We were discussing the downfall of Solomon in church last week. The “Leggo My Ego” line is what my husband said under his breath during the discussion. While it made me smile, this is a heart issue that cuts deep.
What exactly was the deal with Solomon? If anybody ever had it all, it was he. In the second chapter of the book of Ecclesiastes (a book replete with first person pronouns…hint, hint) you find him bemoaning the simple fact that, as the saying goes, “You Can’t Take It With You”:
20 So I turned about and gave my heart up to despair over all the toil of my labors under the sun, 21 because sometimes a person who has toiled with wisdom and knowledge and skill must leave everything to be enjoyed by someone who did not toil for it.
What happened? His gaze was no longer vertical, but horizontal. He had begun to employ God’s gift of wisdom to serve his own purposes. No wonder he felt that all was “vanity”…emptiness. God will never allow us to experience satisfaction apart from Him. And for the Christian, to employ His gifts in a self-serving manner is a double-whammy. Not only is there no satisfaction, but there is also a rift in inner peace. The more feverishly we strive to attain our own goals, the more keenly the emptiness is felt. He sank into depression, and no wonder.
Solomon did arrive at a healing conclusion at the end of the book:
Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man.~Ecc. 12:13
Sadly, his life did not have a happy ending. I think this book is instructive because Solomon was a real person. That may seem obvious and simplistic, but we forget it sometimes. The Bible depicts people as they were, with the flaws, because we are all flawed and we need to see these lives mapped out so that we may learn from them. We see that while Solomon had “everything” in the terms of great wealth and power, and while he was off to a great start in seeking the right things from the Lord, he also had some problems. His ego had become inflated, and consequently his purposes began to fail. His parenting suffered. I think he knew it, and perhaps this was one reason he was bemoaning leaving all he thought he had accomplished to one of them as successor (research Jeroboam and Rehoboam to see how that story ended–“Train up a child…” works both ways).
Homework for my heart: The next time I am feeling depressed, I need to ask myself in what direction I am looking. Am I seeking God’s purposes for my life, or am I becoming preoccupied with wealth, notoriety, power or influence? Wordsworth was right:
The world is too much with us; late and soon,
Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers:
Little we see in Nature that is ours;
We have given our hearts away, a sordid boon!
William Wordsworth (1770 – 1850)
Life will be empty and tasteless if it is “all about me.” Jesus said it best in Matthew 6…folks who live for themselves already “have their reward.”