This section and sermon I titled The Equalizer because in it we discover that there is one thing absolutely certain about life.
This absolute certainty is that we all, rich, poor, wise, foolish, ugly, pretty, fit, unfit, will die just the same.
This is the equalizer. It is because no one escapes the clutches of it.
Just like the movie I took the title from.
A few years back Denzel Washington made a movie called “The Equalizer.”
In this movie we see him working at a hardware store. He frequents a late night cafe and reads while drinking tea.
He has befriended a young woman there who is in forced prostitution by the Russian mafia.
He finds out that they had roughed her up and put her in the hospital. He went to them to buy her from them so she could go free.
Well, in this action they reject and mock him.
He walks to the door and locks it and turns around and scans the room and says “20 seconds.”
And then he dismantles the room and kills every person in it. Throughout the rest of the movie he does this same action to many different people who are evil and wicked.
The point is that every person that crosses the line and gets in his path face the same end.
Once in the sights of the equalizer, none escape but all meet their death.
This is what Solomon discovers in his search.
He has reviewed pleasure and found it lacking so he now turns to wisdom, and mad folly again.
He does this because just as we look for something we return to places again, and again because we believe it may be there on that second, third, or fourth look.
One time I had some bulls in a bull pasture that I checked a couple times a week. I arrive one day with my cousin Stephen and we count the bulls and find one short.
We look and look and count and count and then Stephen said, “As much as I try by counting again and again, I can’t make the bull be here.”
This is what we do when we continually look for purpose in the same old places only to find that it is not there.
This is what Solomon is doing here he is looking in the same places for this meaning of life we all seek.
He finds in this part of the search that there is one thing we all share which is the great equalizer of all humanity.
In Eccl. 2:12-26 we read,
12 So I turned to consider wisdom and madness and folly. For what can the man do who comes after the king? Only what has already been done. 13 Then I saw that there is more gain in wisdom than in folly, as there is more gain in light than in darkness. 14 The wise person has his eyes in his head, but the fool walks in darkness. And yet I perceived that the same event happens to all of them. 15 Then I said in my heart, “What happens to the fool will happen to me also. Why then have I been so very wise?” And I said in my heart that this also is vanity. 16 For of the wise as of the fool there is no enduring remembrance, seeing that in the days to come all will have been long forgotten. How the wise dies just like the fool! 17 So I hated life, because what is done under the sun was grievous to me, for all is vanity and a striving after wind. 18 I hated all my toil in which I toil under the sun, seeing that I must leave it to the man who will come after me, 19 and who knows whether he will be wise or a fool? Yet he will be master of all for which I toiled and used my wisdom under the sun. This also is vanity. 20 So I turned about and gave my heart up to despair over all the toil of my labors under the sun, 21 because sometimes a person who has toiled with wisdom and knowledge and skill must leave everything to be enjoyed by someone who did not toil for it. This also is vanity and a great evil. 22 What has a man from all the toil and striving of heart with which he toils beneath the sun? 23 For all his days are full of sorrow, and his work is a vexation. Even in the night his heart does not rest. This also is vanity. 24 There is nothing better for a person than that he should eat and drink and find enjoyment in his toil. This also, I saw, is from the hand of God, 25 for apart from him who can eat or who can have enjoyment? 26 For to the one who pleases him God has given wisdom and knowledge and joy, but to the sinner he has given the business of gathering and collecting, only to give to one who pleases God. This also is vanity and a striving after wind.Ecclesiastes 2:12–26 ESV
Right from the start we see that…
In the End, We’re All the Same
Solomon returned to wisdom and folly. He made a discovery that we can all agree with, it is better to be wise than a fool.
This seems relatively simple that anyone should realize this, but many do not.
Wisdom tells us that we should get sleep and not stay out late, but we go party and feel terrible the next day.
Wisdom tells us that we should save money, but we blow it on foolish things.
Wisdom tells us we should not break the law, but we speed, don’t wear a seat belt, and do rolling stops.
Also, wisdom tells us that belief in God the Father and Jesus Christ and living an obedient life to them is good and proper, but we many times live a life for ourselves over the Lord.
You see, we tend to decry the fool and speak how sad it is that the world is so foolish but we live as fools more than as wise.
