For The Man Who Has Everything

Sermon Text – 12.15.2019
 
[Ecclesiastes 2:1-11 and Luke 2:27-32]
 
          In 1990, American Express did a survey about the world’s worst Christmas gifts and found that fruitcake was by far considered the worst holiday gift. It was even considered worse than “no gift at all.” Now, maybe you have a great fruitcake recipe – but that doesn’t change the fact that there are a lot of bad fruitcake recipes out there. When the survey asked how do you dispose of a bad gift – 30% said they hide it in a closet, 21% return it, and 19% give it away. This suggests that if you get a fruitcake, chances are it’s been regifted to you, and it also suggests that good chunk of us have things going bad in our closets. We all give gifts at Christmas – but how long are they supposed to last? Even if it’s the perfect gift – how long is that feeling of euphoria and excitement – that adrenaline that brings children out of bed at just horrible hours of the morning – how long can we get it to last? Because eventually it crumbles. Clothing wears out, batteries die, plastics break. Some things last longer than others. For example – my son Liam, loves every single toy he’s ever gotten. It’s the greatest thing in the world, until something else comes into his range of vision –and then that’s the greatest thing in the world. Now, please don’t misunderstand – I love gifts, both giving and receiving. It’s a wonderful tradition. And it’s Christmas time, the most wonderful time of the year – and I know that I’m just supposed to get up here, read the same scripture we always read, and make some cute connection to the baby in the manger and the presents sitting under the tree. But I’m not going to do that. Today I want to talk about fulfillment – I want to point out just how different these two gifts really are.
 

 

Today is part three in a sermon series called Advent Wisdom. For the month of December we have been working through the Old Testament book of Ecclesiastes to see what the teacher can show us in this Christmas season. A long time ago there was this guy named King Solomon and he asked God for wisdom, and so God blessed Solomon and he becomes known as the wisest King in the history of Israel. And that wisdom led him to be one of the most successful kings in Israel’s history. He had more money, more wives, more power than anyone. Ever. But here’s what happened – Solomon had everything he could ever ask for, and it just wasn’t enough. That’s where we start our scripture lesson for today. Basically we get front row seats to Solomon trying to fill the void in his soul with everything and anything he can think of that the world has to offer. [Read v.1-2]. First he tries pleasure, laughter, comedy. It keeps going [read 3a]. First comedy, then alcohol. He says “I searched with my heart how to cheer my body with wine.” Seems like everybody else enjoys this stuff –let’s give it a try. Then he tries vacation homes, it says [read 4-6]. Comedy, wine, great big awesome homes. And it just keeps going, [v7-8]. He’s got servants who do everything for him, he’s got loads of animals and piles of gold and silver. I can’t help but imagine Scrooge McDuck jumping into his swimming pool full of gold. Beautiful singers, art – even concubines. For those who don’t know, concubines are like servants you can have sex with, this is back when polygamy was still accepted – thankfully no longer a thing, but Solomon had hundreds of wives. And It says inverse 10, [read 10a]. And when everything else failed – he turned to his work. He thought – I’ll find happiness and fulfillment in doing great things. [read 10b-11]. He truly was the man who had everything – imagine trying to give this guy a Christmas present – and yet it just wasn’t enough. It could not fill the void in his soul, the hole in his heart, the urge for something deeper than anything the world had to offer. He was the man who had everything, and yet he had nothing. Do you know the most common word in book of Ecclesiastes? Meaningless.

 

But, if we switch over to the second scripture lesson, we get to see the other side of fulfillment. Fast forward a few hundred years, and the baby Jesus has been born. And there was a man named Simeon who lived in Jerusalem. Really good guy, very devout. And God told him, “you will not die until you have seen the Messiah, until you have seen the savior in the flesh.” And it says, [read 27-32]. Now I can depart in peace. Think about Solomon’s list – comedy, wine, nice houses, vineyards, gardens, art, singers, money, sex, hard work – none of it was enough. Simeon takes one look at the face of Jesus – and he’s ready to die in peace, fulfilled. The urge for something deeper in this life is finally and completely fulfilled. Imagine eternal satisfaction – true contentment. Not just for a time, but forever. You open a wonderful present, eventually it will fade. You eat an incredible meal, eventually you get hungry again. But with Jesus we can find true satisfaction. True fulfillment, that will last forever.
 
