I absolutely love live music—there’s something incredible about being mere meters away from your favorite band, singing your favorite tunes word for word at the top of your lungs. So when one of my favorite bands toured my hometown of Melbourne, I snatched up tickets as soon as I could.
The time between buying the tickets and the concert was a solid six months, so the build-up and anticipation was immense. As the day edged closer, I would often imagine my favorite songs being played live, and how the atmosphere would erupt as the crowd reacts to the music.
When the day of the concert finally arrived, the excitement was at fever pitch as we entered the gates of the Sidney Myer Music Bowl. The conditions were perfect: an outdoor venue, balmy weather with the sun-setting, and a sold-out 10,000-person crowd.
Yet, all the excitement was instantly diminished within the opening minutes of the concert. Visually and sonically, everything was in full force, but nothing blew me away. This concert I had waited months for—it just wasn’t that good.
This experience made me think about how it’s incredibly easy to turn to the things of this life—such as entertainment, riches, or success—only to be painfully let down when they don’t live up to our hyped up expectations. That’s essentially what the Preacher speaks about in Ecclesiastes 2:1-11.
The Preacher attempted to find out how we should best fill our lives with the little time we have on earth (v. 3) by denying himself “nothing [his] eyes desired” and refusing his “heart no pleasure” (v. 10). He built houses and planted vineyards (v. 4), amassed silver and gold (v. 8), and even became greater than anyone in all of Jerusalem (v. 9)—but none of it amounted to any sense of true happiness or fulfillment.
When we look at the Preacher’s list, it becomes apparent that these are the same things we often find ourselves elevating—our work (v. 4), riches (vv. 7-8), and status (v. 9). These are three things the world uses to define success, but they can become major distractions for us, pulling us away from the plans or intentions Christ has for us.
We might think that if we just get that promotion, if we just save up a certain amount of money, or if we just become more popular within our social circles—then we will be happy. But the Preacher does the research for us, and tells us that when he surveyed all that he had achieved, it wasn’t worthwhile—“nothing was gained under the sun” (v. 11).
Instead, in verses 24 to 26, the Preacher reminds us to enjoy things or experiences of this life as gifts from the hand of God. These gifts are objects that can only bring us satisfaction through our relationship with Him. I have to catch myself when the gift, apart from the Giver, starts to be what I’m chasing after.
But I’ve come to see that the moments in my life when I am most content and joyful, are the times when I am focusing first on investing in my relationship with God, instead of chasing the thrill of that next big concert or a higher paycheck. This doesn’t mean that I’m never tempted to seek my own path in life or become distracted by the things of this world. But it definitely keeps me grounded and grateful for what God has provided for me.
—By Aaron Di Placido, Australia
Questions for reflection
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