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Author:Pastor Keith Davis
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Congregation:Bethel United Reformed Church
 Calgary, Alberta
 www.bethelurc.org
 
Preached At:Lynwood United Reformed Church
 Lynwood, IL
 www.lynwoodurc.org
 
Title:The Search for Satisfaction
Text:Ecclesiastes 5:8-20 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:Living in a sinful world
 
Preached:2012-03-18
Added:2012-06-20
Updated:2016-12-04
 

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Riches Are Meaningless

If you see the poor oppressed in a district, and justice and rights denied, do not be surprised at such things; for one official is eyed by a higher one, and over them both are others higher still. The increase from the land is taken by all; the king himself profits from the fields.

10 Whoever loves money never has money enough;
    whoever loves wealth is never satisfied with his income.
    This too is meaningless.

11 As goods increase,
    so do those who consume them.
And what benefit are they to the owner
    except to feast his eyes on them?

12 The sleep of a laborer is sweet,
    whether he eats little or much,
but the abundance of a rich man
    permits him no sleep.

13 I have seen a grievous evil under the sun:

wealth hoarded to the harm of its owner,
14     or wealth lost through some misfortune,
so that when he has a son
    there is nothing left for him.
15 Naked a man comes from his mother’s womb,
    and as he comes, so he departs.
He takes nothing from his labor
    that he can carry in his hand.

16 This too is a grievous evil:

As a man comes, so he departs,
    and what does he gain,
    since he toils for the wind?
17 All his days he eats in darkness,
    with great frustration, affliction and anger.

18 Then I realized that it is good and proper for a man to eat and drink, and to find satisfaction in his toilsome labor under the sun during the few days of life God has given him—for this is his lot. 19 Moreover, when God gives any man wealth and possessions, and enables him to enjoy them, to accept his lot and be happy in his work—this is a gift of God. 20 He seldom reflects on the days of his life, because God keeps him occupied with gladness of heart

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Pastor Keith Davis, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.


The Search for Satisfaction

Ecclesiastes 5:8-20

Preached by Rev. Keith Davis at Lynwood URC on 3-18-12 (Songs:  263, 451, 64, 110)

 

Beloved congregation of our Lord Jesus Christ, many of the products we buy in the store or on-line come with a satisfaction guaranteed type of promise or warranty.  If we’re not completely satisfied with the taste, or with the performance, or with the quality of a product, we can simply return it and get our money back.    

 

As you know from experience, that promise, that guarantee is a great comfort to shoppers; it gives us an added sense of security knowing that if we buy something that disappoints us -- that doesn’t do what we want it to do, we can simply return it for a full refund. 

 

Well, as great as that promise is for the things we buy at the store, this guarantee doesn’t carry over to the rest of life.  Even though everyone in our world seems to be searching for the same things – satisfaction in our marriage, job, health, home life, or for happiness, peace, joy, or prosperity -- there are no guarantees; there are no promises we’ll find what we’re searching for. 

 

But if we find that our life is filled with more pain than pleasure, if we find that sorrow and setback and disappointment accompany our way more than joy and success and accomplishment, there is no complaint department.  There is no one to whom we can go and say, life has been unfair to me lately; life has been cruel and unjust; I’d like to get another chance.  I’d like to get a better life, thank you very much.   

 

Unfortunately, there are no guarantees in life.  And Solomon makes that same point in this passage.  He knows that everyone in this world is searching for satisfaction, they are turning this way and that, but there is no satisfaction found under the sun.  There is only corruption, and greed, and selfishness.  That’s what we are going to look at this morning.  Here: Man searches in vain for satisfaction.  There is no satisfaction Found:

1) In Public Officials  

2) In Earthly Riches

 

 

1) Public Officials

Let’s look at verses 8-9.  Solomon is talking about something he’s discussed before.  He has made the observation that the poor are oppressed, that poor, powerless, ordinary citizens are denied their rights; they are denied justice.  But in this passage, Solomon identifies the culprits.  He points the finger at the guilty party.

 

What he reveals is most troubling; it’s most disheartening.  He points out that the poor are routinely oppressed, they are often exploited and fleeced (taken advantage of) by their own governing officials; by those (ironically) who’ve been appointed to look out for their interests!

 

But what is so interesting is that instead of being filled with a sense of moral outrage about this, instead of being angry and denouncing such a wicked practice, Solomon merely says: don’t be surprised at such things.

 

He writes: one official is eyed by a higher one, and over them both are others higher still.  What Solomon describes there is familiar to us – it’s the chain of command; it’s the pecking order, the hierarchy -- that’s found in every system of government, at every level of society, in all major corporations and businesses and institutions.

