When I’m at work and I have time to sit down for lunch, I try to avoid conversation and spend my time reading the Bible. I tend to flip from book to book and look at passages that interest me or I find that I need to study. When I study a book, I review commentaries and listen to the words of others who have also devoted time and study to a particular book or verse. Earlier last week, I found two verses that piqued my interest and I started going deeper into the book as well as those two verses.
The book that caught my interest was the Book of Ecclesiastes. Many don’t like to read this book due to its depressing nature. For many, it seems to focus on the futility of life and that pleasure ultimately leads to nothingless. If you truly read the book and get through the parts you find depressing, you will find a lot of simple truths that make life wonderful. The book suggests that humans should enjoy the simple things in our daily lives like eating, drinking and taking enjoyment in our work. All of these are gifts from God.
According to rabbinic tradition, King Solomon is credited with writing this book in his old age. This book consists of twelve chapters and is a very easy read. The first chapter sets the tone of the book from the very start.
The author writes, “‘Everything is meaningless,’ says the Teacher, ‘completely meaningless!’”
At this point, most people skip ahead and try to get past the depressing words of the book. I will admit that I have found this book very depressing to read and that it takes a while for me to get through it. But, I believe that is the gift of this book. When you read these passages, you have to stop and therein lies the blessing.
When you stop reading, you begin to ponder the words. They stay with you and you can’t just simply shake them away. No matter how hard you try, you can’t stop thinking about the words. Some will say that the book is nihilistic in nature. While others would suggest that the book is a form of existential nihilism. This form of nihilism has a foundational viewpoint that life is without intrinsic value, meaning or purpose.
This viewpoint is extreme to say the least and fails to truly grasp the wisdom offered by the author. Later in the book, the wisdom about life becomes more apparent and it gives us that glimmer of hope and allows us to truly reflect on our lives. The simple things in life are the things that give us the most amount of pleasure and joy.
As humans accustomed to immediate gratification, we get bored with our lives. We expect things to give us excitement all the time. We want to have our senses pushed to the limits. After that happens, we desire more.
In the article, “Dopamine: The pathway to pleasure”, written by Stephanie Watson, the executive editor of the “Harvard Women’s Health Watch, she writes, “Dopamine is most notably involved in helping us feel pleasure as part of the brain’s reward system. Sex, shopping, smelling cookies baking in the oven — all these things can trigger dopamine release, or a "dopamine rush."
She goes on to say, “The darker side of dopamine is the intense feeling of reward people feel when they take drugs, such as heroin or cocaine, which can lead to addiction.”
We look for excitement in everything we do and by doing that, we overcomplicate our lives. We want to buy things to satisfy our need for pleasure. We fill our lives with more and more stuff to help us enjoy life.
However, the author of Ecclesiastes writes, “Yet God has made everything beautiful for its own time. He has planted eternity in the human heart, but even so, people cannot see the whole scope of God’s work from beginning to end. So I concluded there is nothing better than to be happy and enjoy ourselves as long as we can. And people should eat and drink and enjoy the fruits of their labor, for these are gifts from God.”
Stuff can’t bring us happiness. Only the simple gifts that God provides can bring us happiness. It doesn’t cost any money to walk out into a field and see the beautiful world God has created for our enjoyment. The simple things are the best things.
A couple of nights ago, my wife and I were watching YouTube videos about golden snub-nosed monkeys. The videos we enjoyed showed these cute monkeys enjoying a piece of fruit. They made smacking noises that are too cute to describe. Just watching them eating gave us great pleasure. Our joy came from watching one of God’s creations eating and enjoying a tangerine.
It truly is the simple things in life that give us immeasurable pleasure. This simple bit of wisdom is something that we often miss when reading this book. We should enjoy our lives and not try to fill them with more and more stuff.
When we use “stuff” to add pleasure to our lives, we soon find ourselves working harder and hating every minute of that extra work. Instead of deriving joy and enjoying the labor of our work, we begin to hate everything we do. Work becomes joyless and leads to looking for something. We begin to spend more time looking for more and not looking to God. In time, we become disobedient and devote ourselves to getting that “dopamine rush”.
At the very end of the book, the author gives us the wisdom that we should live our lives by, “That’s the whole story. Here now is my final conclusion: Fear God and obey his commands, for this is everyone’s duty. God will judge us for everything we do, including every secret thing, whether good or bad.”
Just as the simple things in life can bring the greatest pleasures, living a simple life with these words in mind can also lead to enjoyment. By devoting our lives to God and obeying His commands, we soon find that that duty will give us the greatest joy in our lives.
Everything that we do, whether good or bad, can lead us to the Lord or take us away from Him. In the end, we will be judged for what we have done in our lives. But, if we live a life seeking only the simple pleasures and steer clear of those things that lead us away from God, we can live a life full of pleasure and joy. As we get older, we should reflect on our lives and see the beauty of lives well spent.
Don’t live your life in pursuit of things that will only decay or rust. On average, the most expensive and luxurious cars ever made have a life expectancy of about ten to fifteen years. Some, of course, can last a lot longer, but it takes quite a bit of effort to make them last longer. Instead of having a car for transportation, we become slaves to the cars. We must spend more money and time taking care of them. If, however, we just realize what the purpose of a car truly is, then we can enjoy taking trips and making memories to enjoy.
Instead of devoting your time to those things, spend your time enjoying the simple gifts of the Lord and obeying His commands, you will be happier and will be able to stand firm in His grace with a smile.
May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit.