Summary: People admit they live restless lives, yet they don’t know why. No one can discover meaning in life...if God’s wisdom is rejected. If truth is unattainable under the sun, our only hope must be above it.
Overcoming Futility—a Sermon Series on Ecclesiastes
“Lies We Live By” -chapter 8 Pastor Bob Leroe, Cliftondale Congregational Church, Saugus, Massachusetts
How are we to make sense of this chapter? Let’s frame it: Look at verse one, then the last few verses, 16-17. Chapter 8 begins and ends with statements underlining the futility of finding wisdom apart from God. Few people arrive at wisdom; few can interpret life accurately. Verse one is a rhetorical question. Solomon is speaking as an agnostic, from the perspective of one who believes we live in a meaningless world, a world without God and truth. He offers in chapter 8 five lies people without God live by. The chapter ends by concluding, “No one can comprehend what goes on under the sun.” People admit they live restless lives, yet they don’t know why. No one can discover meaning in life...if God’s wisdom is rejected.
Now that we’ve framed the chapter, let’s outline it. Here are the 5 lies:
1. Truth is unattainable—verses 1 & 16-17
2. Appease those in power—verses 2-6
3. The future is unknown—verses 7-8
4. Life is unjust—verses 9-14
5. Enjoy life—verse 15
Solomon was hardly sheltered in his palace; he had ample opportunities to experience life. He rarely said “no” to himself; he indulged every impulse, devoted to the “pursuit of happiness”. He found that he was “chasing after the wind” (1:14). Solomon discovered how worthless his lifestyle was. His earth-bound goals were meaningless. He saw his world evaporating into insignificance, because he was trusting in 5 lies...
#1. Truth is unattainable (1, 16-17)
This lie we’ve covered; it’s the framework that holds the entire chapter together and offers the worldview of people without God and without hope.
#2. Appease those in power (2-6)
These verses address the relationship between leaders and their advisors. Wisdom is often seen in restraint, by having something to say and not saying it, or in the case of appeasing people in authority, not telling them what they don’t want to hear. Not all leaders are approachable. I’ve worked for Army commanders who wouldn’t listen to their staff officers. Some advisors are “yes men” because they’re expected to be. Kings can be stubborn; Solomon should know. Government has the power to compel compliance. For this reason, Will Rogers remarked, “We ought to be grateful we don’t get as much government as we’ve paid for.”
In a study of leadership styles (LIFO/Stuart Atkins), an adjustment to the “Golden Rule” was offered: “Do unto others as they’d like it done unto them.” We should speak the truth in love, while following company rules. I’ve found that success is learning what my boss wants and giving it to him/her, but there comes a time when we have to stand for what is right and say so. Following regulations isn’t always convenient, particularly in a bureaucracy. If we’re told to do something unethical, we may need to offer alternatives, give God time to change our boss’s mind, and ultimately take the consequences of refusing to do something wrong.