King Solomon was not only the wisest man to have ever lived, he was also the richest. According to a recent study, in today’s economic standards he was worth $2.1 Trillion dollars. This makes Solomon the richest man to have ever lived, and this is precisely how most people define success.
How do you define success? Is it a certain number of dollars in your bank account? It is fame or public recognition from your peers and a certain number of awards? Is success having your house and cars paid for with money to spare in the bank? Is success having vacation homes and an ability to take a vacation whenever you desire? Is success merely financial or could success be something more? How do you define success?
Solomon’s Defines Success: Wisdom
The book of Ecclesiastes is King Solomon’s treatise on this very subject. “What is success and how is it found?” He opens his treatise with the classic line from the Rolling Stones, “I can’t get no satisfaction,” or as Solomon put it, “Vanity of vanities, says the Preacher, all is vanity.”
Solomon opened his autobiography with an overview of the vanity of humanity. He described his lifelong pursuit to obtain satisfaction. He decided early on that wisdom must be the answer. “Success, and therefore satisfaction, must be obtained by wisdom,” was Solomon’s early forgone conclusion. By the end of chapter one Solomon says, “And I set my mind to know wisdom and to know madness and folly; I realized that this also is striving after wind.” (Ecclesiastes 1:17 NASB) Solomon decided that although his wisdom brought him material success, it also brought him increasing grief and pain. Therefore, he concludes, wisdom although necessary, is also vanity. Wisdom alone can’t provide lasting satisfaction.
Solomon Defines Success: Pleasure and Possessions
Next, Solomon shifted his attention to the pursuit of pleasure and possessions. He turned to entertainment and laughter. He then turned to drinking wine to stimulate his senses. He enlarged his assets. He built many houses, vineyards and lavish gardens. He made parks and planted fruit trees. He made ponds and had servants. He possessed flocks and herds far more than any in Jerusalem before him. He collected silver and gold, hired singers and had many concubines. He did not withhold any pleasure from his heart and soul. Anything that pleased his senses he gave himself. He tried everything to obtain satisfaction. He concludes chapter two the same as chapter one. “I can’t get no satisfaction.”
As Solomon moves throughout his discourse he continues to offer wisdom on where true satisfaction is found. In chapter five he says, “He who loves money will not be satisfied with money, nor he who loves abundance with its income.” (Ecclesiastes 5:10 NASB) Apparently, no amount of money can satisfy the human heart either. Words of wisdom spoken from both the wisest and richest man in the world.
Solomon Defines Success: Love God and Keep His Commandments
As Solomon progresses through each chapter in his treatise, he offers wisdom on a variety of topics. Clearly Solomon is outlining his life history and his pursuit of genuine happiness and contentment. He attempts everything to find lasting satisfaction, including proverbs, songs and the writing of books. Solomon declares, it’s “all vanity and wearisome.” At the very end of his twelve-chapter discourse Solomon gives us the answer to success and satisfaction which apparently long eluded him. “Love (fear) God and keep his commandments.” (Ecclesiastes 12:13 NASB) What was Solomon’s point? There is no amount of wisdom, no amount of pleasure, no amount of wealth that can truly satisfy the human soul. Solomon unknowingly defined success as “lasting satisfaction or inner peace.” Then he tells us where to find it. True satisfaction is found by being obedient to and in loving relationship with God.