Tuesday, July 23, 2013

The vanity of our lives

"Vanity of vanities, says the preacher, vanity of vanities!  All is vanity."  -- King Solomon, Ecclesiastes 1:2

“There are only two tragedies in life: one is not getting what one wants, and the other is getting it.” -- Oscar Wilde

"Life sucks, and then you die!"  -- WWE chairman Vince McMahon

I was 13 when I got sucked into the world of professional wrestling.  I didn't care that it was fake, for some odd reason the story telling was so riveting that I had to watch.  Guys like Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson and "Stone Cold" Steve Austin weren't just good athletes, they were captivating entertainers (not too mention a bit crude!) 

But it wasn't any one of their promos that has caught my attention to this day.  It's probably been 10 years since I've actively followed professional wrestling, but one quote rings in my head, because it was probably one of the truest things ever said.  Vince McMahon, owner of the company, gave a long speech to the crowd, and ended with the quote mentioned up top.  "Life sucks, and then you die."  

Wrestling isn't real, but that quote sure feels real.  Pain, suffering, disappointment, and then death.  And what's crazy, is that as you look at the lives of those who have had much, as well as those who have had little, both lament over the pointlessness of it.  

King Solomon had it right when he wrote the book of Ecclesiastes.  He says it was vain to live in self-indulgence.  "I said in my heart, come now, I will test you with pleasure; enjoy yourself.  But behold, this also was vanity.  I said of laughter, 'It is mad,' and of pleasure, 'What use is it?'" (Ecclesiastes 2:1-2)  This is Solomon!  If you don't know who this is, let me give you a quick snapshot: King at the peak of Israel's prosperity, had massive riches, so much gold that he decided to overlay shields with it.  He had 700 wives and 300 concubines.  He gave 20,000 baths of wine to servants to build the temple.  20,000 baths is roughly 120,000 gallons of wine.  What do you do with that much wine!?

Not only did he have resources and women, but he also knew wisdom.  He's cited as being the wisest of men, that God blessed him as the wisest man in all the earth.  Here's what he says about wisdom:

"So I turned to consider wisdom and madness and folly.  For what can the man do who comes after the king?  Only what has already been done.  Then I saw that there is more gain in wisdom than in folly, as there is more gain in light than in darkness.  The wise person has his eyes in his head, but the fool walks in darkness.  The wise person has his eyes in his head, but the fool walks in darkness."  

Stop there.  Seems clear right?  We should definitely pursue wisdom.  It leads to more gain than folly.  But look at how Solomon ends.

"And yet I perceived that the same event happens to all of them.  Then I said in my heart, 'What happens to the fool will happen to me also.  Why then have I been so very wise?'  And I said in my heart that this is also vanity."  (Ecclesiastes 2:12-15)

He continues on throughout the book about the vanity of life.  It doesn't matter if you're wise, or pursue folly, whether you have lots, or little, whether you work hard, or work little, if you're honored, or despised.  You and I mean very little to this world.  But we mean very much to the creator of it... and that's the point.  We do everything to grasp at whatever little meaning and fulfillment we can get in this life, that we miss the fact that it has never been about THIS LIFE.  Solomon says at the end of his book, "Remember also your Creator in the days of your youth..."  He's not saying this to sound spiritual.  He's pointing to the hope of a better, eternal life to come.  

Revelation points to this further, that there's a life to come which has no more death, no more pain, no more suffering, no more shame.  And it's one where God will live among us, where we will no longer struggle with the bondage of sin, because Jesus destroyed it once and for all on the Cross.

What does this mean for us:

Repent of living for now:  What I don't mean is that you shouldn't consider how to live in this life.  But we need to ask God to get our minds focused on the better life ahead, versus trying to make life here as our final destination. 

Understand our need:  Understand that people have 2 potential destinations: eternal hell without God, or eternal glory with God.  And act on it, and repent of apathy of people who are running head-long for hell.  

Remember Jesus:  Jesus had every right to stay in heaven and do what He wanted to do.  Instead, He came here, and instead of demanding that his needs be met, he poured out His life for our sake.  If we cling to Him, we can pour our lives out knowing that greater life is found in eternity.

Let's seek Jesus, rather than settle for our crummy little kingdoms here on earth.  Because in the end, this life will always come up short, but Jesus will satisfy now, and has promised eternal satisfaction through His death and resurrection.