Submarine Screen Door

Ecclesiastes  •  Sermon  •  Submitted
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We must be certain that in all of life, God is the essential part of it.

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Smile with me as we remember a few phrases that show the futility of something.
That will accomplish as much as spitting into the wind.
That’s as effective as singing twice to a dead man.
That’s as smart as carrying a bucket of water in a sieve.
That works as well as pushing a wet noodle uphill.
That makes as much sense as a screen door on a submarine.
These phrases seem to summarize Solomon’s observations in chapter 6, as he once again wonders what the use is when the goal never seems to be met. Yet, this sort of despair is nothing new to humanity; not even to some very godly people in the Bible, such as Paul, Moses, Elijah, Job, Jeremiah, and probably several others. All of humanity has this notion that if life is to be experienced properly and met with expectation and joy, then it ought to make sense. Yet, most of us would agree that there’s many times that we throw up our hands in helplessness and resign ourselves to the reality that there are a whole host of things that we simply cannot understand. For many, that is extremely hard to accept. So what’s to be done?
We must be certain that in all of life, God is the essential part of it.
Solomon presents us with some scenarios that speak to the frustration experienced when God is not an essential part of life.

Wealthy, Yet Unenjoyable - 6:1-6

We have visited with couples and individuals over the years and have discovered an interesting observation. There are people who take many glorious vacations and trips while younger and are so grateful to have done that. Especially in light that at retirement someone became ill and was no longer able to do that or their children were all grown up and so far away and so busy they couldn’t all get together again.
There are individuals who work to a ridiculous extreme to make sure they have enough to retire on, only to find themselves bedridden or experience some other catastrophe, taking away their hopes for the fun plans they had set. And of course, the questions come out as to the fairness of that. To which Solomon basically felt that it was an evil that was far too common. Again we see that this is all under the sun. All of what we’re looking at in this section is observations of those who have nothing to do with God and totally focus on wealth.
Verse 2 may have been something that Solomon specifically saw, making this even more pertinent to him. Solomon understood what it was to lack nothing. It would be a great blessing to experience no concern about having basics and much more without concerning yourself about it. We’re not certain what it was that kept this individual from experiencing joy while having everything, but it seems that since he must not have had any heirs, that all that was left went to someone outside the family.
It has been stated that our retirement gurus have somewhat misled us, by telling us to plan for our future as if they are certain there will be a future. I’m not denouncing setting aside something to make life easier down the road, but we have no idea how far the road is that God will choose to let us travel. It seems that Solomon has been reminding us and all those who were listening to him at that time that we need to live in the here and now. This can only be done properly, if we belong to God and are grateful for what He provides for us and choose to use all of it for His glory.
Verses 3-6 are what you and I would call hyperbole. That is stretching the information to a ridiculous extreme to make a point. Most parents have done this when they tell their children, If I’ve told you once, I’ve told you a thousand times. How can I be so sure that what Solomon writes is not actually true? Well, verse 6 describes the impossible, someone living for 2,000 years. Verse 3 would be impossible in a God-honoring marriage of one wife, even with multiple children at each birth during the child-bearing years. We know that Rehoboam had 88 children; but with 18 wives and 60 concubines. So what was Solomon trying to convey to his listeners and to us? No matter how much you have, if you cannot enjoy it, what’s the use. In fact, the last part of verse 3, Better the miscarriage than he, would be like saying that this person might as well have never been born.
In this illustration, we see that he does not even have a proper burial. In other words, there was no grieving or honoring of him by his family and friends. That implies that there was apparently no love for him. To me, that is a greater tragedy. He may have had wealth, but he was not rich in that which was far more important. This was confusing to Solomon in his observation under the sun. After all, why would a person have all this wealth and then not be allowed to enjoy it. Solomon’s conclusion is still that death is an absolute certainty. In addition, if a person does not have God, then life is indeed futile or meaningless.

Working, Yet Unfulfilled - 6:7-9

Many have heard Tennessee Ernie Ford sing the old song Sixteen Tons. If not, there is another version of it in the movie Joe versus the Volcano. The lyrics of the chorus are this: You load sixteen tons, what do you get? Another day older and deeper in debt. Saint Peter don't you call me, 'cause I can't go, I owe my soul to the company store.
It looks like Solomon could have written these lyrics as we read what he observed in these verses. It’s been stated by several that they basically eat to continue on in their lives. Yet, what gain is there in this? Their fulfillment of life doesn’t seem to be enhanced by their working. What we need to understand is that working and eating are not considered wrong or evil. However, if this is all that a person is doing, working to eat and eating to work, then it’s questionable whether we are truly doing what God wants us to be doing. We don’t live to just survive, but rather to glorify God in all that we do. Again, we see that neither wealth nor poverty is good in and of itself. Educated or uneducated does not make a person fulfilled. Our fulfillment must come from Christ and living our lives for His glory.
We watched a comedy the other evening about how technology and devices have taken over real meaningful relationships. Sisters were invited by the parents to come on a weekend retreat, to spend time together. It was almost tragic as they could hardly go 20 minutes without their cell phones. Suddenly, they found themselves communicating with other other on a deeper, more meaningful level. They had been so used to shallow interaction that they had forgotten the incredible value of personal love and care for each other. Even as I prepared this message, I quickly went to Facebook to see exactly how many friends I have—807. Facebook is trying to convince us that we are extremely important and amazingly social. Even though it’s called social media, I’m convinced that it is creating a society of some of the least social people in history. Don’t get me wrong; I’m extremely grateful for the technology that allows us to communicate almost instantly. Yet I’m not convinced that the world really is interested in my little opinion on a myriad of subjects. Yet, I do share some things that I believe others can benefit from in their reading.
It’s been suggested that the more individuals pursue pleasure, the harder it is to attain. Yet advertisers count on this to stay in business; that sense of keeping discontent in your life. Maybe it’s not just things. Sometimes it reveals itself in the need for a different job in hopes of being fulfilled. Other times, it’s the pursuit of the forbidden, that extra lover or a replacement for the spouse you currently have. Sadly, it is so obvious that when people don’t choose contentment and fulfillment in Jesus Christ, in futility, they will chase after everything else.
I like Wiersbe’s paraphrase of verse 9: It’s better to have little and really enjoy it than to dream about much and never attain it.