 

          You see, we – each and every one of us in this room – we have this infection of the mind. A gnawing, constant urge and itch. There is a hole in the heart of humanity. There is a dissatisfaction about life. We are not content. There is always the hope of something more. You’ve heard the phrase, “the grass is always greener.” And there’s this idea in our heads – well, if I just had all of that – then I would be truly happy. But we can’t have it all – so we just assume that it WOULD satisfy us if only we could just have it. The rock star in all his fame and wealth looks at the family man with his children and his stability and thinks – “I wish I had that.” The family man in all his stability looks at the rock star in all his fame and wealth and thinks – I wish I had that.” What if we tried? Or, even worse, what if we succeeded? What if we really had it all? What if we satisfied every urge we could come up with and it still wasn’t enough? I think that terrifies us. The story of Solomon and the book of Ecclesiastes is actually one of the greatest social thought experiments of the ancient world. What if a man actually did have everything? Would that insatiable itch be satisfied? Would that urge finally be fulfilled? Do you remember what I said was the most common word in Ecclesiastes? Meaningless. The more success he had, the more options he checked off his list – the more afraid and angry King Solomon became. He was running out of options. He was running out of ideas. He realized that this world cannot fulfill us. We have within each of us a divine spark for something more. And it cannot be satisfied by anything in this world. Call it the divine itch.

      
    The good news today is that God fulfills us. Only God fulfills us. If our greatest need had been information, God would have sent us an educator. If our greatest need had been technology, God would have sent us a scientist. If our greatest need had been money, God would have sent us an economist. If our greatest need had been pleasure – God would have sent us an entertainer. But our greatest need is and always has been God, and so that’s what we got – God in human form. The baby in the manger. We needed forgiveness, we needed love – and so God sent us a Savior to love us and forgive us. God fulfills us. The brokenness of humanity is that we seem, literally, hell-bent on testing everything this world has to offer to see if it can fill the God sized hole in our heart. We try to fill our lives, fill our schedules with everything and anything. I need more stuff, more money, more achievements, more great memories, more servants to do all my stuff for me. But let me save you some time – it’s never going to be enough. C.S. Lewis says, “If we find ourselves with a desire that nothing in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that we were made for another world.” You were created with a spark of divinity in you. To find fulfillment in life we don’t need more stuff, more accomplishments, more anything. You need God.
        
  Now I have to pause for a second, because there is one objection – one response that’s very popular right now. And it’s the same response Solomon came up with hundreds of years before Jesus. People say, “You’re absolutely right. I don’t need more stuff.” I should just be content with what I have, to find joy in my work and focus on the really important things like family and love. Love is the answer. Close, but not quite. Yes, you’re absolutely right – love is the answer, but not earthly love. Divine love. Love your family, love your job – these are beautiful things, but in the end they are still temporary lesser versions of divine love. The bible tells us the greatest things the world has to offer, like love and family – these are pale shadows of the real love, the divine love we will experience in the presence of God. Pale shadows, bad imitations, like looking in a dirty mirror. These are great things, but God’s love is beyond great. Let the love we experience today stand against the example and the glory of divine love – and then everything is raised to a higher level. See the truth is, there’s a lot of people out there who don’t believe in the divine. They don’t believe that there’s anything beyond this life. What’s so heartbreaking about that is that they look around and think, “Well, this is all there is – so make the best of it.” And it’s so hard to argue with them, because yeah, make the best of it – but don’t give up! Don’t limit yourself to thinking that this is all there is. Jesus came down at Christmas to point us to something better. To set that divine spark in our hearts on fire so we can have hope, have a belief in something better. To believe, really believe, at the core of who we are that this is not all there is. Raise your standards to a higher level, a divine level.   

