A couple of years ago, I came across an article put out by Desiring God entitled: Dad’s Write in Your Bible. The article was written by Jonathan Parnell, who is a pastor in Minneapolis. In the article, he picks up on the idea that our time in God’s Word and prayer not only benefit us but those around us. That’s because God’s Word transforms us into a river of living water that flows from us to our friends, family, co-workers, and community.
With that in mind, he suggests one-way fathers could be a river of living water to their children is by setting aside a fresh copy of God’s Word, one with no marks and wide margins. As they read through that Bible, they should write notes, prayers, application, and advice to their children in the margins. Once finished, and their children are of age, they should give it to them as a way to encourage them in the faith. I don’t know about you, but that sounds pretty cool.
I don’t know about you, but that sounds pretty cool. Imagine being able to give that to your kids? Imagine the impact that would have on them, as they read your prayers and application for their life.
Personally, this isn’t a project I’ve embarked on. I actually forgot about it until I sat down to write this post, but it’s something I’m considering, and something you might consider doing as well.
Solomon, a Vessel of Living Water
While it’s not exactly the same, something similar appears in the Bible. Solomon, one of the wisest kings ever to live, at the end of his life wrote the book of Ecclesiastes. He wrote not only to his children but to his kingdom and us as well. The book itself consists of Solomon’s learned wisdom. Wisdom he seeks to pass down so that we won’t waste our life chasing after that which doesn’t matter. In doing so, he continues to be a vessel of living water to all who read it.
Fathers when you think about deliberately writing to your children. Whether it be in the margins of your Bible or in a short book like Solomon has written. When you think about it, what advice, what wisdom, what direction would you give your children?
That’s a big question, a deep question, one that requires a lot of thought. In order to help get the juices flowing, we’re going to look at some of the wisdom Solomon passes down. Wisdom that’s lost in our current cultural moment. The topics we are going to explore are pleasure, career, and money.
That’s our roadmap, so let’s dive in.
(1) Pleasure can’t provide ultimate purpose, meaning, or fulfillment in life (vs. 2:1-11)
We learn that as a result of Solomon’s test in chapter 2. That’s really how the book works. Solomon either draws conclusions from his observations, his own experience, or both. In the beginning of chapter 2, Solomon tells us he going to test pleasure when he says,
“I said in my heart, “Come now, I will test you with pleasure; enjoy yourself.” (Ec 2:1a)
When Solomon says he is going to test pleasure, he does it on a scale that we could only imagine. You see, Solomon is the wisest and richest king ever to live. He can have whatever he wants. There are no limitations. So starting in verse 4 when he says that:
“I made great works. I built houses and planted vineyards for myself. I made myself gardens and parks, and planted in them all kinds of fruit trees. I made myself pools from which to water the forest of growing trees. I bought male and female slaves, and had slaves who were born in my house. I had also great possessions of herds and flocks, more than any who had been before me in Jerusalem. I also gathered for myself silver and gold and the treasure of kings and provinces. I got singers, both men and women, and many concubines, the delight of the sons of man. So I became great and surpassed all who were before me in Jerusalem. Also my wisdom remained with me. And whatever my eyes desired I did not keep from them. I kept my heart from no pleasure, for my heart found pleasure in all my toil, and this was my reward for all my toil.” (Ec 2:4–10)
So when Solomon tells us he sought pleasure in these things — and these things being possessions, art, sex, partying, and building projects —when he tells us that he did these things, we should imagine that he did them on the grandest of scales. That he had no regrets, no wants, nothing more was left for him to do.
Does pleasure bring meaning?
Solomon sought pleasure because he thought this was going to bring him satisfaction, some sort of meaning to life. Isn’t that why we seek pleasure today Don’t we believe more fun, excitement, and things will satisfy us; provide us with meaning? I know I’ve been guilty of this myself.
After attending a small local university for two years, I transferred to the University of Georgia. Prior to transferring, I was highly involved in the life of my church. But that wasn’t the case when I moved up to Athens to attend UGA. Instead of getting plugged into a solid church and Christian community, I got plugged into a group of people who partied all the time.
We hit the party scene hard. So hard that within my first couple of months there, I had spent close to $1,000 dollars going out with my friends. I don’t know about you, but that’s a lot of money to me, and a lot of money to spend in a college town because things are much cheaper there.
And the crazy thing about it is that when it was all said and done, I didn’t have anything to show for it, except an empty bank account. My activity back then was purely a pursuit of pleasure. But you know what, the fun and excitement of a night out on the town eventually faded, leaving me not only broke but empty. Through that experience I learned that when it comes to pleasure, the feeling, excitement, and fun it produces never lasts. And what you experience one time, usually can’t be reproduced. Which usually leaves people in a cycle of chasing after something that’s not possible to gain again.
Solomon agrees and tells us just that in verse 11 when he says,
“Then I considered all that my hands had done and the toil I had expended in doing it, and behold, all was vanity and a striving after wind, and there was nothing to be gained under the sun.” (Ec 2:11)
Vanity, what does it mean?
When Solomon tells us that something is vanity or a striving after the wind, what he means is that the feeling or thing he’s tested or observed is fleeting. It’s not something that can be grasped or held onto. To try and grasp it is like trying to hold onto smoke or the wind. You can feel it, you can see it’s effects, but it can’t be contained. It can’t be held onto. Which means it can’t provide ultimate meaning, purpose, or fulfillment in life.
So when it comes to pleasure, in whatever form we might seek it — possessions, art, sex, partying, building projects, and whatever else — we see that despite our cultures messaging and our all out pursuit of it, pleasure really doesn’t provide that for which we long. It doesn’t and can’t provide ultimate purpose, meaning, or fulfillment in life.
This is what Solomon tells his children, his kingdom, and us. Fathers, this is what we should tell our children as well so that they don’t find themselves walking a hedonistic road with no purpose.
Question for Reflection
- Are you hoping pleasure will provide you with meaning and purpose?
Post adapted from my sermon: Fathers, Direct Your Kids Toward that Which Matters