Why is that?
It is because we live in darkness and if we do not allow the light of Christ to shine before us, we fall into foolishness.
Look at verses 13 and 14.
In them we see Solomon say there is more gain in light than darkness. That the wise has his eyes in his head but the fool walks in darkness.
This means that the wise sees the world for what it is and the fool blindly stumbles through it.
This also tells us that the wise see that death is coming. That it is unavoidable and they can prepare for it and be ready to face it.
But the fool, he will fall into unprepared.
Neither can stop death it is coming regardless. We can’t change that; we can only change how we perceive it and what happens when it arrives.
But even in preparation it comes. You can be the wisest and most prepared person alive and death still comes for you and the fool alike. It will happen as surely as The Equalizer takes out the Russian gang.
Which is why Solomon goes on and says that it is all vanity and emptiness.
What he means is that life’s meaning is not in wisdom or foolishness. It is in something more. It is in something beyond these concepts.
Yes, being wise is better than being a fool, but that is not what gives true meaning.
No, because just as the fool is forgotten, so will the wise be forgotten.
Learning this caused Solomon to despise life and think that it is all worthless.
Why do anything? Why gain anything? Why? Why? Why? If…
In the End, Our Gains Don’t Matter
In verses 17-18, 20, 22-23 we see that Solomon hates life, hates his toil, gave his heart up to despair, and says that all we do is nothing but sorrow, vexation, and that we can’t rest.
This is true. It is absolutely true.
Work, gains, and anything else we lay up is only empty and like trying to shepherd the wind.
It will make us lay awake at night worried we will lose it, that we need to do this and that, or that when we do die it will be left in the hands of those who may or may not continue our hard efforts moving forward.
We will despair and become bitter and hateful and hate life because in life we die and all we have done will be lost and left.
This is only true if one is looking at what they get and build as the end all be all of life.
No, there is so much more to life than just trying to use the wisdom God gave you for foolish walking in the dark blind things.
Why waste all our time walking with this false purpose that is not healthy and only causes despair?
It is crazy how often we allow ourselves to miss important time with family, church, and the Lord because of our self-justified foolish statements like, “well work is important so I am working because when I work like this I can provide so much more for my family than others.”
What? Why? Your family and the Lord are more important than a fat bank account, big home, or nice vehicles and clothes.
Think about it like this story,
Architect Frank Lloyd Wright once told of an incident that may have seemed insignificant at the time, but had a profound influence on the rest of his life. The winter he was 9, he went walking across a snow-covered field with his reserved, no-nonsense uncle. As the two of them reached the far end of the field, his uncle stopped him. He pointed out his own tracks in the snow, straight and true as an arrow’s flight, and then young Frank’s tracks meandering all over the field.
“Notice how your tracks wander aimlessly from the fence to the cattle to the woods and back again,” his uncle said. “And see how my tracks aim directly to my goal. There is an important lesson in that.”
Years later the world-famous architect liked to tell how this experience had greatly contributed to his philosophy in life. “I determined right then,” he’d say with a twinkle in his eye, “not to miss most things in life, as my uncle had.”
Focus on the Family letter, September 1992, Page 14.
When we become so focused on the goal we have determined, we will miss the goal and purpose God has for us here.
If work, gains, and prosperity are your goals in life, then your life is full of sorrow, despair, vexation, restlessness, and hate.
You have made all that a god and you are chasing it thinking that that god will give meaning and purpose.
It does not and it cannot do that because it is the created and not the creator.
What it does do is burn us up for things that have zero lasting value.
When we die all that hard work and false god chasing is left behind for others to blow, enjoy, or reject. It all will be left and end for you.
As one commentator stated about this, “The rabbis used to say, ‘A child comes into the world with clenched fists ready to grab for everything, but a corpse leaves with open palms unable to take anything with him.’ Death is the great equalizer: everything comes to nothing.
As another Jewish proverb says, ‘There are no pockets in a shroud.’
As the country singer George Strait sang, ‘I ain’t never seen a hearse with a luggage rack.’
Or, as Billy Graham used to say, ‘You can’t take the U-Haul to the cemetery.’ After all of life’s labors, nothing goes with the human when he dies.” (Currid, Ecclesiastes, Welwyn Commentary Series, 40.)
