The Vanity of Entertainment

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The Vanity of Entertainment

Sermon by  Thomas Thornhill Jr

Passage: Ecclesiastes 2:8-11




         Over the past several months and lessons we have examined various areas of life that Solomon pursued seeking meaning – wisdom, laughter, wine and other substances, luxuries and materialism, as well as dominion.   In all of them he found that they were vanity.   Tonight, we notice one final area that he mentions – entertainment. Many of these categories intersect with each other as you will notice in our study of the various lessons we have engaged in.     Laughter and recreation fit with entertainment; luxuries & materialism go hand in hand, etc. So, there is some overlap as we discuss the various subjects.   But multiple mention of various actions sometimes warrants repeated emphasis concerning a subject.   This evening’s lesson somewhat fits this category.   But we shall proceed.

In our text we note that Solomon acquired male and female singers, and all sorts of musical instruments (NKJV, KJV).   NOTE: The NASB says, “Concubines” – the Hebrew word here is difficult to interpret as it is only used in this text and the meaning is obviously disputed. In fact some interpret the word as a cupbearer (LXX), or even something multiplied (e.g. chests upon chests, or “coffers and coffers”), or even in other ways.   Most lean toward concubines, which is fitting for Solomon considering he had 700 wives and 300 concubines (2 Kings 11:3; vs. 1 says he loved many foreign women). Regardless, these were pursued for the gratification of his flesh.   But they too failed to give life real meaning.   So let us take a closer look at the subject of entertainment in our lives.

