The Futility of Pleasure Seeking

Ecclesiastes 2:1-11

Jerry A Collins



® Can anything on the earth really satisfy us?

Is there a difference between satisfaction and fulfillment?

Does God expect us to enjoy ourselves?

This may be hard to swallow but if you have set your heart on getting and enjoying the good life, itís not worth it! Donít waste your time dreaming about it or pursuing it. The beer commercials have got it all wrong. The endless commentary about investing on wall street is exhausting. John Gotti just died this week in prison of throat cancer. Princess Di lost her life very young. Hugh Hefner is an old man. Mick Jaggar is now Sir Mick. Brittany Speers has another record. Scotty Bowman just retired. Tiger Woods is playing in another major golf tournament. All of these people and many others are people we would define as living the good life. We idolize drunkenness, investing, power, glamour, sex, popularity, sensuality, success or prestige as evidence of the good life. King Solomon tried to find fulfillment from the good life too. He conducted an experiment to discover if there is anything of this world, to satisfy and fulfill the heart of a person. Before you take another step in this direction, consider the lessons Solomon learned from his experiment and search into personal and pleasure and the good life! He announces the goal and conclusion of his experiment in vss 1-2. Then he describes the means by which he sought and found pleasure himself in vss 3-10. Finally he relates this pursuit to the ultimate value of his accomplishments in vs 11. He begins with his conclusion.


That it, while it may have some temporary, immediate value like relieving boredom and grief, it does not produce anything permanently or ultimately worthwhile. First, he states in vs 1 that in his quest to find something worthwhile in life he experimented with pleasure. What can I do that will make me happy all of my life? So he said to himself enjoy yourself. And that is what he did. He spent weeks, months and years on this quest. He went after laughter, pleasure, possessions, prosperity, power, prestige and sex. The palace halls were denied nothing, his courtiers and guests had the time of their lives and bountiful feasts according to 1 Kings 4:22-23 each day included 30 measures of fine flour, 60 measures of meal, 10 fat oxen, 20 oxen from pastures, 100 sheep, in addition harts, roebucks, gazelles and fattened fowl. This daily menu is estimated to have been able to feed at least 10 thousand people. Second, he states the result of this expansive search is that it was futile and meaningless. (1) All the laughter he enjoyed in this pursuit he calls madness. Laughter associated with pleasure and the good life is empty. Frivolity is foolish because the laughter deals only with the peripherals of life. there is not solid content to it (Ecc 7:6). Itís useless and a waste of time. (2) Of pleasure he asks What does it accomplish vs 2? What does it contribute to life? It only consumes resources we have worked hard for. The question implies a negative answer. This is the conclusion. It is not the conclusion of our world. Satan wants us to believe that it is better to mortgage our future for the present. How did he pursue pleasure and what did he learn?


First we learn that this experiment was exhaustive. He explored, enlarged, built, planted, made, possessed, collected, provided, did not refuse and exerted himself. No stone was left unturned in this experiment.

Second, it was not a mindless drive into hedonism. Wisdom he says guided him in vss 3 & 9 throughout the endeavor. With deliberateness, not blindly or in uncontrolled excess, he indulged himself. He is testing the effects of pleasure seeking and frivolity to see if it is worthwhile. This is a calculated experiment. with a purpose. He wanted to find out for himself if the things of this world can fill and empty heart vs 3. Life is short and how can we find satisfaction in that short span?

Third, he indulged himself in a variety of things. (1) He stimulated his body with wine v 3. He cheered himself with wine and he embraced folly or a foolish and frivolous lifestyle possibly associated with his wine drinking. Every Coors beer commercial is an example of this. It provides momentary satisfaction until the next weekend. (2) The good life included projects, parks and pools vss4-6. He tried his hand at architecture. His own house took 14 years to build and the Temple 7 years. He built houses for his wives. he engaged in agriculture developing luxuriant gardens and parks planted with orchards, filled with trees. He developed irrigation to provide for all of the landscaping. Building and landscaping provide momentary pleasure but then there are always things to fix, weeds to pull and new endeavors to grab our attention. (3) The good life included ownership and wealth 7-8. He had servants to wait on his every whim. He had ranches to provide diversion and investment in the raising of herds, flocks and livestock. He had bank accounts that provided him with all the money he would ever need. So great was Solomonís fortune that silver and gold were regarded in Jerusalem as stones 1 Kings 10:27; 2 Chr 1:15. His annual income was over one million dollars in purchasing power. In fact he owned whatever he looked on and his look went everywhere. If it promised a fleeting moment of pleasure he tried it and he bought it. (4) The good life included entertainment and sex 8b-10. He hired his own private orchestra to soothe and entertain him on demand vs 8b. He also accumulated numbers of concubines, playmates all over the palace and in his harem to satisfy his sexual desires. Whatever caught his eye vs 10 he indulged in. If he saw a beautiful woman he added her to his harem. A fine thorobred to his stables. A newer model chariot he bought it. He indulged himself in every way and in everything. And he found pleasure in all of this and that alone was his reward. A momentary enjoyment that faded and passed until the next pleasure fix.


After a close evaluation of this lifestyle and pursuit, though some satisfaction was gained, the real value of what was accomplished was (1) vanity (empty) (2) striving after wind (meaningless) (3) no profit in life (ultimately profitless). We may never have the opportunity fame like this. we may never be a king or have stardom or offered a million dollar signing bonus. But there are lessons here for us.

(1) We can learn from the failure of others while we listen to the wisdom of Godís Word. The good life is really not so good. There is no ultimate profit in it. God says you had your reward I have none to give you. We have to take this by faith.

(2) Achieving, having, experiencing will not deliver significance and worth. That is only find in Christ ritely related to God.

(3) Absolutely nothing this side of grave can fill emptiness deliver full satisfaction.