King Solomon spent a lifetime pursuing temporal fulfillment. He amassed wealth, collected beautiful women, and built monuments to himself. At the end of his life, King Solomon looked at all he dedicated his life to and realized it was vain and worthless. King Solomon was no fool, in fact, he is heralded as the wisest man who ever lived, yet at some point, he strayed from his commitment to God and dedicated his life to worthless, temporal pursuits. Solomon started well, asking God to give him the wisdom to rule over Israel, holding a nationwide worship service and seeking to dispense righteous justice to the people. One wonders how this could have gone wrong.
The mistake Solomon made first was disobeying God's command to not mingle with surrounding cultures. Solomon quickly sought to form alliances with the surrounding kingdoms through marriage, beginning with marrying the daughter of the Pharaoh in Egypt. Undoubtedly, this was a wise move politically and financially, but turned out to be spiritually destructive. By marrying into different cultures, Solomon allowed his culturally diverse wives to bring their evil practices into Israel to the point that he mixed the profane with the holy and allowed foreign gods in the Temple of YHWH. Solomon's heart became divided and he sought fulfillment in fleshly pursuits. Many of the pursuits of Solomon would not be considered sin, in and of themselves, but in the context in which he sought after them, these pursuits became as the sin of idolatry. Solomon put the his personal interests and passions before his dedication to God and the pursuit of holiness.
The lesson I come away with when reading the book of Ecclesiastes is that when we forsake the eternal for the temporal, we will always come away unfulfilled and hollow. God has given us an eternal awareness and it is up to us to choose to sow in the field of eternal things rather than the field of the temporal. When we pursue wealth for the sake of wealth or fame for the sake of fame or amass great possession for the sake of ownership, we miss the eternal perspective of Godly stewardship. Wealth, fame, and material possession is not evil if these things are sought after and used to promote the Gospel of Christ.
The American Church is poisoned by the notion of the American Dream because we feel we are entitled to a certain lifestyle or standard of living. We are called to pursue holiness, not stuff. Solomon spent a lifetime getting and acquiring. Solomon admitted that he denied himself no pleasure, whatever he desired, he went for it, and in the end, he looked back on all he experienced, on all he acquired and lamented that it was all a vain chasing after the wind. Solomon looked over a life spent enjoying worldly success, success only dreamed of by most human beings, and he despised it all. It is not until we get the the final paragraphs of his writings that we see his point in writing - pursuing God and holiness is the only worthwhile pursuit, the only pursuit that will bring fulfillment, the only pursuit that has eternal value.
As I reflect on Solomon's writing, I recognize how much I am affected by the idea of the American Dream, the desire to live comfortably and acquire stuff. Sadly, I realize that much of my effort is but a vain chasing after the wind that has no eternal value. I have been challenged by Solomon's writings to have a more eternal perspective and to put the resources and gifts that God has given me to good use. I have been challenged to pursue and promote holiness in my home and to focus on being a better ambassador for Christ outside the home.
We have been blessed with the Holy Scriptures, yet we so often neglect them. Take a look at Ecclesiastes, pay close attention to the last chapter, especially, and see if God does not call you to have a different perspective on your life. If you are feeling unfulfilled, if you are feel that life is meaningless, take Solomon's advice and pursue things of eternal value and let God worry about the temporal. I promise you it will transform your life if you put these things into practice. May God bless and keep you as you seek to do His will in your life!