.

What was your first response when you heard this portion of Solomon’s book in the Old Testament reading? Was it similar to mine when I first started studying this portion of God’s word for this message? Cynical? Negative? Depressing? What does our Lord want us to learn? But then, like all of Scripture, when I really dug in, considered the whole book and all of God’s word, it became very clear. God’s people are not wind chasers. No, I don’t mean tornadoes or hurricanes. If you want to chase them, go ahead, but be careful. Be even more careful to recognize the winds that are meaningless in the end. Worldly pleasure, empty laughter, many possessions and properties, wine, women and song. It may appear that they who have all this have it all, but it is another of Satan’s lies. Like the wind they just swirl and disappear. Solomon still seemed to recognize all this because he had not entirely lost the wisdom God had given him. He said, “My mind is still guiding me with wisdom” and “In all this my wisdom stayed with me.” He still recognized that all that he had was meaningless in the sense it did not give him the life or the eternity that only his Lord and Savior could give. And that is the lesson the teacher, Solomon, would give us today also. God’s people are not wind chasers. They find meaning in God’s presence in their life.

There are hints at this in the wisdom references in this section of the book Solomon wrote by the working of the Holy Spirit, but read the entire book and it becomes abundantly clear that this so-called wind in many cases can be enjoyed by God’s people when they find meaning in them in God’s presence with them and they are gifts of God. A few examples: 3:13, “that everyone might eat and drink and find satisfaction in all his toil-this is the gift of God.” Doesn’t that echo Paul’s words in Corinthians, “Whether you eat or drink, do it all to the glory of God.”? 9:9, “Enjoy life with your wife, whom you love, all the meaningless days of this life God has given you.” 2:26: “To the man who pleases him, God gives wisdom, knowledge and happiness.” When the things in life God calls good are enjoyed with God’s presence and in the acknowledgement that they are his gifts, they are no longer only wind to be chased after as if that is all there is. God’s people find meaning in God’s presence in their lives.

And nowhere more so than when they come to the Lord’s house and hear his word, all of it. Solomon still recognized this. In chapter five, verse one, he wrote, “Guard your steps when you go to the house of God. Go near to listen…” There in God’s law he heard as we hear what he wrote in 7:20, “There is no righteous man on earth who does what is right and never sins.” Solomon knew his sin and ours also. That echoes Paul’s words in Romans, “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” But always read to the end dear fellow sinner. In his closing words of this book Solomon calls his Lord the same thing his father David had, his Shepherd. It was his Shepherd, his Savior God who had promised his father and him that one day he would come into this world of wind chasers and sinners and pay for every sin with his perfect life and innocent death. Then he would take it up again so he could say to all sinners as he did to the criminal next to him on the cross, “Today you will be with me in paradise.” So Solomon close to a thousand years earlier wrote in chapter 12, “and the dust returns to the ground it came from, and the spirit returns to God who gave it.” So he urged the assembly of God’s people back then and he urges us today to listen to the Shepherd’s voice that likewise taught that all the things of this world, even the good things God gives, are like the wind that swirls and disappears. Don’t fall for the lie that in those things you have it all. Rather, seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness and all these things will be given you as well. Enjoy God’s good gifts, even of this life. But always see them as meaningless as far as salvation and eternity are concerned, as wind or mist or your breath on a cold Minnesota day, which is there for a moment and then is gone. So as one of God’s people through Spirit worked faith in Jesus Christ, don’t be a wind chaser.

You can have it all? Yes, in our Savior we do have it all and we always will. Amen.