  1. Entertainment is our midst
    1. We are living in an entertainment driven society.  In source described it as a saturated society.  Entertainment, is a multibillion dollar industry. The amount of money people spend on entertainment is staggering.     This past weekend alone, a long anticipated movie broke world records with sales of $1.2 BILLION.
    2. People want to be entertained all the time – sports, movies, television, books and music, live events, games – both board games and electronic systems.   Amusement parks of all sorts.   Then there are hobbies some engage in – various crafts, photography, etc.   Also there are groups that people join for purposes of being entertained.     Then there are the numerous social events that we engage in –   some more important than others, etc.   The point it, entertainment is everywhere and in high demand
    3. One of the more serious spiritual problems associated with our entertainment culture is how it has affected peoples attention spans.   The sad truth is that people have come to expect this in the church and religion. They want to be entertained. Songs have to be fun, the acts of worship exciting, the venue needs to be elaborate and the preacher and/or speaker needs to be entertaining.   Many churches have made entertainment a mainstay of what they call worship, seeking to appeal to the gratification of fleshly desires more than God’s explicit pattern.
    4. People don’t know how to stop and just sit still or engage in some serious activity, maybe even a little boring, but needed, for any length of time.
  2. The vanity of entertainment
    1. First understand that entertainment, like so many of the things Solomon has pursued, it is not wrong within itself.   In fact, it is even good at times and needed. Like recreation (which can be a form of entertainment), it is often a way to rest the body, and equally important the mind.  And we all need that, especially in this fast paced world.
      Solomon in Ecclesiastes 3:1ff said there is a time for everything – laughter and dancing (4), etc.
      Whatever good we have from God, it is for our benefit – Ecclesiastes 2:24, 3:12-13, 11:9 – to the youthful, they are told enjoy life (but he does give a caveat).
      Studying the Old Law, many of the feasts had formalities associated with them, but they were also to be joyful occasions.
    2. BUT with this there are some questions we need to ask:
    3. Is it wholesome entertainment?   One of the first things to ask when thinking about entertainment is whether or not it is something a Christian should participate in at all.   Gambling, social dancing, unwholesome movies, sensual gratification and pornography.
      If something is sinful, it doesn’t matter how much fun it is.   Christians ought not be engaged in such.
      Psalm 101:3, I will set nothing wicked before my eyes; I hate the work of those who fall away; It shall not cling to me.  Psalm 119:37 – Turn away my eyes from looking at worthless things, And revive me in Your way.
      Philippians 4:8 – consider the qualities Paul mentions.   Are the activities we are engaging in to entertain ourselves conducive to these qualities?
    4. Be concerned about the amount of time engaged in a activity
      Does it get in the way of our responsibilities? Ephesians 5:16 calls for us to redeem our time, meaning to make the most of it.
      Will you let it keep you from doing spiritual activity that is coming up. (Not saying we can’t make adjustments, but there are times when we have to CHOOSE have to use our time. What usually wins out?)
      In the life of Jesus we read of Him going to a wedding, a banquet (Luke 5:29-30) and even taking time to go to a deserted place to rest.   But He did not linger at such places, and furthermore, He was willing to be interrupted for good (cf. Mark 6:30-33)
      Furthermore, does entertainment keep us from spiritual activities such as attendance (Hebrews 10:24-25), worshipping God, and time spent in personal Bible study and prayer?
    5. Be concerned about the amount of resources consumed by it – much entertainment today is not cheap. It is not just about the time, but how much it costs.   Some is VERY expensive, depending on the depth of the hobby.
      Now if entertainment is not wrong, then it is not wrong to make provisions for that entertainment – provided we are still being good stewards. 1 Timothy 6:18 warns us the rich to be rich in good works and willing to share.
      For some they can afford to spend than others.   This is subjective, but we must always ask, when I choose to spend on X, how does it affect my ability to spend on Y.   And if Y is about spiritual matters, I need to seriously think about these things.
      NOTE: We have to be reasonable in this, as it requires judgment on our part to determine what is appropriate.
    6. Be concerned if it causes me to neglect other duties – there are family responsibilities that husband and wives have toward one another, as well as parents and children.   There are work responsibilities, and other responsibilities associated with life (domestic duties, societal responsibilities, spiritual activities, etc.). Do we let our entertainment consume us to the neglect of these things?
    7. Has our entertainment become an idol? For many this is the ultimate indictment.   They spend every waking hour and resource on their specified entertainment. It chokes out God and becomes the primary pursuit of their lives.   Everything else centers around it.     1 John 5:21 calls for us to flee from idolatry.
    8. These are some things to consider.   Perhaps others could be added to these.   But as we can see, entertainment will not give true fulfillment and is vanity, grasping for the wind.
  3. And such like (2:9-11)
    1. In these verses, we find Solomon’s conclusion concerning all of these areas.
    2. I became great and excelled more than all who were before me in Jerusalem.  A description of the greatness of his resources, abilities and efforts
    3. My wisdom remained with me (we have noted this in times past).   He know what he was doing and pondering the meaning as he engaged.
    4. Whatever my eyes desired, I did not keep from them.   It is possible Solomon pursued other areas not mentioned.   THERE may be some other pursuit in our lives with which we are seeking to find our real meaning.   If it is not God, the answer is the same!
    5. My heart rejoiced in all my labor, and this was the reward from all my labor.   Solomon enjoyed the journey.   And there is something to be said about the blessings of work and labor. It ought to be satisfying. We have talked about “the passing pleasures of sin” as we have addressed various things – they may provide a temporary escape doing what you do with all your might (Ecclesiastes 9:10), but it is NOT an escape from our problems.   NEVER forget this!
    6. Then I looked on ALL the works that my hands had done, and my toil – he looked back and contemplated it ALL (2 Corinthians 13:5).
    7. And indeed all was vanity and grasping for the wind.   There was no ultimate profit under the sun (the ways of this world).

How tragic, to spend your life pursuing real and lasting meaning, looking everywhere on this earth, only to find in the end what a waste it really was.   Even sadder, if when you stand before God and all you have to offer him is these empty pursuits. But it doesn’t have to end that way.   Solomon gives us the conclusion at the end of this letter – notice Ecclesiastes 12:13-14.   What are you pursuing?   Think about it.