 

Now, it’s not exactly clear as to the exact cause of the injustice and oppression.  He doesn’t point out exactly how these officials are taking advantage of the poor, but Solomon seems to suggest that corruption and injustice is an inherent weakness in this system of higher-ups.  Where ever we find a multi-level bureaucracy – whether it’s in a business, or an institution, or even a local, state or federal government, there’s bound to be dishonesty and abuse and corruption.

 

For those among us who followed the news in Illinois this past week, we were given a stark reminder of this.  Another former Illinois governor was marched off to prison.  Why?  Because he was found guilty of corruption; he abused the power and authority of his office as governor. 

 

And the funny thing is, throughout the hearings six months ago, Rod Blagojevich maintained his innocence, but at the same time he admitted that he only did whatevery other politician before him did; he stated that this happens at every level of government.    

 

That seems to lend more credence to what Solomon observed: don’t be surprised at such things.  I don’t want to say that this is the way government works, because (at least here in America) the system itself isn’t corrupt.  It’s the people working in the system of government.  The politicians are the ones who use the system to their advantage; who pass legislation that will benefit corporations in which they have stock holdings.

 

The politicians are the ones who (behind the scenes) award contracts to businesses that are run by family members or friends or other politicians.  I just read in the newspaper last Friday that the chief of food services for the Chicago Public School, as well as two of her staff members are under investigation for receiving tens of thousands of dollars of improper gifts given to them from two of the largest food vendors in the district. 

 

In other words, this woman, the chief of food services, received bribes from the two major food vendors so that their companies would be assured of doing business with the Chicago Public schools.  That’s the way people get rich off the system -- through bribery and deceit, through shady back room deals; a wink of the eye; a greasing of the palm.  

 

But “who cares” right, It’s only the tax payer’s money.”  That’s they way people see it.  So Solomon says, don’t be naïve.  Don’t think that you are ever going to find satisfaction in this world by trusting or depending upon governing officials, by looking to those in authority to provide help, to be honest or above reproach, to set high moral standards, to do what is right.

 

And from the way the NIV translates verse 9, we realize that this kind of injustice and corruption goes all the way to the top.  It is present even at the highest level of government, for even the king cannot be trusted; even the king takes his cut of the action; he claims his share, his percentage of the harvest of the poor man: the increase of the land is taken by all; the king himself profits from the fields.  

Now, the English Standard Version offers a very different translation of that verse.  It renders that verse in a positive fashion, contrasting it with what we read in verse 8.  That version reads: But this is gain for a land in every way: a king committed to cultivated fields.

 

In that version, the emphasis falls on the importance of having a wise and just and righteous king, a king who is not part of the problem of injustice and corruption, but he’s part of the solution.  This wise and righteous king is committed to economic freedom and prosperity.  A wise king protects society from the evils of corruption.  He encourages his people to cultivate their fields, to make their own living.

 

But either way, whether verse 9 actually indicts the king for his greed, or exonerates him for his wisdom, Solomon’s point remains the same.  There’s no satisfaction to be found here.  And I think that’s a great reminder to us as witness the Republican primary elections and as we gear up for the Presidential election that’s coming in November. 

 

I have to be careful what I say here as a minister of the Word, but I know that we would all love to have a President who would uphold truth and righteousness and justice in our nation; who would protect the unborn, and defend the institution of marriage; who would demand fiscal responsibility (a balanced budget), who would seek to recover the moral integrity of our nation.   

 

But even if such a wise and capable man was to ascend to the highest office of our land, and even if this was to happen in every nation -- where wise and godly men held positions of power and authority, Solomon’s point remains the same.  Our satisfaction, our thirst for justice and righteousness in this world is not going to be secured by trusting in certain political parties, or by trusting in influential politicians that we can hopefully vote into office.

 

For the fact is, politicians (as well as their policies) will always come up short; they will almost always disappoint us.  They will never be enough.  And keep in mind, even if a nation is blessed to have a king as wise and just and righteous as Solomon, he is still a sinner; he’s still prone to weakness, prone to failure; prone to the very sins and corruption that we’re talking about here!

 

And after Solomon came many kings who were very wicked and corrupt and unjust, who abused their power and oppressed the people.  That’s why we’re called as Christians to put our faith and hope and trust – not in a political party, not in a presidential nominee, but in the only One who is above all corruption and injustice: in the only One in whom lies all power and authority!

 

You know the One I’m talking about.  Jesus Christ, our Lord and King.  And unlike earthly kings, Jesus Christ doesn’t come to fleece His flock, or to tax his people, or take from them all their earthly riches and land.  No, Jesus came into this world to make us rich in heavenly things. 

