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:
4 I made my works great, I built myself houses, and planted myself vineyards. 5 I made myself gardens and orchards, and I planted all kinds of fruit trees in them. 6 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).