Solomon held nothing back. When it came to life, he was all in . . . peddle to the metal. If he could learn it, he’d study around the clock. If he could grow it, he’d devote acres to it. If he could build it, he’d mega-size it and wouldn’t skimp on the materials. If he could accumulate it, whether it be riches, livestock, slaves, or wives, he would make sure he had a lot of it. No calm waters left in his wake. Look back on a lifetime of effort and there was achievement and success scattered everywhere. But at the end of it all, he hated it all.
So I hated life, because what is done under the sun was grievous to me, for all is vanity and a striving after wind. I hated all my toil in which I toil under the sun, seeing that I must leave it to the man who will come after me, and who knows whether he will be wise or a fool? Yet he will be master of all for which I toiled and used my wisdom under the sun. This also is vanity.
(Ecclesiastes 2:17-19 ESV)
When our girls were growing up we taught them that hate is a strong word. Maybe that’s why it kind of jarred me this morning to see it repeated as the ultimate grade given to a life lived so massively.
What caused Solomon to give himself such an epic fail on doing life? It’s not that he didn’t know stuff. It’s not that he wasn’t a good king. Nothing wrong with the structures built, the vineyards planted, and the forests established. Bank account was looking good, and retirement wasn’t a concern. The hills were full of his herds and flocks and, it wouldn’t surprise me if most everyone who worked for him probably liked him . . . I’m guessing the 1,000 ladies in the Hotel Harem were sweet on him as well. So what’s not to look back on with a certain sense of accomplishment?
It wasn’t what he saw when he looked back. It’s what he realized as he looked forward. Everything he had built, accumulated, and loved would be left to someone else. None of it was going to do him a bit of good. His lifetime of investment “under the sun” ultimately would be someone else’s to enjoy . . . or destroy.
And so, at the end of his life, he looked back in despair and hated his life–it was just a striving after wind. He considered all his toil had produced and, knowing it could very well end up in the hands of a fool as easily as it could the wise, he hated all that he had worked for.
But what if, instead of a lifetime devoted to building a legacy he’d have to leave behind, he could have worked for a legacy that could be enjoyed not just for this lifetime but also for the one to come?
As for the rich in this present age, charge them not to be haughty, nor to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy. They are to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share, thus storing up treasure for themselves as a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of that which is truly life.
~ Paul to Timothy (1Timothy 6:17-19 ESV)
“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal.”
~ Jesus to those with ears to hear (Matthew 6:19-20 ESV)
It’s not that going big is bad. Not that working hard should be avoided. Not even that desiring to build a legacy is wrong. But if it’s just about investing in what’s “under the sun,” take heed. The reality of that being the sum total of a life lived may not be too satisfying. But, if instead the investments are truly about the future, our eternal future . . . if the treasures we seek to store up are in the B of H (Bank of Heaven) . . . if the legacy that compels us is that which is done for the glory of Another . . . then, like Solomon, hold nothing back.
Legacy. What would we want? He walked in a weary manner, or he walked in a worthy manner? She built herself up, or she lifted her Savior up? They accumulated a lot of stuff, or they distributed a lot of grace? They accomplished their bucket list, or they had completed God’s bucket list for them, running the race and fighting the good fight? Everything left behind, or treasures in heaven drawn upon for an eternity?
Might we establish a truly living legacy . . . laying hold of that which is “truly life.”
By God’s grace. For God’s glory.