In Ecclesiastes 6.7, King Solomon penned these wise words: “All a man’s labor is for his mouth and yet the soul is not satisfied.” A powerful proverb—especially coming from a man whose appetite was fed with every pleasure known to man. Consider what Solomon is really saying:
1. Getting what you want will never satisfy you. Oh sure, eating more, owning more, vacationing more, feeling more…all these things may satisfy some temporary desires. They may make your body or mind happy for a season. But Solomon says that gratifying these desires will never satisfy the deepest part of a person—his soul. The soul is where the deepest longings exist. The soul is where the most painful agonies cry out. And in the end, it is often true that the people who are most wealthy and most gratified have souls which are least healthy and least satisfied! And Solomon ought to know. He was Bill Gates and the President of the United States all rolled into one—the wealthiest, most powerful man in the known world. Listen to his self-description in Ecclesiastes 2.4-10:
4I enlarged my works: I built houses for myself, I planted vineyards for myself; 5I made gardens and parks for myself and I planted in them all kinds of fruit trees; 6I made ponds of water for myself from which to irrigate a forest of growing trees. 7I bought male and female slaves and I had homeborn slaves Also I possessed flocks and herds larger than all who preceded me in Jerusalem. 8Also, I collected for myself silver and gold and the treasure of kings and provinces I provided for myself male and female singers and the pleasures of men--many concubines. 9Then I became great and increased more than all who preceded me in Jerusalem. My wisdom also stood by me. 10All that my eyes desired I did not refuse them I did not withhold my heart from any pleasure, for my heart was pleased because of all my labor and this was my reward for all my labor.
Solomon had possessions (v.4-6), power (v.7), money (v.8a), sexual gratification (v.8b), fame (v.9a), wisdom (v.9b), pleasure (v.10a), and success (v.10b). Yet with all this, his soul was not satisfied. Read what he says in 2.11: “Thus I considered all my activities which my hands had done and the labor which I had exerted, and behold all was vanity and striving after wind.” Which brings me to my second point from Ecclesiastes 6.7:
2. Working for what you get will never satisfy you. Now that goes exactly contrary to the American way of thinking doesn’t it? We’ve been taught to think that the only things worth having are the things you have to work for. But Solomon says it isn’t so. He says that a man’s “labor” is, in the end, not satisfying to the soul.
When you work for something, the end result is that you get simply what you deserve. You earn a wage. And no one turns cartwheels when they get their same old paycheck on a Friday afternoon. But what if, when you get that paycheck, your boss has, out of the goodness of his heart, given you a $100 bonus? Then you get excited! So Solomon is right. The things worked for aren’t what exhilarate the soul. It’s the free gifts that truly make the heart glad.
So what is the point? Solomon’s point is simply this: Soul satisfaction comes neither through temporary, earthly gratification…nor through sweat and toil. Actually the opposite is true. Soul satisfaction comes as we: (a) Cease aiming to satisfy ourselves, and start aiming to be satisfied in God; and (b) Stop trying to work for everything we get and realize that satisfaction—forgiveness, purpose, relationship with God, and eternal life—is a free gift through the life and death of Jesus.
To boil it down to a simple question: Are you working for yourself…or resting in Jesus? The eternal satisfaction of your soul depends upon how you answer!