The Key To All Of Life
Have you ever looked back and realized that some of the things you thought existed weren’t really even a part of the world? Like, as a really little kid I thought that I’d be interacting with farm animals far more than I am these days. Our 1 year old knows every sound that every farm animal makes, she thinks that all of existence is about telling bigger people what sound a sheep makes. She’s gonna be very disappointed to realize that there won’t be many sheep in her life. Or like quicksand. I thought quicksand would be a massive part of life. It was on every show I watched growing up, and so I thought that a good chunk of my life was gonna be avoiding quicksand. Or like did you ever think that a skeleton key existed? A key that opened every door? That must’ve been on a few shows that I watched because I was convinced that it was out there…until like kind of later into life. Wouldn’t that be great, to have a key that opened any door?
Maybe you think that really exists, not for doors, but for life. That there’s this skeleton key that if we can discover it or obtain it, then we can definitely have a good life. Maybe you think the skeleton key to life is having enough money, or a big family, or not having any attachments. There’s probably some skeleton key that each of us feel that if we had, it’d be the key to a happy, good life.
Well there was a guy named Solomon who spent his whole life looking for the key to life, and he discovers a bunch of stuff that isn’t at all the skeleton key he was hoping for. He gives us some of his conclusions in Ecclesiastes 7.
Look at what Solomon writes in verse 1: “A good name is better than fine perfume, and the day of one’s death is better than the day of one’s birth. It is better to go to a house of mourning than to go to a house of feasting, since that is the end of all mankind, and the living should take it to heart. Grief is better than laughter, for when a face is sad, a heart may be glad. The heart of the wise is in a house of mourning, but the heart of fools is in a house of pleasure.” We’re gonna see several things in this chapter that we think could be the key to life, and the first is this: GOOD VIBES. Solomon tried to just live a life of celebrating birth, partying, laughter, pleasure. All the good stuff. Maybe you think that’s exactly the key to the good life, just give me those good vibes, don’t bring any of your negativity into my space. You don’t want to hear about the brokenness in the world or the daily problems of your friends, good vibes only! But Solomon says that it’s better to go to the house of mourning than partying. It’s better to spend your evenings mourning, contemplating death. Because, he says, when a face is sad, a heart may be glad. See, Solomon isn’t just emo, he loves joy and gladness. He’s just lived a full life and realized that there’s a type of joy and gladness that can ONLY come through adversity and mourning. So to live a life that’s only about the good vibes, is to miss out on a depth of joy that Solomon wants us to experience.
I think we fall into this trip by avoiding anything negative. We avoid confrontation, sweep things under the rug instead of dealing with them in our family. We’d rather move to a new city and just start over, or switch jobs or churches than fight to restore brokenness. But Solomon says that this key doesn’t work. God wants to move us to a fuller joy and gladness THROUGH some mourning and difficulty.
Look at verses 5-6: “It is better to listen to rebuke from a wise person than to listen to the song of fools, for like the crackling of burning thorns under the pot, so is the laughter of the fool. This too is futile.” So here we may think the key to life is AFFIRMATION. No one likes to be rebuked, to have someone tell you that what you’re doing is wrong. We’d rather have people in our life who are constantly affirming us, telling us that all of our ideas and pursuits are awesome, epic, and amazing! Solomon said that’s like listening to the song of fools. I saw a quote this week that said, “If you’re the kind of person that squashes something when someone else gets excited about it, then you’re the worst kind of person.” In the world’s eyes, the worst kind of person is someone who isn’t affirming of every idea, thought, or new way.
Solomon says, that’s foolish. The key to life isn’t surrounding yourself with people who’ll only affirm you, you should have people in your life who’ll tell you when you’re acting like an idiot.
Do you have people in your life who will call you out when you’re not loving your spouse well? When you’re not parenting your kids well? When you and the person you’re dating aren’t following God’s path? When you’re falling too in love with money and buying stuff? Or do you only have people in your life who are affirming of all that you do?
Check out verses 7-9: “Surely, the practice of extortion turns a wise person into a fool, and a bribe corrupts the mind. The end of a matter is better than its beginning; a patient spirit is better than a proud spirit. Don’t let your spirit rush to be angry, for anger abides in the heart of fools.” I’m sure Solomon hoped this would unlock life: HAVING EVERYTHING RIGHT NOW. But he’s promoting patience and waiting until the end and not rushing here. He sees someone practicing extortion, forcing something to happen that wouldn’t naturally happen, through a bribe, and he sees the impatience of all of us to have everything in life right now. He sees someone whose impatience leads to anger because they don’t have what they feel they should have.
Man this is me. Most of you know we just moved into different house, and there are SO many things to take care of in this old house, and I just want everything to be done. I just told my wife the other night, I just want to do the final “thing” and be done and sit back and just not have a to do list.
Maybe you want financial security right now. Or a job that’s completely fulfilling right now. Maybe you’re getting impatient about God providing a spouse for you, or a child, and you just feel like if you could have those things right now, that’s the key. Solomon contrasts a patient spirit with what he calls a proud spirit, because someone who thinks then need everything right now is someone who believes they know better for their life than God does.
