The American Dream (?)

I am fascinated by the “test” that Solomon placed upon himself in the book of Ecclesiastes.  To seek meaning in life, he used all of his vast resources to excess in an effort to discover what makes a man happy and worthwhile.  And I don’t think it is an accident that these temptations he used exactly parallel the modern “American dream”.

By pursuing wisdom (Ecclesiastes 1:16-17), he emulates the modern pursuit of education – or at least when we turn education into a “god”.  Headlines everywhere declare that “education is the answer”, though Solomon learned differently.

By pursuing pleasure (Ecclesiastes 2:1-3), he models our current pursuit of hedonism – finding constant entertainment and self-gratification in everything.  Video games, television, coffee bars, spas, sports – these things do not have to be necessarily wrong, but when we use them to the point where our life is centered around the constant desire for pleasure, then we should heed Solomon’s words that they are “meaningless”.

In seeking accomplishment (Ecclesiastes 2:4-11), Solomon mirrors our own penchant for “doing great things with our life”.  Books, motivational tapes, seminars – many of them feed our desire for leaving a legacy of tall buildings, successful corporations, or our names on a brass plaque somewhere.  But a fine legacy can also be to stay at home and raise godly children – focusing on their attitude toward things like education, pleasure, and accomplishment.  In this, Solomon was not a great success, as we can see in the life of his sons.  I wonder if he would have traded some of his great accomplishments in order to have his son Absalom back in his care?

Finally, in stockpiling great wealth (Ecclesiastes 5:10-12), Solomon reflects our own modern worship of money and possessions.  Though few would say it outright, there is a general feeling in our society that increased wealth will solve most everything, and make a person generally happy.  Once again, Solomon tried this very thing, and found that wealth is “meaningless”.  If we saw our own wealth in this way, would it change the way we use it?

How could we have an “American dream” life…without God at the center?


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