Summary: When our wants become more important than other people’s needs, we are no longer focused on God or following Jesus. We’re following ourselves in a meaningless cycle to get more things to leave behind when we die.
Other Scripture used:
In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable to you, Lord, my rock and my redeemer. Amen. (Psalm 19:14)
There’s an old saying, “Eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we die.”
It’s usually taken out of context though and used as an excuse to party to extreme levels of debauchery since the battle the following day will probably kill everyone involved anyway.
Many times, there’s no battle involved the following day, just the idea that they might die the next day is enough reason for them to engorge and imbibe freely.
The saying comes from the same book of the Bible as our Old Testament reading this morning, Ecclesiastes. It’s found in 8:15. The New King James Version translates as:
"So I commended enjoyment, because a man has nothing better under the sun than to eat, drink, and be merry; for this will remain with him in his labor all the days of his life which God gives him under the sun."
The teacher, King Solomon, has just described the meaninglessness of most of the things we do in our lives, and then describes the social activities of a Hebrew meal as being the best part of the day. Meals were major spiritual and social events.
Prince or pauper, the family meal was the most enjoyable time, alleviating the hunger and thirst of the day and recharging the emotional batteries by being with their friends and family. It was something to look forward to during each day’s labor, and something that one remembered during the next day’s labor.
If everything is meaningless, then an enjoyable meaningless activity is far better than one that’s not enjoyable.
Our rich fool in today’s Gospel reading gets it wrong also. He tells his soul to “… eat, drink, and be merry.” He doesn’t realize he will die that night. His entire life has been a poverty of riches.
The lesson from Ecclesiastes is to enjoy the life God has given us. Rich or poor, we can all enjoy the basics of a meal with those we love.
I realize many people throughout the world are starving or dying of thirst, and we should always do all we can to prevent or alleviate that kind of suffering. Yet among the poor is often the most real joy. Their meager meals and limited liquids are anticipated and shared with a relish that we rarely experience here.
We ourselves experience a poverty of riches in our own lives. There are five “D’s” that fit the rich man in today’s Gospel reading.
The first is the dilemma. In verses 13-17, we see that the rich man has accumulated so much stuff that it no longer fits in the storage space he has for it.
He could give some or even most of that abundance away to the poor who could make many meals from that much extra grain. Or he could keep it all for himself.
What a dilemma, to have so much stuff that you run out of room for it all. Have any of us faced a similar dilemma in our own lives?
Second is his decision in verse 18. He decides to keep it all to himself and build bigger storage facilities.
Sound familiar? How many of us know people, or have ourselves bought bigger houses because we had accumulated too much stuff? I remember when my wife, Mary, and I couldn’t even furnish a one-bedroom apartment. Now we have way too much stuff for a three-bedroom house.
But we’re not alone apparently. I keep seeing more and more self storage facilities popping up along the highways here. And it’s a growing business all over the country. The industry generates $18.5 billion in revenues each year in the United States and Canada, according to the Self Storage Association in Alexandria, Va.
The rich farmer faces his third D in verse 19: the delusion. He makes two critical errors in judgment that cause his delusion. He assumes he has many years left to live and enjoy his stuff, and he assumes that the material things he has accumulated — the very things Ecclesiastes tells us are meaningless — will satisfy his soul.
But we don’t do that do we? I’m not talking about retirement funds, 401(k)’s, IRA’s, and so on, or saving for a rainy day. After all, there’s another biblical admonition that says “look to the ant, you sluggard,” which tells us store things for the lean times. The story of Joseph describes his wisdom in saving Egypt from destruction during a seven-year famine by saving grain from the preceding seven-year abundance.
I’m talking about making the accumulation of wealth our focus in life. Making more and more money, so we can get more and more stuff, seeing our families less and less, and becoming so self-centered we ignore the needs of others. When our wants become more important than other people’s needs, we are no longer focused on God or following Jesus. We’re following ourselves in a meaningless cycle to get more things to leave behind when we die.