The Useless Pursuit of Pleasure

Luke Morrison • January 16, 2023

Too Much Fun

Today we will look at a section in Ecclesiastes that speaks about pleasure.

Not only does it speak about pleasure, but it gives us some raw truth’s about why pleasure is not fulfilling like we may think.

Too often everyone thinks about life as their park and place for fun.

That this life is what it is about and we are to always seek fun and pleasure.

We think that life is supposed to be about pleasure and when suffering or hardship happen, we become distraught because God did not allow us to have this great pleasure we feel we are owed.

Many of us, and I was this way for a long time too, are like the Darryl Singletary song “Too Much Fun.”

In this song he sings,

Too much fun, what’s that mean?
It’s like too much money, there’s no such thing
It’s like a girl too pretty with too much class
Being too lucky, a car too fast
No matter what they say, I’ve done
But I ain’t never had too much fun

The song is a catchy tune, and I admit I like it.

But even though it is that, lets not miss the point of what is behind it.

This song is about what the world thinks it is supposed to be able to do.

The world thinks we are to have as much fun as possible and everything else is something we try to avoid.

Get more money, property, power, allow myself to have everything my eyes lay sight of that please me, and gratify every desire of my flesh.

This is what the world says to do. This is what many in the church say too.

Yet, when we read Eccl. 2:1-11 we see that Solomon tried all of that and it is not as great as many think it is.

1 I said in my heart, “Come now, I will test you with pleasure; enjoy yourself.” But behold, this also was vanity. 2 I said of laughter, “It is mad,” and of pleasure, “What use is it?” 3 I searched with my heart how to cheer my body with wine—my heart still guiding me with wisdom—and how to lay hold on folly, till I might see what was good for the children of man to do under heaven during the few days of their life. 4 I made great works. I built houses and planted vineyards for myself. 5 I made myself gardens and parks, and planted in them all kinds of fruit trees. 6 I made myself pools from which to water the forest of growing trees. 7 I bought male and female slaves, and had slaves who were born in my house. I had also great possessions of herds and flocks, more than any who had been before me in Jerusalem. 8 I also gathered for myself silver and gold and the treasure of kings and provinces. I got singers, both men and women, and many concubines, the delight of the sons of man. 9 So I became great and surpassed all who were before me in Jerusalem. Also my wisdom remained with me. 10 And whatever my eyes desired I did not keep from them. I kept my heart from no pleasure, for my heart found pleasure in all my toil, and this was my reward for all my toil. 11 Then I considered all that my hands had done and the toil I had expended in doing it, and behold, all was vanity and a striving after wind, and there was nothing to be gained under the sun.

Ecclesiastes 2:1–11 ESV

What Solomon just described to us in this section is pure Hedonism–the doctrine that pleasure or happiness is the sole or chief good in life, the pursuit of pleasure; sensual self-indulgence, the ethical theory that pleasure (in the sense of the satisfaction of desires) is the highest good and proper aim of human life.

Simply stated, hedonism says life is about giving yourself everything that is seen as pleasurable to you and when it is not any longer, dispose of it and move on.

This is what many do with women, men, jobs, clothes, cars, their gender, sexual orientation, and many other things.

None of that is what will give true and real pleasure.

No, we can try and try and try to find it through fleshly desires and passions, and we will never truly find it. As Augustine said long ago, ‘Our hearts are restless until they find their rest in Thee.’

But we are just like Solomon and we…

Take A Pleasure Test

Right here in the first three verses we see that Solomon set out to test whether pleasure, enjoyment, or any other type of cheer he could find would give meaning.

He was looking into all the great creation of God for what that can do for him.

He was experimenting with what the joys of this world could offer.

He not only looked to party’s and enjoyment in other venues, but he looked to wine as verse 3 tells us.

What did he discover about this type of living, verse 1 says he found it to all be vanity.

Verse 2 says laughter is mad and pleasure is useless.

Why would he say that?

Because just like Augustine above, none of this can fill that empty void in your heart.

Think about it if you will, if you have ever gone out and got drunk you had a blast that night, maybe.

Maybe you laughed and cut up all night, maybe you really had a wonderful time.

But the next morning that fun and good feeling is gone, replaced by a miserable feeling that has an uneasy feeling around it.

Fun for a time but it does not last. So you go and do it more and more seeking to find that joy but that joy gets further and further away each time because it is useless and foolishness.

Yet, many, too many actually, seek life through that lens. Life is short, they say.

Which is true it is short but why waste it seeking pleasure and enjoyment when there are so many more important things to do.

Family, worship of the Lord, seeking Him daily, loving others and helping those who cannot help themselves. And many many more purposeful and truly meaningful activities.

But too many think it is in folly, and revelry that they will find meaning only to learn too late that this does not satisfy as they wished it would.

Well since this type of pleasure did not satisfy, maybe the next type will. Which is…

Property, Money, and Power

In verses 4-8a we see that Solomon left the party lifestyle behind and went into great works.

He built many things, houses, vineyards, gardens, parks, pools, and planted many different types of trees in all of this for the many different fruits.

Then he got many slaves, herds, flocks, silver, gold, treasures. Yet did this fill him like he wanted?

We will see in a minute but first I want us to think about our property, money, and power.

Just for a bit of background to why money, and power are bad is that they are two of the top three reasons for every crime committed in the world.

The third is what we will look at in the next point and that is sex.

Now money, and power are not healthy to set as your end all be all because even if you have that and get all the property you once desired, you will desire more and more.

That is if your purpose and meaning is in property, money, and power.

