Striving for Awards
I love cooking shows, and Top Chef is my absolute favorite. It’s a cooking contest in which every episode chefs are given challenges to complete in a certain amount of time. When the timer goes off, winners are given rewards, losers are on the chopping block, and one contestant goes home. One night a while back, I was watching an episode on Hulu. As the chefs were scrambling to get everything done in the last seconds of the challenge, I “heard” the words “Vanity of vanities.” The words stuck with me as I watched as the dishes were judged by the expert panel. The latest losing contestant, an openly homosexual man, was sent home. His words of never giving up and pursuing his dreams in the culinary industry did, in fact, sound sad and hollow. What kind of future could this hard-working, talented man have apart from Jesus? Vanity!
Numbing the Pain
When I went to my prayer closet a few minutes later, I ignored my usual Bible bookmark. Instead, I went straight for Ecclesiastes 1. “What profit has a man from all his labor in which he toils under the sun?” (Ecc 1:2). That was the question for this program, but then I thought back to another program I had watched that day. It was a video from the YouTube channel Jason A called “Everything You Know is a Lie.” It was about people in the United States using prescription drugs to dull their pain. At about the 2:40 mark, the woman giving a TED Talk says, “Our human need of significance, love, and connection can never be met with chemicals.”
And yet, prescription opioids have tripled in recent years. Thousands of people die each year from taking the psychotropic drugs their doctors prescribe for them to erase their pain, loneliness, and despair. They lack purpose, faith, and love in their lives. So, they use drugs to forget everything but a feeling in the moment. So many people today are hurting and looking to chemicals to erase the pain. Instead, the solution for so many could be found in focusing instead on the person of Jesus Christ. Vanity!
Seeking the Supernatural Apart From God
And then an article I read popped into my mind. The article said “Christian Ouija Boards” are becoming popular in some circles. It wasn’t the ridiculousness of the practice itself that struck me at the time I read it. It was the reactions of those who had used the product and loved it. One said, “After playing that game where I really connected with my angel, I had so much hope and confidence.” Another said, “I have never been so at peace with myself.” And still another said, “I met my higher guide, felt unconditional love, and knew I wasn’t alone and never had been.”
The people using this board are trying to fill holes in their lives. They are trying to find hope, confidence, peace, love, and an answer to loneliness. But instead of turning to the living God to fill their holes, they are asking for help from demons masquerading as angels that they had summoned through a “game.” Vanity!
What Is the Solution?
So what is vanity, and what does Solomon suggest as the solution to it? Vanity is “the futile emptiness of trying to be happy apart from God.” What striving for accolades, self-medication, and dabbling in the occult will never do for any length of time or real measure is fill that God-shaped hole each of us is born with. Only God can do that. Solomon, in the great wisdom God had given him, knew it too.
From various passages stacked together, he suggests “Eat…drink…rejoice…do good…live joyfully…fear God…keep His commandments…” for “this is the gift of God.” Realizing and appreciating that each day is a gift from God is the real key to happiness. Focusing on God and His purpose and plan fills the God-shaped hole in our lives and isn’t just a vanity of vanities. “For he will not dwell unduly on the days of his life because God keeps him busy with the joy of his heart” (Ecc 6:1) Each of our days is a gift. Living in obedience to Him and keeping our focus on His kingdom instead of the distress of our lives is the only way we can find fulfillment that lasts. It’s the only way we won’t be just “grasping for the wind.”
If you like points to ponder, try Goldilocks and the Narrow Way. In it, we see that the narrow strip of options between extremes is where Christians should live. Like to read more from Evangelical Christian sisters who “tell it messy, true, and wonderful because we are His”? Check out Telling Hearts.