The quest for glory, greatness, value, significance, meaning, identity and eternal life is a fundamental longing. This is the primary desire and need of every person. God, Himself has inserted this longing. Therefore, He is the only one who can fill this gap and provide for that need. This provision is in the center of His awesome plan to share His Life and nature through Christ in us – our hope of glory.
The quest for glory and the carnal ways of the self
The Bible book Ecclesiastes or the Preacher presents the human, carnal way of satisfying this longing and the inevitable result – weariness, depression, emotional, physical and mental exhaustion. The self seeks to obtain eternal glory and majesty for itself, apart from God through several basic ways listed below. These ways have been relevant at the time of the Preacher, who is most likely supposed to be the famous King Solomon, as they are nowadays.
These are the ways and methods of the self in all times and ages. The self, who wants to be his own god and to build himself an everlasting monument and his own kingdom. All these attempts, however, are doomed to fail, for the simple reason that man is created by God and for God. And only through Him and with Him, and according to His ways and rules, man can find real meaning, eternal glory and life. This is very well expressed in Christ’s words: “For you can do nothing apart from me.” (John 15: 5) Nothing of eternal value and significance.
Idols and God
Nothing and nobody is able to replace God as a source of satisfaction, value, significance, meaning, and greatness. When we replace Him with something else, that thing becomes an idol. The idol promises what it can not give. It wants and demands our attention, time, labor, resources, our life. In return, it promises satisfaction of the soul, joy, peace, prosperity, value, significance, acceptance, love. But it can not fulfill its promises. And the more we give to the idol, the more it demands from us, luring us with empty promises and mirages. God calls these idols broken cisterns that can not quench our thirst. “My people have committed two sins: They have forsaken me, the spring of living water, and have dug their own cisterns, broken cisterns that cannot hold water.” (Jeremiah 2:13) Below are listed some of these broken cisterns.
Achievements and success
“I undertook great projects: I built houses for myself and planted vineyards. I made gardens and parks and planted all kinds of fruit trees in them. Yet when I surveyed …what I had toiled to achieve, everything was meaningless, a chasing after the wind; nothing was gained under the sun.” (Ecclesiast 2:4-6, 2:11) Man strives for deeds with everlasting and lasting value. These deeds, however, are not the own achievements, but God’s works, inspired by Him, with His power and resources. Achievements, success, and work are unable to give us what God alone can – identity and significance.
Knowledge and wisdom
“…Look, I have increased in wisdom more than anyone who has ruled over Jerusalem before me; I have experienced much of wisdom and knowledge… But I learned that this, too, is a chasing after the wind.” (Ecclesiast 1:16-17) The worldly wisdom says that whoever has information and knowledge, he has authority and power. Power to control and manipulate. God’s wisdom says that whoever has Christ, He sits in Him and with Him at the right hand of God. This is the true position of power. The accumulation of knowledge, education, and titles as a source of significance and identity will always disappoint us.
“I also owned more herds and flocks than anyone in Jerusalem before me. I amassed silver and gold for myself, and the treasure of kings and provinces.” (Ecclesiast 2:7-8) Unfortunately, the possessions can also not give us the security, the peace and the significance that we strive for. Particularly the accumulation of wealth as a compensatory mechanism for the lack of sense of significance and a way to show and magnify the self proves to be also ineffective and unsuccessful. The worldly wisdom based on the love of money lies to us that earthly possessions are a way to acquire power, name and value.
God directs us to the true, lasting and eternal wealth in Matthew 6:19-21: “But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”
Pleasures and entertainment
“…I acquired male and female singers, and a harem as well—the delights of a man’s heart.”(Ecclesiast 2:8) The pleasures, entertainment and enjoyment are a way for a person to feel good. Unfortunately, however, they are a temporary medicine that can not fill the gap in us because it can be filled only with things of lasting value. The great trap of pleasures is when they are motivated by the self and serve primarily for self-satisfaction. Hence, they can easily turn into an idol and occupy the place of God and the relationship with Him as a source of delight and joy that are lasting. The self-directed pleasures, the fulfillment of all desires and whims with the purpose of self-gratification, unfortunately, do not add to us glory and significance or satisfy our souls.
In conclusion, none of these ways leads to the goal. It is therefore not surprising that the conclusion reached by the Preacher is that all of this is useless and meaningless in the human quest for eternal memory, glory and greatness. “What do people get for all the toil and anxious striving with which they labor under the sun? All their days their work is grief and pain; even at night their minds do not rest. This too is meaningless.” (Ecclesiast 2:22-23)
God’s way to satisfy our quest for glory, value, significance and eternal life is through a relationship with Him. This way involves getting a new identity within this relationship by sharing God’s nature and life that are eternal. So, this makes it possible to share God’s glory and greatness as well as His power. This is the future and the destiny of every believer – co-heir with Christ.
Have you tried to find meaning and purpose in one or more of the above ways? What was the outcome? You are welcome to share and comment!