Pastor Aaron Steinbrenner delivers a sermon entitled “Without Jesus Life is Meaningless” based on Ecclesiastes 1-2 at Peace Lutheran Church in Hartford, Wisconsin.
Delivered on Sunday, August 25, 2019
His name was Jed. That’s short for Jedidiah. Jed was popular, very respected. Successful too – so many people looked up to him. In his line of work, he was literally king of the hill and on top of the world. Very wealthy. That’s an understatement. Some have estimated that he wasn’t just a billionaire but a trillionaire. From a worldly perspective he had it all. But from a spiritual perspective, he had wasted much of his life. He wasn’t a faithful husband. He wasn’t a faithful worshiper in God’s house. He wasn’t a faithful father. He had a chance to set a godly example for his kids – he didn’t. He had the opportunity to set a positive, spiritual example for a ton of people who worked for him or were under his sphere of influence – day after day he wasted that opportunity.
You know him…not personally, but of him. You don’t know him by Jed or Jedidiah, but by his other name – Solomon. Solomon, the man who asked God for wisdom and God gave him wisdom and wealth. Solomon, the Son of David who served as the King of Israel. Solomon, who after many years of wasteful living, eventually came to his senses in his old age.
Imagine an old Solomon. As if he’s now narrating a summary of his life. And what does wise Solomon say when he looks back at all he accomplished? Meaningless. Meaningless. Utterly meaningless. Everything is meaningless. Quite literally, he’s saying breath or vapor. Everything “under the sun” – so everything this life has to offer – is like breath or vapor. Well, when you walk outside on a cold day and you exhale, what do you see? You see your breath…for just a few shorts moments…and then it’s gone. What’s Solomon trying to tell us? If you plan to focus all your attention on the things of this life…if you think your sole reason for existing is to get wealthy…if you are only concerned about what this world thinks of you…(and if you push Jesus aside) – that is a meaningless life.
And Solomon could talk. He’d “been there and done that.” Listen to what he writes earlier in chapter 2: I tried cheering myself with wine…I undertook great projects…I built houses for myself…I amassed silver and gold…I became greater by far than anyone in Jerusalem…I denied myself nothing my eyes desired…(he was living the dream, some would say…and what did he learn?)…everything was meaningless, a chasing after the wind.
It took him a lifetime, but he eventually saw the light…he finally realized there was a void, a hole within him that only God could fill. We’ve learned that too, haven’t we? I’m not saying we don’t struggle with it, because we do. We struggle to apply what we know in our heads and have it carry through in our lives.
- We may not be as wise as Solomon, but we’re smart enough to know that the treasures of this world – the treasures “under the sun” don’t last. We’ve seen paychecks get spent and savings accounts dwindle and $40,000 automobiles rust out and break down and precious family jewelry get lost or stolen.
- We may not be as wise as Solomon, but we’re smart enough to know that we can’t take our fortunes with us. When my grandparents got older I remember them moving from their home just off 83rd & Capitol to a smaller apartment in West Bend – and they got rid of a lot of their stuff. Then they moved again, this time to more of an assisted living facility – they got rid of more stuff. Then to a nursing home – more stuff was given away. Then the Lord called them home to heaven. And whatever was left was divided and given away again. You’ve seen that pattern again and again. We’ll likely go through the same thing. Because we know we can’t take the things we amass with us when we go.
- We may not be as wise as Solomon, but we’re smart enough to know that hole within us can only be filled by God. We’re smart enough to know we don’t want to be like the rich fool in today’s gospel. We don’t want to spend the prime of our life and the bulk of our time and the best of our energy storing up things that will last as long as a breath or a vapor. That would be meaningless.
- We may not be as wise as Solomon, but the Holy has convinced us that without Jesus our life is truly meaningless. Solomon realized that by the time he was an old man. Solomon – that name means peace. His other, less familiar name, Jedediah means loved by the Lord. That’s not meaningless. To be loved by the Lord – that’s worth more than anything. To be at peace with the Lord – that’s not something we can accomplish but Jesus has done it for us.
It’s kind if ironic. Solomon, David’s son, wrote about how much he disliked the idea of laboring and toiling and then having to give everything away to someone else. Isn’t that exactly what David’s greater Son, Jesus did? He labored and toiled under the Ten Commandments of God, keeping everyone…earning a righteousness and a holiness that only he could. And then he gave it all away to you and to me. He labored and toiled under the weight of the cross…under the weight of our sin. He earned God’s complete and total forgiveness as only he could do. And then he gave it away to you and me.
And here we are, at peace with God. Loved by the Lord. That’s not meaningless. That’s something! That’s everything!
Does the name Chares of Lindos mean anything to you? He designed the Colossus of Rhodes. Do you know who built the Temple of Artemis in Ephesus? How about the Lighthouse of Alexandria? You may have noticed I am naming some of the ancient 7 Wonders of the World. Could you even name the remaining four? The point is, mankind’s greatest accomplishments…the brightest achievements…the most praiseworthy feats…eventually get forgotten or maybe become a footnote on the pages of history books. Chares of Lindos. I have no idea who he is. Yes, his name is in the history books. But your name is written in the Book of Life. That’s not meaningless. That’s something. That’s everything!
I wanted to say Amen right there. But I decided I’d like to make one more plea. Since all of us have much in common with young Solomon and we have our “Solomon moments” where we struggle to make good choices ad set proper priorities, we can assume we have many brothers and sisters in the faith who are right there with us. Parents, if you believe Jesus is your greatest treasure – and I know you do – look for ways to not only say that but show that to your kids. If you have adult children or even grandchildren who are maybe going through one of those “Solomon moments” right now. Keep praying, as I know you are. Remind them of their baptism. Pick up the phone. Invite them to church with you. Invite them to stand with you at a very special place – right here at the Lord’s table. Here they receive peace from Jesus…here they are loved by Jesus…here they are strengthened and prepared for that moment when they will stand beside you again one day in heaven. That’s not meaningless. That’s something. That’s everything! Amen.