The Folly of Luxury

See full series: 2019-sermons
See full series: studies-in-ecclesiastes

The Folly of Luxury

Sermon by  Thomas Thornhill Jr

Passage: Ecclesiastes 2:4-6




     We continue our study of Solomon’s pursuit for the meaning of life.   He has declared his conclusion before he begins to explain what he did – all (worldly pursuits and things) is vanity.   With vast resources, Solomon was able to fully investigate where genuine happiness can be found.     In our studies thus far, we have noted his pursuit of wisdom, laughter and mirth, and in our last lesson, wine (or mind altering substances). Tonight, we want to examine another area – recreation.

The text (Ecclesiastes 2:4-6)

  1. Self – 10 times in these 3 verses – “I” and “myself” and “my”.   In vs. 1-10 we find references to himself some 34+ times.   While in this letter, Solomon is simply explaining what he did in order to teach, when he was engaged in these things, there was a self-serving motive. It was about HIM finding out what gave HIM meaning.
  2. Great works (or projects) – many of these buildings mentioned, and various things Solomon was able to accomplish.   He did great things for himself – 1 Kings 7:1-12 – describes his homes, some of his building projects. 9:15-19, 2 Chronicles 8:1-6,
    1 Kings 10:18-20 describe his throne.
  3. Great houses –   Solomon lived in a great palace – it took 13 years to build his own house. (1 Kings 7:1)
  4. Gardens – the word for gardens is descriptive of a small garden, perhaps walled.   Kings and the wealthy would have their own private gardens.
    The word orchards (park) could be reference to what we would call a city park or larger open space. It is the word from which we get our English word, “paradise”.
    In addition to this we read of pools of water to water his crops – his pursuit of recreation and beauty, gratification to the eyes, and the skill to develop systems to make that possible.
  5. Servants with which to tend to these and other accomplishments. 1 Kings 4:22-23 – his provisions for a single day. (We will likely address this in our next lesson – ruling over others, in its various forms).

