Category: Why Am I Here?

Why Am I Here (On Earth)? The Vanity of Building Your Own Estate

Solomon’s pursuit of pleasure did not cease with his failed experiments in the areas of partying, laughing, and drinking (Eccl. 2:1-3). He pressed on. Not to an OT equivalent of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus (Phil. 3:14); but, in continued attempts to find meaning and fulfillment, he surveyed the sensations that accompanied success in the hopes of finding fulfillment therein. Next up, building and real-estate beautification.

The Vanity of Building Your Own Estate (Eccl. 2:4-6). To be clear, there is nothing intrinsically wrong with, say, owning land. Implicit in the command, “You shall not steal” (Ex. 20:15) is the reality of private ownership. Land can be accrued and passed down to posterity (Deut. 21:16; Prov. 19:14). Abraham and Jeremiah are two examples of men who, within Biblical narratives, purchased land (Gen. 23; Jer. 32). All that to say – owning land is fine; beautifying land is fine. But there is something wrong when real-estate amassing or real-estate beautification becomes an obsession with a hoped-for end of self-fulfillment and self-glorification. Take it from a guy who’s been there – Solomon. Listen to what amounts to a condensed snippet of what he amassed and beautified:

I made my works great, I built myself houses, and planted myself vineyards. I made myself gardens and orchards, and I planted all kinds of fruit trees in them. I made myself water pools from which to water the growing trees of the grove. (Eccl. 2:4-6)

If you think a nice house, with a nice pool, nice trees, and a nice backyard will satisfy you, Solomon, who has gone ahead of you, and the man who had made it to the number one position of the proverbial Ancient Near East Fortune 500, has told you it’s vanity (2:11a). It’s as though he was saying, ‘If you see rightly [and not everyone does], you’ll come to see that living to become real estate royalty is like spending your life to find the wardrobe that leads to Narnia, only to find that on the other side of this wardrobe is an empty room.

Not to mention, did you see all the times he used words like “my” or “myself” in those three verses? If you didn’t it’d be worth taking a quick look. It would appear that, given the number of times he used first-person possessive language, his amassing was an outworking of selfishness. And when it was all just about said and done, this man who spent 7 years building the temple of God (1 Ki. 6:1, 38), and 13 years building his own home (1 Ki. 7:1), has told you in that in the final analysis – it was “no profit” (vs.2:11b). All the time he spent using God-granted resources and materials to achieve his own portfolio goals had nothing of ultimate or lasting significance to show for it.

That doesn’t mean that real estate acquisitions are tantamount to idolatry. Not at all. A person can own property, sell property, beautify property, and build a real estate portfolio for the glory of God. Such actions can either be a good outworking of stewardship or a bad outworking self-worship. So then, learn another lesson from the preacher – don’t bow your knee to the prospect of acquiring and beautifying real estate as though it will bring you joy, meaning, and fulfillment. If you have some, whether it’s one piece of land or many, be sure that whatever warm and fuzzy feelings you have about it are coming as a result of imagining how you are, or can be, using such ownership for the glory of God. But don’t get hung up on it. After all, if you embrace the true and highest reasons for human existence – a subject to be developed in the forthcoming Why Am I Here (On Earth)? The Answer series, you are promised the earth as your inheritance (Mt. 5:5).

Why Am I Here (On Earth)? The Vanity of Pleasure Seeking

1 “I said in my heart, “Come now, I will test you with mirth; therefore enjoy pleasure”; but surely, this also was vanity. 2 I said of laughter—“Madness!”; and of mirth, “What does it accomplish?” 3 I searched in my heart how to gratify my flesh with wine, while guiding my heart with wisdom, and how to lay hold on folly, till I might see what was good for the sons of men to do under heaven all the days of their lives. (Eccl. 2:1-3)

The opening verse of chapter two is a telling one. Solomon spoke to his heart saying, “I will test you with mirth [i.e. gladness]; therefore, enjoy pleasure” (2:1a). He was in essence doing an investigation trying to find out what could bring lasting fulfillment and lasting happiness. But… it didn’t work out. He said, “This also was vanity” (vs.1b). Pursuing laughter and the constant ecstasy of frivolity was seen to be madness (vs.2a).

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Why Am I Here (On Earth)? The Vanity (or Value) of Work

As we continue to prepare the way for the answer to the question, “Why am I here (on earth)?” we come to Solomon’s first case study to deconstruct supposed self-satisfiers. He begins with the subject of work, briefly introducing the subject at the beginning of the book and then developing it further in chapter two. In the third verse of the book he wrote,

What profit has a man from all his labor
In which he toils under the sun? (Eccl. 1:3)

He used a financial term (“profit”) as though he was doing a kind of cost-benefit analysis. What’s the ‘bottom line’ from all of man’s labor? He gets around to the conclusion shortly after asking that question and the review he gave wasn’t exactly glowing, though it did start off promising.

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Why Am I Here (On Earth)? An Introduction

It’s a good question; one that you’ve probably asked at some point – why am I here (on earth)? Perhaps in some cases that question has gnawed at the heels of your mind like a dog that relentlessly pursues biting the bottom of your pant leg and you’ve been just as relentless in shaking it off. Or perhaps you’ve settled on an answer but have not scrutinized your position. You say, “I am here on earth to fulfill my purpose” – but you don’t know who defines what that purpose is, and you don’t know how the definer defines that purpose. So you step up to the plate and define your purpose and you come to find that it’s as fickle as the fads you embrace, not really grounded in absolutes but driven by what makes you happy. So in the final analysis, after some scrutiny, you come to find that you’re actually a hedonist. Who knew? 

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