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). He saw mirth (i.e. gladness) as not really accomplishing anything (vs.2b). He searched his heart in order to find out how he could gratify himself with wine (vs.3a), as though he donned the mantle of an alcoholic chemist, trying to concoct a drink that would satisfy. And most commentators think there was a dualistic approach to his wine tasting: First, he used restraint – “guiding my heart with wisdom” (vs.3b), and then, when that didn’t work, he sought to “lay hold of folly” (vs.3c).
In short, he tried the hedonistic route. A course of action sought by much of our society today. I think, if you were to survey 100 people (kind of like the Family Feud game show) and asked them, “Why do you think you are here on earth?” I think one of the top five answers you would hear is – to be happy. And the way “being happy” works out for many people is – having fun. “Everybody’s working for the weekend.” The highpoints of life are the moments that are the most fun. People go from thrill to thrill; from movie to movie; sporting event to sporting event; vacation to vacation; dinner to dinner; holiday to holiday; and so on.
And particularly in a world where there are pains, of one kind or another that can often come one after another, there is a natural inclination (generally-speaking) among human beings to want to pursue pleasure and avoid pain. But does this lead to fulfillment? The Scripture would say “no” and I would say the pleasure-seekers of our day and days past would agree because pleasures are like highs. They don’t last but they create an addiction and lead to a bondage that leaves people perpetually unfulfilled hoping for brief periods of pleasurable diversions that satiate the gnawing feeling of need.
Learn another lesson from the preacher, you are not on earth to experience the most pleasure you can experience. You will find that it doesn’t fill you. It promises you satisfaction and leaves you empty. But if you see and embrace the real and highest reason for human existence – a subject to be developed in the forthcoming Why Am I Here (On Earth)? The Answer series, you are promised eternal, indefinite fullness of joy and pleasures forevermore (Ps. 16:11).