 

Just recall what the prophet Isaiah said about King Jesus and his administration: For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.  Of the increase of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever.  The zeal of the LORD Almighty will accomplish this.

       

The only administration that will bring peace on earth, and joy in every heart, and justice for every citizen, and true contentment and prosperity for all is the administration of our Lord and King, Jesus Christ.  Christ is the only One who can set the records straight; He is the only One who can judge with equity – who can reward every good work and punish every evil deed.

 

And it is Christ the King who promises us (His people) satisfaction when it comes to repaying the harm and the wickedness which those in the world (those allied with Satan) have committed against the church of Jesus Christ.  Jesus will see to it that there is vengeance and vindication.

So we are called to seek our satisfaction in the only One who is just and righteous and true. 

 

2) Earthly Riches

So the first thing we see is the vanity of seeking satisfaction in our earthly officials.  Secondly, Solomon speaks of those who seek satisfaction by looking to accumulate earthly riches.  Let’s look at verses 10-11:  Whoever loves money never has money enough; whoever loves wealth is never satisfied with his income.  This too is meaningless. As goods increase, so do those who consume them. And what benefit are they to the owner except to feast his eyes on them?

 

Here Solomon places before us a universal truth.  That truth is this: for those who love money, no matter how much money they have, they always want more.  They are never satisfied.  They never have quite enough.  One of my commentaries cited the example of John D. Rockefeller. 

 

Back in the late 1800’s Rockefeller revolutionized the petroleum industry and he founded the Standard Oil Company in 1870.  In his day, he was one of the richest men in the world.  Yet when asked how much money was enough, he said Just a little bit more.

 

I believe that captures the essence of what Solomon is saying.  A man can have more money in his bank account than he can possibly spend in his entire lifetime, yet deep within his heart and soul he still isn’t satisfied; he still craves just a little more.  And while people who don’t know and love God might call that good business sense, or a relentless drive to succeed, the Bible calls it what it is.  It’s greed.  It’s coveting.  It’s a spiritual disease, a deadly illness that lies deep within the heart and soul of man.

 

In fact, one author gave this spiritual disease a name.  She called it affluenza: an unhealthy relationship with money or the pursuit of wealth (Ryken, 132).  The thing is afluenza isn’t just a problem among the wealthiest 1%, or the richest of the rich.  Just looking at our own nation for example, a case could be made that all Americans suffer at least a mild case of affluenza.

 

Even among us who express our thanks to God everyday for what we have, we can still be struck by this deadly disease.  For one moment our hearts are praising God from whom all blessings flow, but the very next moment our hearts are craving something we don’t have, something we can’t afford, something we have to do without.

 

Or maybe, like so many other Americans, we quietly, secretly entertain fantasies about winning the lottery, about inheriting a fortune, about having enough money not only to pay the mortgage every month, as well as the tuition payments and the car payments and the monthly bills – but maybe even having enough to put some money into savings, to save up and buy a new car, or to go to Europe, or travel the world.

 

And the thing is, what we see and hear on TV can feed this desire.  It’s no coincidence that during this time of economic downturn and recession that the most popular shows on television have to do with people speculating for gold as well as people selling valuable items at pawn shops or people who buy abandoned storage lockers at auction and discover a fortune inside.

 

As the price of gold sky-rocketed, so did man’s thirst to find gold.  And so a reality show called Gold Rush began two seasons ago and it tells the story of several different groups of men who pretty much were out of work, so they decided to liquidate whatever assets they could, and they headed to Alaska to mine for gold and hopefully strike it rich (so that they could not only pay off all their bills back home, but to get rich, to live the American dream!). 

 

As a viewing audience, you kinda get sucked into their day to day struggles and part of you hopes they strike it rich – that they get rewarded for all their heartache and effort; yet part of you hopes they don’t, because they’re getting rich and you’re not. It doesn’t seem fair that they can just go somewhere and dig in the ground and find a million dollars in gold, while we’re still driving a truck or teaching school or swinging a hammer.

 

That’s a symptom of affluenza.  Wouldn’t it be great if we could just strike it rich!  It’s also no coincidence that during this time of economic recession that there seems to be growing resentment and hatred of the rich and upper class.  The rhetoric of class envy and class warfare has ratcheted up like I have never heard it before.  

 

Last September we witnessed the beginning of the Occupy Wall Street movement as protestors gathered in the financial district of New York City, and the movement spread from there to other major cities all across American and even across the world.

 

Their slogan was We are the 99%  and they wanted to draw attention to what they called the inequality of income distribution in the United States.  They want the world to see the growing disparity between the wealthiest 1% and the rest of the population.

