Vanity of Mirth and Laughter

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Vanity of Mirth and Laughter

Sermon by  Thomas Thornhill Jr

Passage: Ecclesiastes 2:1-3




Tonight, we continue our study of the book of Ecclesiastes and Solomon’s quest to find the meaning of life.   He observed that there is a consistency in the world and the nature of man that does not change from generation to generation.   He also noted how in his search, he observed that worldly pursuits are vanity (emptiness, vapor, grasping for the wind).   With our lesson tonight, we want to begin examining the various avenues of pursuit in greater detail.

  1.   I will test you…
    1. There is something to be said about testing (or proving – KJV) something.   It actually can be a good thing to do.  Testing can help us determine if we are what we ought to be. It can also strengthen us.
    2. Consider the following:
      1. Genesis 22:1, Abraham’s faith was tested by God (Hebrews 11:17).
        Psalm 7:9 notes that the righteous God tests the hearts and minds.   (Also Proverbs 17:3)
      2. 2 Corinthians 13:5, test yourselves. 1 Thessalonians 5:21 – test all things, hold fast to what is good.
        James 1:3, 1 Peter 1:7 speaks of our faith being tested.
      3. 1 John 4:1, we are called upon to test the spirits whether they are of God.
    3. HOWEVER, when we think of testing our hearts, understand that we DON’T have to put ourselves into unnecessary temptations or engage in sinful conduct.   As you study our text, whether Solomon reached the point of sinful “testing” or not is unclear.
  2. I will test you with mirth – things to produce happiness and pleasure.   NOT necessarily, sinful or even sensual pleasures (though they might be included), but anything that brings us pleasure.   In the case of Solomon, he was examining worldly pleasures (again, not necessarily sinful) – note 2:10, Whatever my eyes desired I did not keep from them. I did not withhold my heart from any pleasure, For my heart rejoiced in all my labor; And this was my reward from all my labor.
    1. The Bible and pleasure – a Greek word from which we get our English word, hedonism – which describes unrestrained pleasures.
      James 4:1 – wars come as a result of desires for pleasure.   Also vs. 3,
      Luke 8:14 – the pleasures of life choke out the word and make one unproductive
      Titus 3:3 – the former conduct of a Christian could include lusts and pleasures
      Proverbs 21:17, He who loves pleasure will be a poor man; He who loves wine and oil will not be rich
    2. We live in a pleasure driven society – it is seen in our homes, how and where we spend our spare time, sporting events, vacations, holidays, etc.
      Most entertainment has become extremely expensive.   Think of a hobby you are interested in.   How much have you spent on it?     Consider the price one will pay to go to a sporting event, concert, amusement park, even the movies.   The amount some spend on their hobbies is mind-blowing.   And the recreational industry knows this and capitalized on it.
      Eccl 2:10 2 Timothy 3:4 – lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, Hebrews 11:25 – Moses, the passing pleasures of sin
    3. Be reminded that pleasure within itself is not wrong.   In fact, God wants us to enjoy life – Solomon points that out – Ecclesiastes 2:24 – it is from the hand of God.
      There is a time for rest and recreation.   It can rejuvenate us, but pleasure should not be our ultimate goal. Solomon, even in his quest, used moderation.
      But, as we have seen, is it possible that we become so pleasure driven, that God is chocked out?
    4. The pleasures of this life will NOT give us real meaning.  They are vapor or emptiness.
  3. Laughter – is good medicine and sorely needed at times.   consider Proverb 17:22, A merry heart does good, like medicine, But a broken spirit dries the bones.
    Sometimes it is just taking a break from the depravity around us.   Sometimes it is a coping mechanism.   Ecclesiastes 3:4 notes that there is a time to laugh.

    1. There is laughter and joy from good things – clean comedy, funny things that happen in life, someone who has the ability to cheer others up and brings smiles when he/she is around, etc.
      While not directly related, it is no accident that we are called upon to rejoice (Philippians 4:4) and how Paul’s thoughts of his brethren brought him joy.
    2. BUT, there is also laughter from evil things – much of today’s entertainment is filthy, even (or especially) the comedy. And Hollywood wants it that way. There are companies that have attempted to remove filthy language and scenery from movies, only to be met with great resistance by the purveyors of filth and garbage. Many of the laugh clubs (bars with comedians) thrive on filthiness and hateful comments.   The filthier something is, the better. It has even become acceptable in the main stream of society (such as banquets and conventions).  But is such REALLY funny? Will it be funny when one stands before God and answers?
    3. There is also excess in laughter and joy of this world’s ways (even if they are not wrong within themselves) – those obsessed with comedy and that which causes amusement.   What they do may not be wrong within itself, but does it rob us of precious time that could be better spent, OR keep us from facing troubles in our lives?
      Consider: Proverb 14:13, Even in laughter the heart may sorrow, And the end of mirth may be grief. Ecclesiastes 10:19 – a feast is made for laughter, and wine makes merry.
      Ecclesiastes 7:3 – sorrow is better than laughter, because by it the heart is made better.
      James 4:9 – let your laughter be turned to mourning.   When we are guilty of sin, we don’t need to laugh, we NEED TO REPENT!
  4. Wine – he sought to gratify his flesh with wine.     This is actually related to his mirth and laughter.   Many turn to alcohol seeking pleasure and to feel good. How many seek pleasure in alcohol, thinking it will only be casual (social drinking, etc.), only to become addicted or damaged by such.
    In our next lesson, we will address the folly of wine in our pursuit for meaning.

So Solomon’s quest begins with wisdom, then turns to pleasure and laughter.   In vs. 3 we will note he did these things while guiding his hear with wisdom (he didn’t lose control).   BUT notice the latter part of this verse, “till I might see what was good for the sons of men to do under heaven all the days of their lives. NOTICE here, he’s looking for REAL meaning to life.   It is NOT found in worldly pursuits.   We’ll continue to see this in our next few lessons.     So how about you? Where are you seeking answers to these very important questions?