 

        
  I have two challenges for you today. To pieces of application for us to take home. First – stop chasing the world. Stop chasing the world. None of these things are bad, family, friends, sports, school, work, vacation – all that stuff is great, but you need to take control and put them in their place. I can’t tell you how many people I talk to who act as if their schedule controls them, instead of them controlling their schedule. I have to admit – it happens to me all the time. There are so many things I think I need to do – but I don’t need all that. Stop playing the victim, because you are not a victim. You are in control of your priorities. Stop chasing the world. You’ll spend your entire life exhausted and in the end you’ll look back and wonder what you thought was so important. This happens in every stage of life and we never seem to catch on. When we’re in elementary school we look at toddlers and laugh about what they think is important – colors and shapes, growing teeth. When we’re in high school we look back and elementary and middle school and remember when the color of our backpack was the most important thing in our lives and we laugh about how ridiculous it was. Then we get to college, and we look back at high school and remember how absurd we were – we used to care about what our hair looked like or the clothes we wore – whether we made varsity or not. You get into your 30s and 40s and you look back at your 20s – remember what we thought was so important? At every stage of the game, at every level of life – we look back and laugh at what we thought was so important and yet we never catch on. Stop chasing the world. You ever wonder what the next big thing will be? What will be the next standard of worldly fulfillment? What other mindless toy will we put out there to fill up our days? These things aren’t bad – we just have to take control of our life and put them in their place. Stop chasing the world. It will never be enough.
      
    First – stop chasing the world. Second – start chasing God. Seek the divine in your life. Remember that the greatest things in this world, the best things you can find in your life are just a shadow of what’s to come. Use them as a stepping stone. Put what matters first. The baby in the manger is not an adorable reminder of the gifts under the tree. The baby Jesus is a match designed to set your soul on fire – to give you hope for a better tomorrow, a belief in the divine that is out there. Stop chasing the world, and start chasing God down the road of life. For so long church has been an obligation. This place you’re forced to come because you feel guilty if you don’t. But what if this place was designed to be something more? What if the church was designed to be a gateway to higher level of life? What if all this stuff was actually true – and you could be spending your time here on earth feeding your divine spark? Learning about the God who loves you, learning how to love back. Learning how to live our lives in such a way that when we stand before God at the end of all time he will look us in the face and say, “Well done, now let me show you what real fulfillment looks like.” That’s what church is. That’s what worship is. People getting their priorities right, learning how to chase God together.
       
   Some of you in the room tonight – you’ve given up. You feel a certain level of contentment, because you’ve lost all hope in anything better. If you don’t try, you can’t fail. Low expectations have become the song of your soul. And that’s heartbreaking, and I feel sorry for you. You’re not just sitting in the darkness, you’ve closed your eyes and given up on the possibility of light. Others of you still feel that urge for something better – but you believe you can capture it with the right life here on earth. You believe in the “if onlys…” If only I could get the right job, marry the right person, go on the right vacations, get the right house. That’s a different kind of heartbreaking, because you are set up for a long life of disappointment. When one thing fails you, you’ll move on to the next – hoping THIS time you’ve got it right. And then there’s the rest of you who are still listening. You’re sick and tired of running from one distraction to the next. Like the writer of Ecclesiastes – you’re tired, you’re exhausted really, and you’re not entirely sure it’s all been worth it. If you still have a spark left in your soul – these words are for you. If you have not given up just yet, I have good news. If you want real fulfillment in your life. Contentment that seeps into your bones down to the bottom of your soul. All you do is come and kneel at the manger and look on the face of Jesus. Stop chasing this world, and start chasing God.

 

        
  30% of people who receive fruitcakes admit to hiding them in the closet. Even if we love fruitcake, no matter how much we love the gifts of this world, eventually that joy will fade. We are in this place today searching for something more. For something eternal. And so I’ll leave you with this. May you take the best the world has to offer and see it for what it is – merely a glimpse, a shadow, a sign of something even better. May you feed the divine spark within and set your soul on fire. May you feel truly fulfilled in a way you’ve never felt before. Amen.

Leave a Reply