We live in an age filled with unparalleled advances in technology. These have made it possible for people everywhere to have access to multiple luxury items that make everyday life easier than ever. For those willing, food and clothing are available at much lower costs. Transportation and communication improvements have created a society so mobile that vast distances no longer separate families but rather make greater interaction possible. Facebook has expanded the world of friends for millions. Practically everything from clothing to music to television to information has become so personalized that people can enjoy entertainment exactly as they wish at practically a moment’s notice. Right, Alexa? But despite all this, a major problem remains. People are not happy. At all.
We have more at our disposal than ever before, but no matter how much we have and how good it is, it is never good enough. It is always disappointing. Our internet connections are not fast enough. Our computers are still not small enough and mobile enough. Our cars are not smart enough. Our lights are not green enough. And we still actually have to get up from the sofa to take something from a refrigerator and put it in a microwave if we are going to get something hot to eat.
Solomon surely had it right when he recognized that all of the entertainment in the world does not ensure happiness (Ecc. 2:1-3). He understood from a lifetime of experience that whatever your accomplishments might be and how much easier your life might have become, this still does not guarantee joy (Ecc. 2:4-6). He realized that all the wealth in the world cannot create peace (Ecc. 2:7-8). He discovered that even getting to do whatever you wanted, enjoying the most successful work, and having the best education still does not provide the satisfaction that man desires (Ecc. 2:9-10). To the contrary, there is always something more to do, something to improve, and something lacking. “Then I looked on all the works that my hands had done And on the labor in which I had toiled; And indeed all was vanity and grasping for the wind. There was no profit under the sun” (Ecc. 2:11).
Death shows no respect toward those who accomplish great things, those who have superior knowledge, or those of greater social standing (Ecc. 2:12-17). Whatever you accomplish in this world actually makes very little difference in this world (Ecc. 2:18-19). Considering how the stated goal of most people graduating from school is to “make a difference,” that becomes a very depressing thought. However, it reveals the folly of focusing so heavily on material goals.
Satan presents the material world as the place of fulfillment and pleasure, when in reality, as Solomon discovered, pursuing and even achieving much in the material world leaves a sense of emptiness and regret. The world presents materialism as hope; it is in fact an illusion and a myth. Man is a spiritual being as well as a physical being; therefore, material things alone can never fully satisfy. When death comes, the material will find its place in the grave, and the spirit will find its place as well. This is not a myth, but reality. And living for this spiritual reality is, interestingly enough, where man, who is both spirit and flesh, can ultimately find purpose, joy, and peace.