Wondering, Yet Uncertainty - 6:10-12

This is describing the person having all sorts of questions, but coming up with no answers that are helpful.
It seems that most of us have the idea that if we live a good life, we’ll automatically receive the blessings of wealth or fulfillment in our work. Our U.S. civics classes may have discussed the issue of Americans being granted life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, but if that is all you are chasing after, you will find yourself sadly disappointed. I suggest that if you are living your life for God, you will understand more clearly what true happiness is.
We also want answers to all of the questions that come in our lives. We feel that there should always be a clear explanation for the way things are; the good and the bad. However, if you insist that there must be answers for everything, again you will find yourself extremely disappointed. That’s not to say that we don’t try to solve some mysteries or figure out certain things. Yet the reality is that there are some things in our lives and that of others that we simply will never have an explanation. That is where we must rely upon our loving heavenly Father and have faith that all things are as they should be. Even my salvation is unexplainable, yet I believe what the Bible says and the promises of God.
I’m finding that over years of ministry, I am spending less time trying to explain heartache and more time trying to direct people to the One who can take that heartache and bring healing. Knowing why doesn’t reduce the pain. The only way for the pain to be reduced is to let God’s promises provide that healing salve.
Verse 10 sounds almost fatalistic. After all, what choice do we have in anything if it’s already been predetermined? But that’s not how God chooses to work in our lives. We accept from Him what cannot be changed and work together with Him. That is something that needs to be remembered today in our world which is trying to redefine so many things. If people don’t like something, they look for ways to change it or redefine it. My friends, remember that right never becomes wrong and wrong never becomes right. Just because I might not care for something or want an excuse to sin, renaming it or redefining it doesn’t change what it actually is. If God said it was sin, it still is. I don’t care what the laws of the land may be; God’s law and God’s reign cannot be altered. Warren Wiersbe explains it well: Why would anyone want to have his or her “own way” just for the privilege of exercising “freedom”? Insisting on having our own way isn’t freedom at all; it’s the worst kind of bondage. Whatever we may name something, it is what God says it is.
Why would anyone want to have his or her “own way” just for the privilege of exercising “freedom”? Insisting on having our own way isn’t freedom at all; it’s the worst kind of bondage.
Verse 11 is best understand in the NIV: The more the words, the less the meaning . . . Sometimes discussion is beneficial. Other times, discussion seems to be a pooling of ignorance and is truly meaningless. If the discussion in question actually helps to bring people closer to the Lord and living for Him, then I’m all for it. However, if it is something which is leading towards debate and argument, it is best to walk away.
So, verse 12 asks what is ahead. For many, it is an empty vacuum filled with monotonous and tedious repetition. But for the one who is living for Jesus, all that we do has eternal value. There is a whole industry that is based on people’s curiosity about the future. There are horoscopes, fortune tellers, even charlatans parading as prophecy experts trying to predict what is next. The only One Who knows the future is God. We waste our time, money, and energy; besides blatantly sinning against God when we try to figure out the future, especially in those occultic and demonic methods I previously mentioned. I do know that death is coming for all of us, unless we are privileged to experience the rapture while we’re still alive on this earth. Knowing that death will come to all, Solomon continues to urge us to take advantage of today and use it for God’s glory.


We remember from previously, that we ought to truly enjoy whatever wealth we have because it is a gift of God. If we can keep that in our minds, we will be able to enjoy wealth and what it provides, without any guilt. Plus, our enjoyment of life does not have to come from circumstances or wealth. Listen to what Paul says in : I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. The Greek word for content contains the thought of self-contained, adequate, needing nothing from the outside.
There is also the need to not let the pendulum swing too far in the opposite direction in our planning and dreaming in our work in regard to the future. However, your dreams and goals must be under the guidelines of glorifying God and not yourself and your accomplishments. When we are living and working for God, we will find fulfillment that can be so elusive. However, whatever God chooses for us, we should accept with gratitude and contentment. Then enjoy it, knowing it’s from God.
Life is a gift from God, not a punishment or torture. We must accept it and take great joy in all of His gifts.
We must be certain that in all of life, God is the essential part of it.
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