Guys Just Wanna Have Fun (Ecclesiastes 2:1-3)

Main Idea: Devoting yourself to your own pleasure leads to an unfulfilled life. Instead, serve the Lord with gladness!

Text:

I want you to think for a second about your favorite thing to do. Maybe your favorite thing is to play video games, or watch movies, or spend time with your family. Try to think of your absolute favorite activity. Now, I want you to imagine that God told you to stop doing that thing. How would you feel? Would you obey? And, perhaps an even more important question would be: what would you think about God at that point?

Is God mean? Does He just want to keep us from having fun?

Now, I don’t necessarily think that God tells us to stop doing that thing which we enjoy the most, especially if it isn’t sin. And yet, these are extremely relevant questions. They reveal what we think about God, and challenge us in our devotion to God. And in terms of our topic today, they cause us to evaluate the way that we approach life, especially when it comes to enjoyment, because enjoyment very well may be an idol in many of our lives that keeps us from experiencing true joy in God.

Ecclesiastes 2:1-3

I said to myself, “Go ahead, I will test you with pleasure; enjoy what is good.” But it turned out to be futile. I said about laughter, “It is madness,” and about pleasure, “What does this accomplish?” I explored with my mind the pull of wine on my body—my mind still guiding me with wisdom—and how to grasp folly, until I could see what is good for people to do under heaven during the few days of their lives. (Ecclesiastes 2:1-3)

Father, You alone are good. So help us to see You in all of Your goodness so that we might pursue and enjoy the greatest good, who is Jesus. In Jesus’s name, Amen.

As we continue to study the book of Ecclesiastes, we once again observe Solomon exploring the meaning of life. This time, he approaches it by looking at life from the angle of enjoyment. A lot of us have probably said at some point that the most important thing to us is that we know that we and our families are happy. We’ll say, “I don’t need anything, I just want to be happy.” Or, “I just want my kids to be happy.” And that sounds kind of humble in some ways. We don’t need lots of money, we don’t need any notoriety or what’s considered to be success or fame in life, we just want to be happy.

But the only problem with this way of thinking is simply this: what is the source of our happiness?

So the Teacher in Ecclesiastes, who we’re assuming is Solomon, put it to the test. He wrote in verse 1:

I said to myself, “Go ahead, I will test you with pleasure; enjoy what is good.” But it turned out to be futile. (Ecclesiastes 2:1)

Many of us reason that as long as something makes me happy, it can’t be that bad. Which is a really bad argument, because all sorts of bad things could make people happy. Just turn on the tv and you’ll find all kinds of crazy things done for fun.

[Video: People are Awesome]

So those were a few clips from a YouTube channel called People are Awesome. And I’m truly amazed by what many people are able to do. Part of me wants to try some of those things and wishes that I could do some of those things. But I also watch that video from People are Awesome and think, “People are crazy!” I’m sure that all of those people learned how to do all of those things because they had a passion to challenge themselves and had fun doing it, but most of those activities are extremely dangerous, and people have gotten very hurt or even killed doing many of those kinds of things.

Now, I’m not saying that people can’t have fun. And some of those things, maybe not all of them, but some of them, can be done safely and wisely, especially after years of practice. So I’m not necessarily saying you can’t do any of these kinds of things. I’m just saying that sometimes justifying our activities simply because they’re fun isn’t enough.

But Solomon actually did the noble thing at first. In his quest to see if pleasure is worth living for, he limited himself to finding pleasure not in crazy or frivolous things, but in good things. He told himself, “I will test you with pleasure! Enjoy what is good!” Things like family, and moral actions, and even serving others. Good things! And I’m sure we would all say of such a life that it’s a life worth living. It’s a noble life.

But after a time of living that way, Solomon writes that it turned out to be futile.

You see, if you live for the enjoyment of living, even by doing good things, that in and of itself is meaningless. Because sometimes you don’t even get enjoyment out of the things that you sought to enjoy. And other times, even after finding enjoyment in that good thing, a moment later, you can be depressed again. So you go out to do more good in the world, so that you might enjoy doing the good thing, only to be depressed again after the moment, and it’s a never-ending cycle. It’s like chasing after the wind. You can’t catch it!

So maybe the pursuit of good things just leaves you feeling empty, but what about less noble things. Can you find meaning in that? Verse 2.

I said about laughter, “It is madness,” and about pleasure, “What does this accomplish? (Ecclesiastes 2:2)

As much as it’s fun to laugh, laughter doesn’t accomplish anything from a pragmatic standpoint. Now, I think it actually accomplishes a lot from a human standpoint, because laughter is extremely good for your health. It’s not just a cliche that laughter is the best medicine. According to the Mayo Clinic, laughter enhances your intake of oxygen-rich air, stimulates your heart, lungs and muscles, and increases the endorphins that are released by your brain.

So I encourage you to laugh! Laughter is a great thing!

[Clip of “Who’s On First?”]

I used to love the old Abbott and Costello routine “Who’s on first?” I watched it about a million times when I was a teenager, and I had most of it memorized, and I just thought it was a comedic genius! Was that time wasted? Probably. But it sure was fun at the time.

Here’s the thing: there’s nothing wrong with laughter and pleasure, they can be good things! But they don’t accomplish anything, and we certainly can’t find the true meaning of life in them.