 

But I ask you, what drives that movement?  What’s behind it?  Is it really all about fairness?  Is it a really a sincere desire for all the nations’ citizens to have an equal and adequate percentage of wealth?  Isn’t it really about envy?  About coveting and wanting what someone else has?

 

And let’s just say for a moment that this is possible – that someone we did manage to take the majority of the wealth from the wealthiest 1% and distributed that wealth equally among the 99%, do you really think that would solve anything?  Do you really think that everyone – that anyone—would be satisfied with that?

 

Solomon knows better.  He knows our sinful human nature; he knows the power of affluenza and the devastating affect it has on us.  Solomon knows that no one is ever satisfied with an equal portion.  He knows that when push comes to shove, men become do delusional, so delirious with greed (i.e. gold fever), that they are even driven to extraordinary and extreme ends to attain wealth – even taking incredible personal risk in their search for riches, or even killing others just to take their wealth and riches.

 

Solomon wants God’s people to see wealth for what it really is.  And in verses 10-17 he tells us the truth about wealth and riches.  In verse 10 he basically says – the more you have, the more you want.  In verse 11 he says the more you have, the more people will come after you to consume your wealth (as well the IRS).  Verse 12 says the more you have the more you have to worry about.  Verse 13 says the more you have the more it can hurt you by holding on to it.

 

Verse 14 The more you have, the more you have to lose, and verse 15, the more you have, the more you have to leave behind. And then verses 16 and 17 basically say that in the end, what does man gain from his ungodly pursuit of wealth?  Instead of gain, there is loss; instead of gathering much, he is left with little.

 

All his days he eats in darkness, and with great frustration, affliction and anger.  This is not a portrait of a rich man standing with a smile on his face, beside hundreds of friends and family members, boasting that the world is his oyster.  No.  This is a pathetic portrait of a man who may possesses much wealth, but inside he is empty; he truly believed that money would bring him happiness, but in the end he’s all alone, he’s angry and he’s frustrated. 

 

Solomon’s purpose in showing us this pathetic portrait is clear – he wants us to find our satisfaction not in money, not in earthly riches, not in gold and silver, but he wants us to find our satisfaction in God, and in the blessings and riches that God gives.   

 

The key verse here is verse 19: …when God gives any man wealth and possessions, and enables him to enjoy them, to accept his lot and be happy in his work—this is a gift of God.  The world that God has created is full of riches and blessings.  And as Christians we can, and we do truly enjoy those blessings.  But we understand that the power to enjoy the gifts God has given only comes from God.  In other words, as one commentator noted, man may accumulate great wealth in this world, but satisfaction (the ability to enjoy God’s gifts) is sold separately.

Satisfaction is not something that can be found in the gifts themselves.  It’s something only God can give.  And this is why people in our world are not satisfied with the wife or the husband God gave them; this is why people in the world are not satisfied with the children God gave them; this is why people in the world are not satisfied with their job, with their bank account, or with their looks, or their income level, their house, their stock portfolio – because it’s never good enough.

 

Yet, they do not realize that the reason they feel unsatisfied has nothing to do with their wealth.  It has to do with their heart.  It has to do with their soul.  Man will find no satisfaction apart from faith in God.  And that goes for us as well beloved.  For we too have our earthly cravings; our hearts struggle with greed and envy and coveting.

 

And that is why as God’s people, we must always keep the cross of Jesus Christ before us.  We must always remember that the satisfaction that is spoken of here in this passage comes at a hefty price -- the price of God’s dear Son, Jesus Christ.  For the Father sent His Son into this world to die on the cross to save us, to rescue us, to redeem us from our sin of greed and covetousness, from our sinful cravings, from our insatiable desire for more, for bigger, for better.

 

Christ died on the cross and rose from the grave, not only to give us victory over these sins, but also to enable us, to empower us to enjoy the good gifts God has given to us in the right measure.  So that now, through the grace of God, we might be content and find joy in whatever God gives to us; so that now, through the grace of God, we might be content and find joy and fulfillment and satisfaction in our wife, in our husband, in our children, in our job, in our career and calling.

 

And when opportunities arise -- for job advancement or promotion or business expansion -- our decisions will not be driven by greed, or a thirst for more, but we will rejoice in the blessings God has placed before us and we will be content whether those opportunities come to fruition, or whether they fall through.  For, in Christ, we will be content whatever our circumstances; in Christ, we will serve and love God, the gift Giver; in Christ, we believe that God loves us, and He will provide for our every need!  In Christ, we have found satisfaction in Him.  Amen.




* As a matter of courtesy please advise Pastor Keith Davis, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
The source for this sermon was: www.lynwoodurc.org

(c) Copyright 2012, Pastor Keith Davis

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