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Lesson 3: "All That My Eyes Desired" *

Introduction: Can you remember a time when you said to yourself, "I just want to have some fun?" If so, how did you go about finding fun? If you did not have fun, do you think being the richest fellow around would make having fun a little easier? What if you could have everything you desired? This week we follow King Solomon's thoughts as he describes what he did to have fun, and how it all turned out. Let's jump right into our study!

  1. Laughter

    1. Read Ecclesiastes 2:1. Is Solomon saying that he decided that he would figure out how to have fun? (He says that he will "test" his heart with pleasure to see if it is good.)

    2. Read Ecclesiastes 2:2. What does Solomon try first to have some fun? (Laughter.)

      1. Is laughter something that you decide to do? Is it a planned activity, or is it the result of having fun?

      2. Do you agree with Solomon that laughter is foolish and accomplishes nothing?

    3. Let's look at some other texts in the Bible. Read Proverbs 17:22. Do you find that laughter makes your heart cheerful?

      1. Read and compare Proverbs 14:13. What principle do you find in comparing these two texts? (Laughter is an external that might not change the underlying condition of the heart. Your heart can still keep aching even if you laugh.)

      2. Read Ecclesiastes 7:3. In what way can a sad face be good for the heart?

        1. Or, is this text the direct opposite of Proverbs 17:22?

          1. If so, which one seems more correct? (Read Ecclesiastes 7:4. This adds more context to Solomon's statement about a sad face being "good for the heart." When you are sad, you are serious. You consider life more carefully. In that way a sad face can be good for the heart.)

      3. Read Ecclesiastes 7:6. What does this mean? Is Solomon saying laughter is good or bad in this text?

        1. How many of you know how to start a fire?

          1. Have you ever tried to start a fire with brush?

            1. Imagine starting a fire with dried thorns. How long would such a fire last? (I think Solomon is saying that if you start your fire with light brush, it will burn, flare, and then burn out. Nothing in your pot will get cooked.)

            2. So, what is his point about laughter? (That it is just a quick, temporary, insubstantial relief from the problems in your life.)

      1. Read Luke 12:19-20. Are we foolish in God's eyes if we are merry (in a mood to laugh)? (Read Luke 12:15. Jesus' says the point of life is not what we own. The related truth is that the point of life is not just laughing and being merry.)

      2. Read James 4:7-10. "Celebration" churches are controversial in some corners. I once read an article that said we should come to church to be sober about our sins and not to celebrate. I did not like that article very well, but is it supported by James?

      3. Read Ecclesiastes 8:15. Has Solomon changed his mind? James 4:8 speaks about the "double-minded," is that Solomon with statements about laughter and gladness?

    1. What would you say is the overall teaching of the Bible on laughter and being merry? (My daughter was commenting on some young people she knew who were working in dead-end jobs instead of going to school. Every weekend they would party. The "goal" of their lives seemed to be the weekend party. I think this is what Solomon and James are writing about. True joy comes from getting your heart and your life right. Once you have a right relationship with God, then you can have joy and laughter without the underlying heart ache. Laughter is no substitute for repentance. Then, when you come to church you had better celebrate what God has done to save you from your sins!)

  1. Wine and Folly

    1. Read Ecclesiastes 2:3. What does Solomon try next to have fun? (Cheering himself with wine and embracing folly.)

    2. When he says that his mind was still being guided by wisdom, what do you think he means?

      1. Is he saying that he is not being foolish with his wine and his folly?

    3. Can you cheer yourself with wine and folly? (Solomon is making the same point here as he was with laughter. These are meaningless externals which cannot change the heart. The weekend party crowd ultimately realize that getting drunk and having fun for the moment is no substitute for a life built on a Biblical foundation.)

  2. Building and Planting

    1. Read Ecclesiastes 2:4. How do you feel about building something?

      1. Does that give you pleasure?

      1. How about planting, do you enjoy planting?

        1. If so, why?

    1. Read Ecclesiastes 2:5-6. What does this involve, in addition to planting and building?(Planning.)

        1. Would you enjoy doing this?

    2. Solomon could not find meaning in laughter, wine or folly. Should he be able to find meaning in building, planting and planning?

      1. Remember my example of the young people who live for the weekend party? What if they lived to have productive jobs? Lived to go to school and get good grades?

    3. Let's skip ahead. Read Ecclesiastes 2:17-18. Do you agree that this is a problem with planting and building?

    4. Read Ecclesiastes 2:19-21. When we think of leaving our work to others, we (I assume) generally think of how they will enjoy our work. What does Solomon think about those who will "enjoy" his work?

    5. What do you think, is building, planning and planting on the same level of meaninglessness as partying? (Read Luke 12:29-34. Jesus tells us that eating, drinking, working, possessions are all temporary. Our focus in life should be the kingdom of God - if we make the kingdom our focus, then our treasure will be stored up in heaven - where it will be eternal.)

  1. Wisdom

    1. Read Ecclesiastes 2:12-13. Is wisdom an advantage in life?

      1. If so, why? (Solomon says it is like being able to "see" your way in life. The wise can avoid the pitfalls of life.)

    2. Read Ecclesiastes 2:14-15. What is Solomon's argument that wisdom gives you no advantage in the end? (Solomon says both the wise and the fool die. So, what is the advantage of being wise?)

      1. How would you answer Solomon's argument? (He is focused on the future, not the present. Avoiding falling in a pit makes my life better now.)

    3. Read Ecclesiastes 2:24-26. After Solomon's argument about pleasure, planting, building, and wisdom, what conclusion does he reach? (God gives us the gift of eating, drinking and working - and we should enjoy those gifts while we can.)

    4. Friend, is Solomon's conclusion sufficient for you? You may agree with what Solomon says in Ecclesiastes 2:24-26, but the Bible teaches that we can do better. Do you want to create eternal possessions? Do you want to have genuine joy and laughter? Then turn your focus away from everything "under heaven" - which was the focus of Solomon for much of his life - and turn your focus to promoting heaven. Then you get these gifts, and you get them eternally!

  1. Next week: Of Being and Time.
* Copr. 2007, Bruce N. Cameron, J.D. All scripture references are to the New International Version (NIV), copr. 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society, unless otherwise noted. Quotations from the NIV are used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers. Suggested answers are found within parentheses. The lesson assumes the teacher uses a blackboard or some other visual aid.

© 2021 Bruce N. Cameron, J.D.
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