Most Americans today are wealthier than people have been in the history of the world. However, even though we have much material prosperity, many people still live dissatisfied lives. Why is this? For much of the history of the world, food and shelter were all people needed in order to feel safe and content. However, in the 21st century, we hardly think twice about food and shelter. Instead, we desire more food and better shelter. Wheaton College president Philip Graham Ryken states, “The taste of pleasure has grown our appetite for this world beyond satisfaction.”
We have access to so many things that can temporarily satisfy us that we are never satisfied. We are never content. The answer to this emptiness and discontent is that we must be content with knowing and delighting in Jesus Christ.
I want to give you two areas of our lives where we are tempted to gain satisfaction from: pleasure and alcohol/drugs. These are areas where we often indulge ourselves in and find ourselves still discontent.
First, we often indulge ourselves in pleasures. Last week we learned that King Solomon spent a good portion of his life trying to make sense of the world. He gained all sorts of knowledge but still found with the accumulation of more knowledge he grew more depressed as he searched for significance.
Therefore, Solomon turned his attention to make his life as pleasurable and easy as possible. In short, he sought to give himself everything that he desired. Because he was a wealthy king he could do just that.
In Ecclesiastics 2:1, Solomon records, “I said in my heart, ‘Come now, I will test you with pleasure; enjoy yourself.’ But behold, this also was vanity.”
Isn’t this idea sort of how much of our culture operates? “Let me have what I want and let me have it now.” How is that working for us? Does satisfying our every want bring lasting satisfaction? Of course not. When we make our own personal happiness the chief goal of our life, we end up in despair.
In verse two he wrote, “I said of laughter, ‘It is mad,’ and of pleasure, ‘What use is it?’”
The first pleasure Solomon tried was that of laughter. He sought to have good times all the time. He sought to fill his life with fun. Humor is helpful because it is how we cope with a lot of life’s unsatisfying moments. People are prone to make fun of something or someone when they feel insecure about themselves. We spend much time laughing at other peoples’ misfortunes. When we’re bored, we get online and watch a comedy and laugh to make us feel better. We get on YouTube and watch funny, meaningless videos so that we can laugh. The truth is that God has given us humor and we need humor: but so much of our humor is self-serving.
Solomon calls humor “mad.” This word means, “morally perverse.” So much of our humor is evil, self-serving and sick. It was unsatisfying so Solomon tried another pleasure:
Verse three states, “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.”
Solomon decided to drink to cheer himself up. Not only is this still a huge temptation, add both illegal and prescription drugs in the mix, and it becomes a much larger issue.
Alcohol is the most commonly used addictive substance in the U.S. The truth is that 17.6 million people, or one in every 12 adults, suffer from alcohol abuse or dependence, along with several million more who engage in risky drinking patterns that could lead to alcohol problems. More than half of all adults have a family history of alcoholism or problem drinking. More than seven million children live in a household where at least one parent is dependent or has abused alcohol.
According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, an estimated 20 million Americans aged 12 or older used an illegal drug in the past 30 days. This estimate represents 8% of the population aged 12 years old or older. Additionally, the non-medical use or abuse of prescription drugs–including painkillers, sedatives, and stimulants–is growing, with an estimated 48 million people ages 12 and older using prescription drugs for non-medical reasons. This represents approximately 20 percent of the U.S. population!
This means there are good number of people who are trying to fill the hub of their wheel with something other than Jesus. And, as Solomon experienced, it was all futility, vapor, and a striving after the wind. The answer is Jesus Christ.
Next week we’ll look at the effects of making social media and activities the hub of our lives.