Solomon even wrote that laughter is madness. Now, I don’t think he was saying that we shouldn’t laugh. I think he would have enjoyed Abbott and Costello’s, “Who’s on first?” But if you make your life all about finding the next laugh, it’s once again a never-ending pursuit that doesn’t accomplish a thing, and actually becomes less fun as you pursue it.

I watched Abbott and Costello’s “Who’s on first” routine to the point that it wasn’t funny anymore. I still thought it was genius, but I didn’t laugh at it anymore. It’s madness to think that you can find true fulfillment in laughter because what do you do when nothing else is funny? All of a sudden, you’ve lost your purpose. All the humor in the world won’t save you when you struggle with mental health. Robin Williams taught us that.

So after trying to find meaning in good things, and even in laughter, and finding them meaningless, Solomon then turned to things that were even slightly questionable in his pursuit of meaning in pleasure. Verse 3.

I explored with my mind the pull of wine on my body—my mind still guiding me with wisdom—and how to grasp folly, until I could see what is good for people to do under heaven during the few days of their lives. (Ecclesiastes 2:3)

One of the most tempting pleasures that we can partake in is alcohol, which can be a very slippery slope. The Bible never outright condemns it, and yet heavily warns about it many times, so much so that many pastors outright say that it’s forbidden, but the Bible never quite goes that far. It comes close! And we ought to be very careful about if and when we drink any at all, and yet the Bible never says it’s sin.

So after trying to find pleasure and meaning in everything else, Solomon turned to wine. He was quick to say that his mind was still guiding him with wisdom, he wasn’t just going to get wasted and live like a fool, and yet he wanted to grasp the folly of drinking for pleasure.

And at this point, we could also fill in the blank with all kinds of things that aren’t technically sin, and yet could certainly become sinful if we go about them in particular ways. Sex is good in the context of a biblical marriage between husband and wife, but becomes sinful outside of that relationship. Food is good in the context of eating for our health and growth, but becomes sinful when we overeat or undereat for the wrong reasons. Video games, television, social media, hobbies, these are all things that are often technically morally neutral, or even good when used in a responsible way, and yet can be sinful when we seek to find our ultimate satisfaction in them.

You see, the point that Solomon is making is that devoting yourself to your own pleasure leads to an unfulfilled life. We think, “I just want to be happy,” but if we truly live with that as our ultimate goal, we will be very unhappy because we’re not pursuing the goal that we were created for. Instead, we ought to serve the Lord with gladness!

Enjoying life is a good thing, but it makes a horrible basis for the way that you live your life. If you make enjoyment your number one priority, not only can it lead to a wasted life, but it can also allow you to do all sorts of things that will harm yourself and others. Rapists, pedophiles, and even serial killers often do what they do because they enjoy those things, but I hope that we would all recognize that that’s not the right way to live! Even unbelievers would recognize that it’s not right to rape, kill, and take advantage of children, and yet there’s no logical reason for a godless person to reject those things if they lead to pleasure. Therefore, we must reject pleasure as the highest aim of life.

And yet, God does desire that we enjoy life as we serve Him.

God doesn’t want us moping around, only doing our duty, but not taking any pleasure in it. No! The Lord is the God of all joy! He invites us to delight in Him, and delight in living in such a way that glorifies Him! Jesus began the sermon on the mount, His most famous sermon, by saying in Matthew 5:3,

Blessed are the poor in spirit,
for the kingdom of heaven is theirs. (Matthew 5:3)

The Bible in Basic English, I think, has a slightly more literal translation of this verse:

Happy are the poor in spirit: for the kingdom of heaven is theirs. (Matthew 5:3, BBE)

You see, God wants you to be happy, but not primarily in the things you occupy yourself with, and certainly not with sin, but rather God wants you to be happy as you rest in Him, and that shows that you belong to the kingdom of heaven.

The world tells us that happiness can be found in wealth, power, fame, and pleasure. But these things are fleeting and will never bring true and lasting happiness. The Bible tells us that these things are only temporary and will one day be gone.

True happiness is found in a relationship with Jesus. When we trust in Jesus, we find true peace and joy. David prayed in Psalm 16:

You reveal the path of life to me;
in your presence is abundant joy;
at your right hand are eternal pleasures. (Psalm 16:11)

When we put our faith in Jesus and rest in Him, we find happiness even in the midst of difficult circumstances. Paul wrote to the church in Philippi:

I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I find myself. I know how to make do with little, and I know how to make do with a lot. In any and all circumstances I have learned the secret of being content—whether well fed or hungry, whether in abundance or in need. I am able to do all things through him who strengthens me. (Philippians 4:11b-13)

That’s Jesus. God wants us to find our happiness in Him, and not in the temporary things of this world. He wants us to rest in Him and trust in His goodness and faithfulness, so that we have true joy that will never fade away.

Pastor Chris Huff

Pastor Chris Huff has been with us since July 2009.  He and his wife, Abby, have four children.  Chris is originally from St. Louis, MO and even though he was raised as a city boy, he has a small town heart. Chris is all over the internet, so you can find him on Facebook, Twitter,… (read more)

Bible Passages: Ecclesiastes 2:1-3
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