7-5-6 Solomon's Materialism And Self-fulfilment
Solomon's obsession with building the temple and his own houses shows
a massive attraction towards material things. Ecc.2 chronicles how he
crazily tried to accumulate every branch of material possession. Solomon
figuratively chastised the people with whips in the form of the excessive
tax he raised in order to build store cities (1 Kings 9:15,19), in which
to store all his accumulation. Surely this is behind the Lord's parable
of the rich fool, devoid of wisdom in practice, who built ever bigger
barns because of his lack of understanding about the future Kingdom. The
Hebrew for " store cities" (2 Chron.8:6) is also translated
" to heap up" , strengthening the connection with the rich fool
(Lk.12:15-28). That parable stresses the self-centredness of the fool-
just circle all the occurrences of the word " I" . A similar
over-use of personal pronouns in Ecc.2:4-8 makes the same point. Ecc.2:26
records how Solomon reflected that the sinner " heaped up" treasures-
using the same word as for his " store cities" . He
saw his error, but wasn't bothered to do anything about it.
Of course, Solomon no doubt created some kind of spiritual justification
for his materialism and self-fulfilment. He would have seen it as God's
blessing of him with the Messianic Kingdom. This emphasis on material
things led Solomon to fail to see the concept of Christ as the future
Saviour, and the way in which the things of this life should be seen as
pointing forward to the reality of Christ and his Kingdom. Solomon's mass
personal sacrifice of 22,000 oxen and 120,000 sheep was not only a public
flaunting of his supposed spirituality. It was also indirectly alluded
to by the Spirit in Heb. 10:6, where God says that He has no pleasure
in such mass sacrifices. Instead God desires true spirituality and an
appreciation that these sacrifices pointed forward to the blood of Christ.
Likewise our materialism and self-fulfilment takes our concentration away
from the reality and power of Christ's sacrifice. Solomon was self-centred
rather than Christ centred, his obsession with his own works led him to
ignore his desperate need for the blood of the one true sacrifice. And
ditto for many of us. How up to date is the warning of Solomon!
Solomon had what we might call obsessive tendencies. We know that
he became addicted to finding pleasure in women, and Ecc.2 shows him racing
down the road of obsession with architecture, alcohol, food, gold etc.
The historical narratives so often mention his gold and silver (eg 2 Chron.
9:13,14,15,16,17,18,20,21,24,27). This repetition reflects Solomon's obsession.
The same fact explains the record's repetition of Solomon's enthusiasm
for horses (1 Kings 10:26,29; 4:26,28; 9:19,22; 10:25,28; 2 Chron.1:14,16,17;
8:6,9; 9:24,25,28). Yet amassing of gold, silver and horses was explicitly
forbidden for the King of Israel (Dt.17:17). There is a powerful point
to be made here: we can deceive ourselves that God is blessing us, when
actually we are breaching explicit commands. Would Solomon had understood
the concept of self-examination.
Most people spend their lives pushing down one or two avenues of self-fulfilment-
to own a large home, a nice car (cp. horses and chariots), to achieve
some level of sexual and domestic fulfilment, financial power etc. Solomon
fantastically succeeded in all these avenues- and came to realize that
still he was unfulfilled. He became a workaholic, rejoicing in his own
labour- but that too, as many a middle aged man can testify, brought nothing
(Ecc. 2:10). If only we can perceive it, Solomon provides a fantastic
challenge. If we believe the Biblical record of Solomon, none of these
avenues will hold much attraction for us any more. But our community-
the young especially- throw the majority of their energy into one or two
of these avenues. Just a handful who learn the lesson of Solomon could
turn the world upside down for Christ- especially given the financial
and linguistic possibilities of our age. Yet in all such aspirations to
burning zeal and achievement (would we had more of it!), the other lessons
of Solomon must be learnt. His building of the temple was "
all Solomon's desire which he was pleased to do" (1 Kings
9:1). There is a semantic connection between the Hebrew words for "
desire" and " pleased" - the point of which is to emphasize
that Solomon's work for God was only an expression of his own zest for
self-fulfilment; he served the Truth in ways which only confirmed his
own natural inclinations. Appreciating the spirit and blood of Christ,
his own weakness, the grace of God, and the subsequent desire to live
a life of self sacrifice, of carrying a cross in ways we wouldn't naturally
chose- this was all foreign to Solomon. And is it so foreign to us? Solomon's
materialism and self-fulfilment are sure warnings to our age.