Gifts without God (Part 1)

As a child, my favorite holiday was Christmas. There were many reasons I treasured this time of year. First, it was a joy to receive that month off of school. It is a much needed break after a few months of being back in the academic grind. Second, I love the atmosphere that come along with it; I genuinely enjoyed “Christmas cheer.” Third, and perhaps most of all, as a child I valued the coming presents I would receive.

There was such a thrill to opening the highly anticipated gifts. Whether they were video games, toys, clothes, or money. There was not much in my young life I anticipated more than free presents. I guess you can I enjoyed a very comfortable childhood. My parents worked hard and took great care of me and my sister. I never thought they spoiled me, but also tried to instill that discipline of hard work in us. Since we were taught to work hard (in school) and home; it was okay to enjoy the presents. In one sense, they were the fruit of our labor; our reward for being “good kids.” Yet, within days, and probably even hours the excitement of the gifts would die out. I was always left wanting for more. No matter what I received, it clearly wasn’t good enough.

Today, I realize that the emptiness that I felt was actually a grace of God. Even prior to my salvation He was pointing out to me the poverty of possessions. He was already teaching me that having much could leave me feeling like I had so little in life. I’m sure many others today feel the same way about the false sense of satisfaction from material possessions.

This time of year, where so many people find joy in the “stocking stuffers” really reminds me of Solomon’s warning in Ecclesiastes 2:1-11. In this passage, Solomon warns us against making the center of our happiness the pursuit of possessions and pleasures. Ultimately, he warns against 9 sources of false satisfaction. Today, we’ll look at the first two: (1) warning against leisure and (2) warning against liquor.

The Warning Against Leisure (1:1-2). First, Solomon warns against the idea of making the center of your life the pursuit of “having fun.” Solomon speaks of pursuing “laughter” and “pleasure” (v. 2). Intermixed in these verses are the statements of dissatisfaction, “It is madness” and “what does it accomplish?” (v. 2). One can laugh and still be bitter and sad deep down inside (Prov 14:13). Perhaps during this Christmas season you recognize your lack of resources and think to yourself, “at least I’ll have a good time.” Well, this passage tells us that the pursuit of “having fun” will not grant to you lasting satisfaction.

The Warning Against Liquor (v. 3). Second, Solomon warns against the pursuit of finding happiness in liquor, “I explored with my mind how to stimulate my body with wine” (v. 3a). The older I got, the more I realized how some of my friends and family desperately sought satisfaction in the bottle. Drinking (and probably substance abuse by applicational extension) is a real vice for people during this time of year. Downing a drink is even socially acceptable in many places.

It may be worth it to note that alcohol in itself is not bad. Drinking is a Christian liberty; but the Bible condemns drunkenness as a sin (an entire blog may be dedicated to a topic like this). Yet, to keep things concise I believe Solomon is warning against the abuse of alcohol and the temptation to make it a primary source of happiness.

The verse ends with the the reminder of life’s brevity, ” . . . the few years of their lives.” (v. 3b). In other words, Solomon draws the conclusion that life is too short to give one’s self over to the pursuit of happiness in alcohol. The persistent use of alcohol is an unsatisfactory source of lasting happiness.

Conclusion: Think twice this Christmas season what you’re placing at the center of your life. Guard your heart from falling into the trap that the pleasures of leisure and liquor can be an adequate source of happiness. Of course, as Christians, we know there is an eternal source of happiness in Jesus Christ. Yet, before we get to that Solomon has a few more warnings for us to heed.

 


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