Vol. 6, No. 7
~ Page 8 ~
[Bible Light 19.1 (2000):3, 7.]
Every human being desires to be happy and at peace. Men abhor misery, suffering, unpleasantness and unhappiness. It was this sentiment that caused Ella Wheeler Wilcox to write:
Laugh and the world laughs with you:
Weep and you weep alone.
For the sad old earth
Must borrow its mirth;
But has trouble enough of its own.
Not only does man long for happiness, but God intended that his creatures should be happy. It is safe to say that the pursuits and endeavors of men through the ages have been in quest of true and lasting happiness, but frequently to no avail. This is not due to the failure of God who has done his part, but the failure of men to do theirs. This human failure is twofold, to recognize that happiness is of two kinds and to seek for genuine happiness where it may be found.
The kind of happiness for which most men seek is purely animalistic pleasure. It consists in eating, drinking, sleeping, lusting and conquering -- the same kind of happiness that an animal might seek and find. A Gospel preacher during a meeting heard two couples in the hotel room next to his drinking, fighting, arguing, laughing and cursing throughout the night. The next day he heard them exclaim in voices of jubilation, "Didn't we have a wonderful time last night!" They had a pale, pathetic idea of happiness, a cheap imitation, a fading fancy, fitting well into the statement of Paul, "But she that giveth herself to pleasure is dead while she liveth" (1 Timothy 5:6).
Because men all too often are seeking the wrong kind of happiness, with mere momentary pleasure, they conduct their search in the wrong place. They hope through the allurement of the world, through drunkenness, gambling, debauchery and degradation to achieve peace and satisfaction. Ah, how shallow! We all need to remember:
This world can never give
The bliss for which we sigh;
'Tis not the whole of life to live,
Nor all of death to die.
It is little known among people generally that there is one Bible book given over entirely to a discussion of human happiness, and that the writer was one who had access to all the world could offer for happiness. The name of the book is Ecclesiastes and the author was Solomon. In this book, he gives the world the benefit of his own experiences in the assiduous search for real happiness.
Solomon possessed that, materially, for which most men sigh. If the world and its wealth could make a person happy, surely Solomon would have been a happy man! Of him the Bible says: "So king Solomon exceeded all the kings of the earth in riches and in wisdom" (1 Kings 10:23). But in Ecclesiastes he gave this comment: "He that loveth silver shall not be satisfied with silver; nor he that loveth abundance, with increase: this also is vanity" (Ecclesiastes 5:10).
Like many of our own generation, Solomon also sought happiness in pleasure. Said he, "I searched in my heart how to cheer my flesh with wine." By his own experience, then, he was able to say: "I said in my heart, Come now, I will prove thee with mirth; therefore enjoy pleasure; and, behold, this also was vanity" (Ecclesiastes 2:1-3).
Known for his wisdom, power and prestige, Solomon would be envied by many a modern man whose heart would say: "Were I in his position, then I would be happy." Solomon himself, however, remarked as follows: "And I applied my heart to know wisdom, and to know madness and folly: I perceived that this also was a striving after the wind" (Ecclesiastes 1:17).
It is interesting to note that Solomon possessed the very things that most people of our day are striving to obtain. They seem to feel that if they can secure more material gain, more learning, prestige and power, and indulge in more learning, prestige, that happiness will be the inevitable result. The message of Solomon to us is that he had these things, and they did not bring happiness! That is why they are called "vanity" (emptiness) and "a striving after the wind" (a fruitless search).
In the last chapter of Ecclesiastes, Solomon reaches the grand climax of all his experiences. He gives "the end of the matter" in one of the most sublime and majestic passages of the Bible, with multum in pravo, when he states: "Fear God, and keep his commandments; for this is the whole duty of man" (Ecclesiastes 12:13). It will be noted that the word duty is in italics in the text, indicating that it was supplied by the translators. The sense, literally, is therefore: "Fear God, and keep his commandments; for this is the whole of man." This is all there is to man; this is the full purpose of man's existence from the time of Adam until now!
True happiness, therefore, is not to be found in riches, pleasure, power or whatever the world might have to offer. Sadly enough, this is where many people (even within the church) are seeking to find it.
Is this preoccupation with worldly affairs not the main influence that saps the spiritual strength out of the church of the Lord and renders it an impotent force in the eyes of the world? Peace, perfect peace, is found only in living for Christ, only in doing God's will, only by placing the kingdom of God first in our hearts.