Sermon: The Grass-Is-Always-Greener Syndrome (Ecclesiastes 6-8)

The-Grass- is- Always- Greener Syndrome

Ecclesiastes 6-8

Many of you have heard the old saying that the grass is always greener on the other side.  I can picture a farmer leaning against a wooden fence with a straw hat on examining the condition of his grass.  As he looks down, he sees bare patches and other blemishes in his field.  Looking over the fence to his neighbor’s field he sees nothing but green healthy growth.  What this farmer doesn’t see are the many blemishes in the neighbor’s field because he’s not standing in it but looking at it from a distance.

The idea that God has been restrictive and stingy to us and encouraging and giving to others is an age old trick of the devil to get us trapped in sin.  Many marriages, fortunes, and property have been sacrificed because people always think someone else’s’ stuff is better than ours.

If you are married today, remember the spouse you have is absolutely the most perfect spouse you could ever have because they’re the one with whom you vowed before God to love and cherish and to be faithful to until death separates you.  Husbands, the grass is not greener on the other side.  The wife you have is very green.

Solomon desires to show us today that you can’t judge a book by its cover…the grass isn’t always greener on the other side and what you have is perfect for you.  Again the theme of accepting God’s gracious provisions and being happy with what He gives is key to living under the sun.  Accept your lot in life and glorify the Lord for His gracious provision to you.  The trap we often fall into is looking at someone else’s situation and thinking that I wish I had what they have.  The reality is what they have may not be as good as it appears as we stand in our field looking across at theirs.  Early on, I fell into this trap.  When I finished Bible College and Seminary I looked at many of my friends and they began to step into churches that were bigger with bigger salaries and bigger resources.  There was a time or two when I questioned God and as I looked across the fence to their field it looked much greener.  I spent time interviewing with different churches and each one seemed to have a major roadblock.  Either they were not really interested in biblical teaching or they were involved in unbiblical practices.  The Lord was protecting me and my family from much heartache.  Now I see what He was doing.  Now I see that I would rather be here with you than any other place.  My lot in life is perfect.  My friends may have bigger churches but they also have bigger problems.

Don’t judge a book by its cover, the grass isn’t always greener on the other side, prosperity isn’t always good and adversity isn’t always bad.

We’ve looked at the fact that the possessions we have must been seen as coming from God’s loving hands if we are to enjoy life.  The enjoyment will only happen as we see this and live accordingly.  This sets us up for Solomon’s third sermon which covers Chapters 6-8.

At the end of his sermon, he concludes…

Eccles. 8:15 (ESV)

And I commend joy, for man has no good thing under the sun but to eat and drink and be joyful, for this will go with him in his toil through the days of his life that God has given him under the sun.

Truth Taught- Don’t always assume that prosperity leads to happiness and don’t always assume that adversity leads to sadness.

1- Prosperity is Not Always Good (Ecclesiastes 6:1-12)

Eccles. 6:1-12 (ESV)

There is an evil that I have seen under the sun, and it lies heavy on mankind:  [2] a man to whom God gives wealth, possessions, and honor, so that he lacks nothing of all that he desires, yet God does not give him power to enjoy them, but a stranger enjoys them. This is vanity; it is a grievous evil.  [3] If a man fathers a hundred children and lives many years, so that the days of his years are many, but his soul is not satisfied with life’s good things, and he also has no burial, I say that a stillborn child is better off than he.  [4] For it comes in vanity and goes in darkness, and in darkness its name is covered.  [5] Moreover, it has not seen the sun or known anything, yet it finds rest rather than he.  [6] Even though he should live a thousand years twice over, yet enjoy no good—do not all go to the one place?

[7] All the toil of man is for his mouth, yet his appetite is not satisfied.  [8] For what advantage has the wise man over the fool? And what does the poor man have who knows how to conduct himself before the living?  [9] Better is the sight of the eyes than the wandering of the appetite: this also is vanity and a striving after wind.

[10] Whatever has come to be has already been named, and it is known what man is, and that he is not able to dispute with one stronger than he.  [11] The more words, the more vanity, and what is the advantage to man?  [12] For who knows what is good for man while he lives the few days of his vain life, which he passes like a shadow? For who can tell man what will be after him under the sun?

Life has a “catch 22”.  There is a dilemma we find ourselves in and that is the frustration of living under the sun.  We think the grass is greener and that someone else’s life is better because they seem to be successful or they have more stuff.  What Solomon shares with us is that joy is a two-sided-coin.  One side is the things God may bless us with…

There is an evil that I have seen under the sun, and it lies heavy on mankind:  [2] a man to whom God gives wealth, possessions, and honor, so that he lacks nothing of all that he desires,

That side by itself will never yield joy.  The amount of riches is not the issue.  Whether we have 100 dollars or a billion dollars is not the issue.  You will not be happier with more money.

What’s Solomon getting at?  Not only do we depend on God to give us material blessings but we depend on God for the ability to enjoy the things He gives.  The pursuit of happiness must be a pursuit of God.

In his classic, The Pursuit of Holiness, Jerry Bridges writes, God intends the Christian life to be a life of joy—not drudgery.  The idea that holiness is associated with a dour disposition is a caricature of the worst sort.  In fact, the opposite is true.  Only those who walk in holiness experience true joy.—Bridges

Solomon goes on to explain that… yet God does not give him power to enjoy them.

God blesses and gives the ability to enjoy His blessings.  Our pursuit of joy outside the realm of obedience to God will always wind up being an empty pursuit.

In context of the whole Book of Ecclesiastes, Solomon’s point is that our lot in life is determined by God whether we’re rich or poor, whether we have good health or bad.  But these things do not lead to happiness.  That only comes as God grants it to us.