The pursuit of luxury and recreation

  1. FIRST, let it be known that prosperity, including luxury and recreation are not wrong within themselves. Nor is the enjoyment of beauty, which we infer from the description.
    Beauty is something that can draw one closer to God. One of the qualities that sets man apart from the rest of creation is his ability to appreciate beauty.
    As to luxury, can afford greater opportunities for good, when managed properly.
    In scripture, many godly men were wealthy – Abraham, David, Job, Barnabas, Moses, Joseph, etc.     Even Solomon realizes this in this letter – Ecclesiastes 2:24 – he notes that it was from the hand of God.  In fact, recall it was the blessing of God that provided the wealth that afforded Solomon the ability to enjoy this beauty and luxury.   As we have seen above.
    Recreation is good and even needed, when you consider that recreation is about resting the body and “recreating” or refreshing the mind. It is just that like everything else in life, it must be tempered (properly managed).
    As to gardens, I enjoy nature and seeing the magnificence of God’s creation – the sounds and sights of birds and animals, open spaces, flowing water, flowers and plants, majestic scenery, etc..
    Gardens are a place of relaxation and reflection (consider that Jesus went to the garden of Gethsemane, likely often). They can help you rest your mind from the grind of daily life, and perhaps focus for a few moments, in solitude, help you refocus your standing with God.
  2. Great works – we may accomplish great things in this materialistic world.     We may become famous, or invent something of lasting value. We may build great things.   But what is this worth if it is our main pursuit?   Solomon called it vanity and grasping for the wind.
    Matthew 16:26 – what profit is it to a man…
  3. What does the Bible say about luxury?
    1. Amos 6:3-7 – they lay on beds of ivory and forgot about God (cf. Isaiah 3:18-23, etc.). Their wealth caused them to forget about God.   It is possible that our riches, especially luxury, can cause us to forget about God. Luxuries bring about comforts which can lead to a sense of self-satisfaction.
      Solomon warned about this, “Give me neither poverty nor riches” Proverbs 30:8-9
      Is this not, at least in part, what happened to Solomon?   He turned away from God.
    2. Luke 16:19 – the rich man and Lazarus – here we have one with great riches, but he didn’t think about God.     When he died, all his wealth and luxuries were meaningless (16:22-23)
    3. The desire to be rich – 1 Timothy 6:9-10 – Paul warned Timothy about this, noting that the desire for wealth can be a trap.
    4. Warnings to the wealthy – 1 Timothy 6:17-19 – it can give a false sense of security, and lead to a failure to do good for others.   Notice they are told not to trust in uncertain riches.
      Proverbs 11:28 – He who trusts in his riches will fall, But the righteous will flourish like foliage.
    5. James 5:1-5 – it can corrupt us.   They were warned that God takes note of how we manage what we have. Consider in this also, Laodicea – Revelation 3:16-17 – they said they were rich, but inside and spiritually they were impoverished.
    6. Sometimes leads to neglect of the poor and less fortunate – cf. James 5:4-5
    7. It can distract us from our purpose before God –
      Matthew 13:22 speaks of the deceitfulness of riches chocking out the word.
      Think of the rich fool – Luke 12:16-21.
    8. Wealth and luxury can cause us to not choose God – Matthew 19:21-24 – the rich, young ruler went away sorrowful.   There are many who are wealthy AND faithful to God.   But have they really been tested?   How would they respond if they had to make a REAL choice between one or the other. Would they choose God or mammon? (Matthew 6:24)
    9. Luxury is temporary – Matthew 6:19-20, reminds us that earthly treasures are temporary.
    10. This is the point Solomon is trying to drive home in our text. He had seen what luxury can do.
  4. Lessons to consider how to deal with our luxuries:
    1. Again be reminded that we live in an extremely prosperous society.   We may not enjoy the luxuries of the “lifestyles of the rich and famous”, but much of the world would call what we do have as luxurious.
    2. Realize that pleasures and luxuries do not guarantee safety or peace.   Sometimes they rob us of peace. At times, such things lead to misery. There is reason fame and fortune seldom bring real happiness (something people ought to learn when they buy lottery tickets).
    3. Is our pursuits the product of selfishness, or have they made us a little more selfish than we care to admit?   This is something we must each answer for ourselves.
      Remember, our text shows how Solomon pursued what he did for himself.   Be reminded of James 4:1-4 – when we have selfish desires.   Friendship with the world….
    4. ARE we content, thankful and humble?
      David in 2 Samuel 7:1-7 recognized the source of his wealth and was grateful to God, wanting to show his appreciation.
      1 Timothy 6:6-8. All of these are qualities we need and that will put our lives in proper perspective. Philippians 4:11 – be content in whatever state you are in.
    5. Are we willing to share with others?   The Bible is filled with examples of this. 1 Timothy 6:18 – a command to the rich.   Hebrews 13:16, Do not forget to do good and to share, for with such sacrifices God is well pleased. Cf. James 1:27.
    6. Also realize that the pursuit of pleasures will not satisfy your spiritual needs – they will not give you what you need spiritually.     That is why the gospel of Joel Osteen and other prosperity gospel preachers are false. They misdirect spiritual motives –   being rich does NOT mean that God is with you!
    7. Where is true beauty found? 1 Peter 3:3-4, 1 Timothy 2:9-10 – both of these passages are speaking of outward appearance vs inward adornment.   Our true beauty is found on the inside.   That is where we need it.   NO amount of out beauty and luxury will replace that.
      You don’t have to look very far in our society to see people who live lives of luxury and possess great outer beauty, but inside they are VERY UGLY! What is that outward beauty and success really worth?

Solomon wisely observed where the ways and things of this world really lead us. They are empty and do not give us the true meaning we need.   Only Jesus can do that for us.   Will you let Him be the source of your beauty and luxuries?   Think about it.