Summary: In today's lesson, we learn that apart from God, we will not gain anything from self-indulgence.
It is good to be with you this morning. I have been out of this pulpit for about a month, and I am eager to direct our attention to God and his Word.
The Greek philosopher Aristotle (384-322 BC) once said, “Consider pleasures as they depart, not as they come.” Aristotle wanted his students to consider the value and usefulness of pleasure after it had been enjoyed.
Interestingly, that is what the writer of Ecclesiastes did. The writer of Ecclesiastes, also known as “the Preacher” or “Qoheleth,” wanted to know how to live a meaningful life. He explored several areas of life in order to find the meaning to life. In today’s section, the Preacher explored pleasure and self-indulgence to see if that could provide one with a meaningful life. But, as we shall see, he discovered the vanity of self-indulgence.
Listen to how the Preacher put it in Ecclesiastes 2:1-11:
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 children 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)
Earlier this year I attended the Strawberry Festival in Plant City. Last year I attended the Florida State Fair in Tampa. Years ago I attended the Grange Fair near State College in Centre County, PA.
The Grange Fair began 136 years ago and, as I understand it, is the longest continuing Grange Fair in the country. Families literally bring the kitchen sink and set it up in one of the permanent tents on the grounds of the Grange Fair. It’s grown into a real family tradition with some campers going back generation after generation. Tent sites are passed down to family members as prized possessions. The Grange Fair has grown to include 950 tents, 1300 RV’s, hundreds of concessions, over 7,000 exhibit items, amusement rides, livestock, tractor pulling and much more!
Most of us have attended a fair at some point in our lives. When we were youngsters a day at the fair was very exciting. With hyper-active energy we would race from booth to booth in order to take in all the sights, sounds, tastes, and rides that our parents would allow!
Do you remember all the treats to eat? Snow cones, caramel apples, chocolate fudge, homemade ice cream, cotton candy, strawberry shortcake, chocolate covered bacon, and much more was available, and somehow we managed to get a taste of it all.
And that was just the beginning. There was much more than just candy and treats. The fair was also a vast marketplace of homemade goods. From hand knit sweaters to patch quilts, from home-canned peaches to farm-churned butter, from carved wood figurines to kiln-baked candlesticks, the labors of a thousand hands were on display.
And so was the produce of the fields. From the pens and sheds behind the booths there sounded the chorus of the livestock. Mooing cows, braying donkeys, neighing horses, and bleating sheep all blended in a barnyard cantata. But it was not for their music that the animals were on display. It was the richness of the milk, the thickness of the wool, the squareness of the shoulders, the soundness of the legs that the judges inspected. White, red, and, especially, blue ribbons were the praise the farmers waited for.