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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.