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July 22, 1995

How’s Your “Stuff” Collection?

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I amassed silver and gold far myself. ECCLESIASTES 2:8
Where are you on the “stuff-collection” scale? We all love having stuff, and acquiring more things can be a daily activity. Every time we go shopping or scan the newspaper for a second home or make out our Christmas list or consider what kind of furniture we should purchase or what model of car to get next, we are arranging our lives around all the stuff there is to possess.
Solomon was an expert at acquiring things. According to Ecclesiastes, he was not only the king of Israel, but he was also the king of possessions. He purchased slaves, owned herds, amassed silver and gold, bought entertainment, built palaces, and maintained a fleet of chariots and trading boats, among other things.
It’s interesting that Solomon never describes the amassing of material goods as a bad thing. But in this passage and elsewhere, he does say that if we think collecting things will offer any measurable sense of fulfillment, we are seriously mistaken. If our goal is possessions—finding them, buying them, and using them—then we will be sorely disappointed in what we get in return. When Solomon surveyed all that his hands had accomplished, he discovered that “everything was meaningless, a chasing after the wind; nothing was gained under the sun” (Ecclesiastes 2:11).
What Solomon says in these verses runs counter to what most people believe. But he’s insistent about it: Wisdom and knowledge aren’t fulfilling, nor are pleasure and laughter. Spending a lifetime pursuing great career goals ends up being no more meaningful than amassing huge wealth and collecting material goods.
We might be tempted to dismiss a person who holds such notions as one who really doesn’t understand how the world works. But it’s very difficult to do that with Solomon. He could afford to explore it all, and he did. Now, at the end of his life, he has a message for us: None of those things—either separately or in combination with each other—give us what we so desperately want: satisfaction and meaning.
Where are you looking for fulfillment in your life? Is there a bit of the younger Solomon in you?

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