So, what is the good of gain? None, if it is your end all be all, but there can be enjoyment in it if we just do it correctly.
In the End, Enjoyment is Only in the Lord
Here at the very end of this chapter Solomon gives the answer to how we can enjoy the things we have but not make them our gods.
We can have enjoyment in what we eat, drink, and in our work when we realize that what we have is from the Lord.
He is our ultimate enjoyment, not the things and the job, but Him alone.
As he says in verse 25, “who can eat or who can have enjoyment” if they are apart from God?
No one can have what is true joy and contentment.
No one can have true pleasure in the things they do or have if they are apart from God.
Verse 26 gives the answer. look at it it reads, Eccl. 2:26 “26 For to the one who pleases him God has given wisdom and knowledge and joy.”
It is right there, the one who pleases God has wisdom and knowledge and joy. We please God when we obey Him.
When we seek to please Him above what we want or desire.
You see that is joy but when the person is living for self and not for the Lord they are not blessed like the one who is focused on the Lord.
In the rest of verse 26 we read,
“but to the sinner he has given the business of gathering and collecting, only to give to one who pleases God. This also is vanity and a striving after wind.”
Life is pointless and empty to the one who is living it for themselves alone and not the Lord.
It is pointless existence without the Lord.
What we see here is very important from Solomon.
This book is one that many say is so depressing and frustrating but they have missed this very important point here.
This point is that this life is vanity, empty, but that joy is possible. This joy is possible when we stop living life for only what is under the sun and start living life for what is above the sun: Jesus Christ and His amazing salvation.
There is a “cartoon in which a publisher is pleading with Charles Dickens to change the most famous opening line in the history of the novel: “Mr. Dickens, either it was the best of times or it was the worst of times. It can’t be both.”
But of course it can be both, and often is. We live in a world that is cursed by sin (see Genesis 3:17–19), but it is also a world that God created essentially good (see Genesis 1–2) and that he has visited in the flesh and is working to redeem through the life, death, and resurrection of his Son. Thus we experience joy as well as sorrow, especially if we know God in a personal and saving way. (Ryken, Ecclesiastes, Preaching the Word, 72.)
This is exactly what Solomon is saying in these verses. Joy and pleasure and happiness comes from the Lord God alone.
We can have joy in the things we have because they are from our amazing creator, but they themselves cannot be the ultimate source of joy, that is only from the Lord because He has graced us with them and blessed us.
That is the only way we can properly enjoy what we have.
That is the only way we will ever become generous with what we have.
That is the only way we can enjoy our things and not become distraught if something happens to something we have.
Everything we have is a gift from the Lord and that is the only way we can enjoy them knowing that they are from Him who gives abundantly above anything we can imagine.
Well now Solomon has told us that wise and fool alike are the same, our gains and purposes don’t matter in the end, but that we can enjoy things in the Lord alone.
Quite the shift and quite the information.
Which leads to me wanting to reinforce the fact of where joy is not found and where it is found. I pray you find this joy before the great equalizer of all humanity finds you.
I want to end with this solid insight.
Men have pursued joy in every avenue imaginable. Some have successfully found it while others have not. Perhaps it would be easier to describe where joy cannot be found:
Not in Unbelief — Voltaire was an infidel of the most pronounced type. He wrote: “I wish I had never been born.”
Not in Pleasure — Lord Byron lived a life of pleasure if anyone did. He wrote: “The worm, the canker, and grief are mine alone.”
Not in Money — Jay Gould, the American millionaire, had plenty of that. When dying, he said: “I suppose I am the most miserable man on earth.”
Not in Position and Fame — Lord Beaconsfield enjoyed more than his share of both. He wrote: “Youth is a mistake; manhood a struggle; old age a regret.”
Not in Military Glory — Alexander the Great conquered the known world in his day. Having done so, he wept in his tent, before he said, “There are no more worlds to conquer.”
Where then is real joy found? — the answer is simple, in Christ alone.
The Bible Friend, Turning Point, May, 1993.
I hope today that you will find your true joy in the Lord Jesus Christ and the eternal salvation He offers you through His death Burial and Resurrection.