Up-to-Date Vanity

Daily Readings: Deuteronomy 6-7Ecclesiastes 2, John 19

The more a person studies the Word of God, the more precious and interconnected to modern life it becomes. These are not ancient, outdated words from a past era. They are powerful words that can give us guidance and wisdom in the 21st Century. And the most amazing part of it is that they did the same for people reading them in all the previous centuries as well! The absolute truths of God and His understanding of us (His creatures) has never changed. I feel a sense of astonishment over this, time and time again.

And so, today, as I read Solomon’s treatise on the vanities of human existence, I see it mirroring our modern lives in our modern technological world. Astonishing! Ecclesiastes 2 is a summary of the ills of modern society. It reads as a catalog of the pitfall-inducing idols that we so often are tempted to fall down and worship. If you think I’m jesting, just consider the following list. You tell me. Are these the pursuits of modern humans/culture?:

  1. Knowledge/education ch. 1:16-18
  2. Pleasure/Enjoyment/Self ch 2:1-2
  3. Physical/alcoholic stimulants v. 3
  4. Small and Large scale projects/works: vv.4-6
    1. Construction, creative expression, gardening, forestry, beauty
  5. Business/career v. 7
  6. Animal husbandry/Food Industry vv.7,5
  7. Accumulation of Wealth v. 8
  8. Collection of expensive stuff v. 8, 26
  9. Entertainment v. 8
  10. Sex, “All that my eyes desire” (cp. media, pornography) v. 8
  11. Power/Prestige/Fame v.9

Is this not the fuel that runs modern lives, our economies, our nations? It is. Perhaps it was even this list that prompted the Lord Jesus to say we should not “store up for ourselves treasures on earth where moth and rust destroy and thieves break in and steal”. Jesus identifies the crux of the matter too. “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Mt. 6:19, 21 But our hearts belong to God. And we are learning from Deuteronomy recently also, that our hearts will only be contented through obedience to God. Anything less leads to discontent.

Solomon connects this list of vanity to another modern phenomenon. He outlines depression, discontent, dissatisfaction, and even insomnia, as the result of such fruitless pursuits. Sadly, these are all banes of our modern culture as well. Like Sodom our sins are “arrogance, abundant food, and careless ease.” Ezekiel 16:49 But the problem is these things bring:

  1. hating life v.17
  2. despair v.20
  3. minds that cannot rest v.23

The good news is that our wise friend, Solomon, gives us the ancient skeleton key to an amazing wooden door that leads to a way out. He learned by experience, and shares that experience, so we don’t have to learn by experience.

Do we want joy, satisfaction, peace? Well, we cannot do it without God. Cannot. Period. The wisest man that ever lived (other than the Lord Jesus) is telling us this life is useless – no matter how much we might accomplish – without God.

For to a person who is good in His sight He has given wisdom and knowledge and joy… Eccl. 2:26

In THIS scenario of the wise person: Life is loved. Hope is ever present. And our minds are at peace.

Let’s turn away from the covetousness of the world (which is idolatry) Col. 3:5. Let us love life, labor on eternal things, and “be diligent to be found by him in peace, without spot and blameless.” 2 Peter 3:14