French philosopher Blaise Pascal wondered why kings wasted hours being entertained by court jesters. Why spend time in the presence of a fool? Pascal concluded that the man who has everything still has one thing to worry about—that he might lose everything. So he calls for the fool, who distracts him from that thought.
King Solomon initially tried to distract himself with laughter, wine, and a little folly. He still felt unsatisfied, so he “tried to find meaning by building huge homes for [himself] and by planting beautiful vineyards” (Ecclesiastes 2:4-5). Then he “bought slaves,” “owned large herds,” “collected great sums of silver and gold,” “hired wonderful singers,” and “had many beautiful concubines. [He] had everything a man could desire!” (Ecclesiastes 2:7-8). But Solomon couldn’t shake the fear of his own mortality. He “saw that the wise and the foolish . . . both will die.” And he thought, “This is all so meaningless!” (Ecclesiastes 2:14-15).
Many people today enjoy the pleasures of tasty food and comfortable homes. Some even regularly have “servants” to prepare their meals (in restaurants!). But people with material comfort can still be unhappy. So they distract themselves with entertainment by following celebrities, sports, and the latest gossip, anything to take their minds off their mortality. As Pascal observed, “All the unhappiness of men arises from one single fact, that they cannot stay quietly in their own chamber.”
Only Jesus can quiet our souls. Death is a reality, but that’s why we’re believers in Jesus! He’ll return to raise us from our graves, and “we will be with the Lord forever” (1 Thessalonians 4:17). We’re set free to enjoy our lives because they possess great meaning in Christ.
NLT 365-day reading plan passage for today: Joshua 24:1-31
Read Ecclesiastes 7:1-14. Why does Solomon say funerals are better than parties?
Is your entertainment a distraction from death or your enjoyment of life? How can you tell the difference?