What Not to Live For

Once upon a time, there was a man named Solomon. Think of all the rich gazillionaires in this world, Solomon had them all beat (1 Kings 10:27). Think of all the world conquerors. Solomon’s empire didn’t go out conquering. He had people coming to him begging to be his allies, to ship him timber and anything else he might want from their native land (see 1 Kings 5, 10), and unlike every other world-conqueror, he didn’t die overreaching for something outside his grasp. 

Think of all the philosophers, the scientists, the major-breakthrough guys. Solomon was wiser than them all by far. He built a kingdom that was never equaled at any other point in its history, a temple so beautiful it was the envy and target of every future enemy king, and his own palace was a work of art. Solomon was a great guy.

He’s also the supreme example of what not to live for.

Ecclesiastes chronicles Solomon’s unbridled pursuit of all things supposedly worth living for, his deep disappointment when he achieved all his wildest dreams, and his conclusions after he did. “Behold, all was vanity and striving after wind and there was no profit under the sun” (Ecclesiastes 2:11).

Riches poison, possessions rot, pleasures leave you empty, and all you’re ever doing is chasing wind and grasping shadows. So says the world’s wisest man. Nothing strips a person of peace faster than chasing after what doesn’t matter. And nothing fulfills like chasing what does.

“The conclusion, when all has been heard, is: fear God” (Ecclesiastes 12:13). If this is not my pursuit, peace will be far from me. But if I pursue this with all my heart, peace will be mine in fullest measure.

Excerpt from “Peace and How to Keep It.” Coming fall 2020.