With this in mind, I can imagine that Our Lord Jesus was the most joyful person to ever walk the earth.  We get a glimpse of true joy and how it can attained.

John 15:10-11 (ESV)

If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love.  [11] These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.

True joy was found by Jesus as He obeyed the will of His Father.  As He perfectly walked in obedience to the Father, His joy was perfect.  He goes on to tell us that this same joy can also be for us as we obey His commandments.  This is the other half of the equation.

God blesses us with material possessions and we can enjoy them as we enjoy God and obey His commandments.  Our joy is in direct proportion to our obedience not in direct proportion to the amount of stuff we have.  We may have everything in the world but lack the power from God to enjoy it.

Solomon concludes that what is good for man is to enjoy his work or the things we do everyday as we look to God for security and peace.

Paul takes this truth a step further in Romans

Romans 14:17 (ESV)

For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.

So when we look at someone else’s lot in life don’t conclude too quickly that theirs would be superior to yours.  You may drive a clunker with joy in Christ and they may drive a hummer with emptiness reigning inside.  Don’t be too quick to want what someone else has because prosperity isn’t always good.

Solomon takes another step toward solving the puzzle of joy.  His reasoning goes like this: Don’t always assume that prosperity leads to happiness and don’t always assume that adversity leads to sadness.

2- Adversity is Not Always Bad (Ecclesiastes 7:1-15)

In a series of proverbs, Solomon shows us what he’s talking about.  Some he shows the best and others, he shows the good.  Most aren’t what we’d think.

Eccles. 7:1-8 (ESV)

A good name is better than precious ointment,

and the day of death than the day of birth.

[2] It is better to go to the house of mourning

than to go to the house of feasting,

for this is the end of all mankind,

and the living will lay it to heart.

[3] Sorrow is better than laughter,

for by sadness of face the heart is made glad.

[4] The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning,

but the heart of fools is in the house of mirth.

[5] It is better for a man to hear the rebuke of the wise

than to hear the song of fools.

[6] For as the crackling of thorns under a pot,

so is the laughter of the fools;

this also is vanity.

Grief and sorrow may have more of a positive lasting effect than laughter and celebrating.

He points out in verse 1 that a good name is better than perfume.  Like perfume, a good name radiates from a person and lasts where perfume doesn’t.

In all these comparisons, what the Preacher is getting at is what reveals the realness of life.  Which one shows what life is all about?  Or perhaps we could say which one makes us think about the important things?

Why would Solomon say that it’s better to go to someone’s house after a funeral than to go to their house for a party?  After the funeral, most folks are thinking about the reality of a short life and how important it is to live well.  That’s more important to our souls than going to a party.  Parties are more fun but funerals are more meaningful.

So we see in the mind of God that adversity is not always a bad thing, it often can lead us to the good things we would never have experienced apart from the trial.

He then moves to two examples of trials and what our reaction should be.

[7] Surely oppression drives the wise into madness,

and a bribe corrupts the heart.

[8] Better is the end of a thing than its beginning,

and the patient in spirit is better than the proud in spirit.

Our reaction to oppression should be to do what we can.  Oppression, he says, makes a wise man mad and a bribe corrupts the heart. Here he deals with two trials. How does the wise man respond to oppression? Not with a shrug, but with indignation, and ultimately it drives him crazy to see oppression occurring.

And he also says that a bribe corrupts the heart. These trials cannot be ignored by the wise man. The end of a matter is better than the beginning. Why? Because the end often reveals the purposes of God in ways that those purposes cannot be seen at the beginning of a matter.

Finally, Solomon’s point with all this is to understand that whether you’re experiencing prosperity or adversity, they both come from God and will work for our good if we see that God is orchestrating all things.

We could say, Submission is better than Rebellion.

Eccles. 7:14 (ESV)

In the day of prosperity be joyful, and in the day of adversity consider: God has made the one as well as the other, so that man may not find out anything that will be after him.

When times are good thank the Lord and when you experience adversity remember both come from God.  Submit to Him in all things and in all times.

Truth Taught- Don’t always assume that prosperity leads to happiness and don’t always assume that adversity leads to sadness.

Solomon learned the secret to a joyful life and that was not to allow circumstances to dictate your attitude.  Paul in the NT also learned the secret…

Philip. 4:10-13 (ESV)

I rejoiced in the Lord greatly that now at length you have revived your concern for me. You were indeed concerned for me, but you had no opportunity.  [11] Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content.  [12] I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need.  [13] I can do all things through him who strengthens me.

Did Paul always complain about his lot in life?  Was he always thinking that the grass is greener somewhere else?  He knew the secret to contentment.  He knew the bottom line was that God would be exalted as he accepted his lot in life and praised God for the grace that he often needed to endure some of the difficult circumstances.

Eccles. 8:15 (ESV)

And I commend joy, for man has no good thing under the sun but to eat and drink and be joyful, for this will go with him in his toil through the days of his life that God has given him under the sun.

The Book of Ecclesiastes is a book for today.  It’s a book for us, God’s people.  Let’s all learn from Solomon what life is all about.  His life was meaningless until He met the Lord.

Adversity is better than prosperity because adversity causes us to lean on Christ.  Thank God for both.

As we lean on Christ we begin to experience true life.  Our lives belong to Him anyway.  He’s the One who came to earth and lived a perfect life free of sin.  He’s the One who took the punishment for our sin.  He’s the One who lives and reigns.  He’s the One who rose again for our justification.  Jesus is the One who makes life worth living.  Thank God that what matters is not our circumstances, what matters is our relationship with Christ.

Do you know Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior?

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