Summary: Shows the different ways that men try to find fulfillment and how all of these ways leave the person miserable.
From the beginning when Adam and Eve first sinned by eating from the tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, mankind has been separated from God. But the problem is that man was created for the distinct purpose of having an intimate relationship with God. But God is holy and cannot have fellowship with what is unholy.
2 Corinthians 6:14, “Don’t team up with those who are unbelievers. How can goodness be a partner with wickedness? How can light live with darkness?
So man tries very hard, as a rule, to do what is right. But they always seem to fail. Even St. Paul said in
Romans 7:21, “It seems to be a fact of life that when I want to do what is right, I inevitably do what is wrong.”
And he even goes on to say in
Romans 7:24, “Oh, what a miserable person I am! Who will free me from this life that is dominated by sin?”
Man, apart from his relationship with God, that is, controlled by sin, is ultimately miserable. He struggles so hard to find what is missing but he cannot find it. Many people try things like drinking, and drugs, and promiscuous relationships, together with many other things to try to find that peace and happiness, that fulfillment. And then they look at Christians and see that we don’t do all of these “fun” things and they think that we must be miserable because we’re missing out. But they end up saying like St. Paul did, “Oh, what a miserable person I am!” Because they discover that all of these things don’t bring true happiness or fulfillment at all.
Still others try to look for fulfillment in worldly success. They look for their happiness in money, or fame, or a good education and a successful career. They look for fulfillment in places that are not necessarily bad things. But nonetheless they are looking for their fulfillment in houses, cars, clothes, fame, or success. The trouble is that none of those things can bring fulfillment or true happiness.
In 1966, about a year before he died, the brilliant physicist J. Robert Oppenheimer said, "I am a complete failure!" This man had been the director of the Los Alamos Project, a research team that produced the atomic bomb, and he had also served as the head of the Institute for Advanced Study at Princeton. Yet, in looking back, he saw his achievements as meaningless. When asked about them, he replied, "They leave on the tongue only the taste of ashes."
The number of people who commit suicide after experiencing the fame and fortune of worldly success is astonishing. Multimillionaire George Vanderbilt killed himself by jumping from a hotel window. Lester Hunt, twice governor of Wyoming before being elected to the U.S. Senate, ended his own life. Actress Marilyn Monroe, writer Ernest Hemingway, and athlete Tony Lazzeri represent a host of highly influential and popular people who became so disenchanted with earthly success that they took their own lives.
Alexander the Great was not satisfied, even when he had completely subdued the nations. He wept because there were no more worlds to conquer. Hannibal, who filled three bushels with the gold rings taken from the knights he had slaughtered, committed suicide by swallowing poison. Napoleon, the feared conqueror, after being the scourge of Europe, spent his last years in banishment.
These are just a few examples of people who tried to find their fulfillment in worldly success, but failed. Why is it that they failed? Because this kind of success is not what makes people happy. If that were the case, then how could so many poverty stricken, underprivileged people in our world be so happy. Now, that’s not to say that nobody who has achieved wealth or fame or a good career can be happy. Of course they can, but it’s not those things that brings the happiness. You can only be happy rich if you could also be happy poor.
Jesus said, Matthew 16:26, “And how do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul in the process? Is anything worth more than your soul?”
You can amass all the money in the world. They say that there are three things that are pretty much universally known: Elvis, Jesus, and Coca-Cola. You can be more famous than all three of them put together. You can be the most successful businessperson or researcher. You can have the best education. You can be the most successful person, by the world’s standards that there has ever been, and still end up saying like St. Paul, ““Oh, what a miserable person I am!”
Thirdly, there are those who look for their fulfillment in religion. And this is the group that St. Paul was in. These people at least recognize that the problem of their lack of fulfillment is a spiritual problem, and therefore it requires a spiritual answer. These people seek to find a way back to God through religious rituals and through trying to live right and do good. However, as we can see in