By Matt Chandler
The dictionary defines success as “the attainment of wealth, position, honors, or the like”. We live in a culture that is consumed with this idea of success. Even those who the predominate culture see as “successful” desire to be even more successful than they currently are. This desire is so woven into the western psyche that most of us are driven by it, even if we think we’re not. We are in a frenzied pursuit for more of what we already possess, in an attempt to appease the cultural definition of what success is.
Few people have escaped the clutches of the need to appear successful.
The bible is the ultimate guide to life and reality, and is not silent on this subject. In the middle of our bible there is a grouping of five books that are categorized as the wisdom literature. The fourth book in that grouping of books is called Ecclesiastes. Author Herman Melville, who wrote Moby Dick, called Ecclesiastes “the truest of all books” and said that you could trust Ecclesiastes because of “the sorrow in it.”
Ecclesiastes is going to drop like an atom bomb on the definition of success above.
There once was a man named Solomon who had everything and could do whatever he wanted. This isn’t hyperbole. He literally had everything he wanted. Just a cursory reading of this book will destroy the above definition of success and send us frantically looking for what actually makes up The Good Life. Here are some of Solomon’s feats:
- Solomon threw some of the biggest parties the world has ever seen. In 1 Kings 4:22-23 the bible tells us “Solomon’s provision for one day was thirty cors of fine flour and sixty cors of meal, ten fat oxen, and twenty pasture-fed cattle, a hundred sheep, besides deer, gazelles, roebucks, and fattened fowl. What this tells us is that he was able to party bigger than we could ever dream. He just made the biggest most legit party you have ever dreamed of look pathetic and makes the club scene look like amateur hour. No matter where your life goes from here, you will never party like this…ever!
- Solomon is the most successful builder that has ever lived. Ecc 2:4-6 says “I made great works. I built houses and planted vineyards for myself. I made myself gardens and parks, and planted in them all kinds of fruit trees. I made myself pools from which to water the forest of growing trees. Read that again. NO matter how hard you work from this moment forward you won’t plant parks and forests that require giant pools to keep them watered. You will not out-achieve Solomon on this…ever!
- Solomon had 7 wives and 300 concubines. That makes the sexual conquest of Wilt Chamberlain look like junior varsity. In our day, sexuality and sensuality dominate the imagination and interest of most, but Solomon never had to wonder what it was like to be with this type of woman or that type of woman. He knew. You will never be with the number of partners that Solomon was…ever!
You may be asking yourself how this destroys the above definition of success. In fact what I just said seems to validate it. Let me explain. Despite Solomon’s conquests in partying, business and women, he describes all that he attained as “vanity” which means meaningless. Thirty-eight times in 12 chapters Solomon, who attained more wealth, position and honor than you or I ever will, called it meaningless. So, if the ultimate guide to life and reality says that our definition of success leads to meaninglessness, then how do we get to The Good Life?
That’s a great question and my friend Trip Lee will take it from here.