Solomon had it all. He was the wealthiest of any king ever. 1 Kings 10:27 says, “And the king made silver as common in Jerusalem as stone, and he made cedar as plentiful as the sycamore of the Shephelah.”

And the Queen of Sheba tells him in 1 Kings 10:7 “Your wisdom and prosperity surpass the report that I heard.”

He had it all. It was all his. Yet, here he is seeking out the real meaning of life.

He was not content with what he had. He knew it was not the “What” that mattered in life.

But he had the fortitude, the grit, the integrity to test it and see if it was what mattered.

Do you? Do you think that pleasure, money, power, property or whatever it is you seek more than the Lord is the end all be all of life? If so, will you test it just as Solomon did.

How? you may ask.

Does the things you chase leave you fulfilled at the end of the day?

Do you worry over what you are doing too much and cannot get away from it to enjoy anything else other than that job?

Can you walk away from something and leave it until later because family, the Lord, serving in church is more important?

Do you see something another has and wish you had it?

Do you wish you had more because if I just had more I could be more comfortable and then get someone to work for me and then I could serve more? But this never happens. We just get more and more and forget God altogether until tragedy strikes.

These are but a few ways to test ourselves.

We are all captivated by money, power, prestige, property, and many other things but we must be careful to not covet after them. And we can be that way when we are sold out to Christ and when we seek him daily.

He has given us the ability to do this and we can do it through His power.

But too often we try to live how we want and tack him on the end. Because we think meaning is in the things Solomon tells us he did and that is not where it is at at all.

Well, since it is not in money, power, and property, maybe it is in…

Delighting the Eyes and the Flesh

Okay, now Solomon moves into the third category along with the first two–money, power, and sex, to examine if the delights of the eyes and the flesh give meaning.

In 8b-10 we see that he had many singers, concubines and that he did not keep himself from any pleasure he desired.

He has given himself over to complete debauchery. He is living in utter and complete sin. He is living so much in the world and looking for that void to be filled.

Again, this is not much unlike Augustine I mentioned earlier.

He sought to have meaning through all types of promiscuous relationships, and the complete fulfillment of his fleshly desires. But in the end he discovered it was all meaningless and really left you hollow.

What is interesting in this section, and is something that I think many miss is that Solomon said, “Also my wisdom remained with me.”

Wow. His wisdom was with him yet, he still sought meaning and value and purpose in all of these terrible and wicked ways.

We have seen where he was wiser than wise and had great blessings from God.

So, this wisdom is the wisdom from God, and he still sought meaning from all of this.

What I want you to get from this is that regardless how wise and “good” you are, you can easily be led to a fall.

Solomon was the wisest and he fell into this trap.

He went into all of this seeking meaning when he had the wisdom from God and the knowledge to look to Him and ask Him to show him what is meaning and purpose.

Yet, he allowed himself to experiment in the world and sensual rings.

Don’t be fooled into thinking that you are mature enough to go into the world and still come out unstained.

What I mean by this is if you think you are spiritually mature enough to have a drink here and there when you have struggled with drinking, be careful because that is a fall waiting to happen.

Maybe you think you are far enough along you can go into certain “clubs” and witness to others, don’t do it. You will falter.

Paul told us to only think on Phil. 4:8 “whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.”

Don’t fall into an idea that you can test pleasure and come out without falling into it.

Why is it that I say this, because it is…

Worthless All is Worthless

Verse 11 gives us the answer.

All these things along with all the pleasure the world supposedly gives is “vanity, striving after wind, and nothing to be gained under the sun.”

Here Solomon employs all three of his favorite terms to what pleasure gives us. To be extra clear pleasure is completely pointless in giving us meaning and purpose.

He discovered Pleasure, materialism is profitless and it cannot give contentment.

Two men give good summations of what Solomon says here.

The first is again Augustine. He said, “Earthly riches are full of poverty.”

The other is Thomas Fuller who said, “Riches rather enlarge than satisfy appetites.”

Too often we feel that we can be happy if we only get the things we want, only to find out that the things we want are not where our satisfaction is found.

I know this from experience and I am sure many of you do too.

I know Nikki felt this about her horses and a breeding program.

She worked hard and got exactly what she wanted. She had the mares and they were bred to the right studs.

She had the other horses to ride and everything was perfect to all who knew her desires.

Yet, she was not happy like she thought she would be.

She realized that the horses and the program was not where happiness was, nor was it where her purpose was.

No, she learned through prayer and chasing after God that it was serving Him more faithfully and being with family more helping lead there more.

God sometimes gives us the pleasure we think we want just to show us it is not what we need.

He loves us that much that He will let us get exactly what we want so we can learn it is not right.

You may think thats not true but many say they want happiness and joy but if that came they would be miserable because when things work out they have nothing to seek attention over and they need that attention.

God gives us what we think we want to drive us to Him what we really need.

Now What?

You may be asking this very question.

If you are and you have realized that the pleasures of this world are not true pleasure but a mere passing of time that only brings more sadness, then turn to the Lord.

He is waiting with open arms. He will embrace you and say all is well my child.

I love you and have you. Know that my love s larger and farther out than you know.

I have died for you, Jesus says, and took all the punishment you deserve.

I defeated death, hell, and the grave for you.

I was scorned and beat for you.

I gave all so you could have all. All of the wonder and glory that is here with me and my Father.

I have given the Spirit to lead and guide you. Trust Him and follow Him right to me and where I want you to be.

When you do you will have correct pleasure and joy in Life.

Will you today believe in Jesus for this amazing salvation that never ends that He offers and receive true pleasure?

Or will you continue to seek pleasure in Money, Sex, and Power that give only a false pleasure?