He’s saying that having everything right now isn’t the skeleton key to your happiness.
Look at verse 10: “Don’t say, “Why were the former days better than these? ” since it is not wise of you to ask this. Wisdom is as good as an inheritance and an advantage to those who see the sun, because wisdom is protection as silver is protection; but the advantage of knowledge is that wisdom preserves the life of its owner. Consider the work of God, for who can straighten out what he has made crooked? In the day of prosperity be joyful, but in the day of adversity, consider: God has made the one as well as the other, so that no one can discover anything that will come after him.” Here’s the skeleton key I think he’s exposing: our feeling that the key to life has actually passed us by, that the key to life is back in THE GOOD OLE’ DAYS. The Good Ole’ Days. Maybe you feel like the key to your happiness has already passed you by. It was back in high school, back when you were in shape, back when you were single, back before kids, back before debt, back, before that bad decision.
But Solomon says that God has you on this journey. Sometimes it’s straight, sometimes it’s crooked, and if you’re in a crooked time, can you straighten it out? Both paths come from God. He’s completely in control of your life; where you were, and where you are right now.
And here’s the reality guys, the good ole’ days aren’t behind us. If you’re a follower of Jesus, happiness, joy, contentment haven’t passed you by. They’re ahead of you. The good ole days won’t even compare to the kind of glory that Jesus is preparing for you.
Solomon says press forward, trusting that the key to life doesn’t lie in recovering a part of your past, it lies in trusting Jesus with your future.
Look at verse 15: “In my futile life I have seen everything: someone righteous perishes in spite of his righteousness, and someone wicked lives long in spite of his evil. Don’t be excessively righteous, and don’t be overly wise. Why should you destroy yourself?” We think the key to life is KARMA. We probably wouldn’t use that word, but I think most Christians basically, operatively live their lives like karma’s a real thing. The idea that if we do good things, good things will happen to us, and if we do bad things, then we should expect bad things to happen in our lives. We think the key to life is to be a good person, help our neighbors, give to the needy, and if we live those good lives, then good things’ll come to us.
But Solomon looks out at the world and sees something different. He sees a righteous person, a good person, perish even though he is good. And he sees a wicked person live this long life even though he’s evil. So Solomon says, Karma’s not the key to life, because it just doesn’t always work that way.
So he says don’t be overly righteous. Now, this doesn’t mean Solomon’s saying it’s ok not to be good or do the right thing, it’s Solomon saying, “If you’re trusting in your rightness, using it to get angry at God for things not going your way, then you’re destroying yourself.” The key to a good life isn’t your goodness or rightness.
Maybe you’ve been feeling that way, that you’ve been following God, going to church, giving, serving, and still things aren’t turning around, so you’re starting to feel like God doesn’t love you, isn’t working for you, what’s the point. But Solomon’s saying that the key to your joy and contentment isn’t your goodness or rightness.
In the same way, verse 17: “Don’t be excessively wicked, and don’t be foolish. Why should you die before your time? It is good that you grasp the one and do not let the other slip from your hand. For the one who fears God will end up with both of them.” Don’t be excessively wicked. Here’s what some of us see as the key to a good life: HEDONISM. Just doing whatever we feel like, whenever we feel like. Right? Doesn’t that sound like the good life? To not let anyone tell you what you can and can’t do? To not let some old, ancient book dictate how you live your life. You’re going to live it any way that makes you happy and everyone else just better get used to it, right? Otherwise they’re not worth keeping around. That’s hedonism: the complete pursuit of pleasure and self-indulgence.
Maybe you’ve been feeling like that lately; like if you just let your hair down a bit, not be so uptight about following Jesus and his way, and just lived your life and did what was right in your own eyes, then you’d be so much happier.
Proverbs 14:12: “There is a way that seems right to a person, but its end is the way to death.” The way that seems right to us, self-indulgence, isn’t the key to life, it actually leads to death. We need someone to show us the way to life, joy, and contentment.
There’s another key that Solomon explored in verse 19: “Wisdom makes the wise person stronger than ten rulers of a city. There is certainly no one righteous on the earth who does good and never sins. Don’t pay attention to everything people say, or you may hear your servant cursing you, for in your heart you know that many times you yourself have cursed others.” In verse 19 he’s talking about power, being stronger than ten rulers of a city, in verse 20 he shoots down perfection, there isn’t anyone who is perfect on earth, everyone sins and is broken in some way. and then in 21-22 he’s talking about people’s perception of you and what they say about you. Power, perfection, perception, I think what Solomon’s talking about here is thinking the key to life is our REPUTATION. If I can just have enough power, have a perfect life, or have everyone talk well about me, THAT’S the key to life. To have a good reputation.
But Solomon exposes that even your good reputation isn’t the key to life. Because in verse 20, you yourself are still sinful, even if you’ve hidden it from everyone else. In verse 22, you know in your heart how many times you’ve cursed others. Even if our reputation is impeccable, we could still be totally sinful, broken, and miserable.
Maybe you’ve thought that the key to life is just keeping you’re life in order and giving the appearance that you’ve got it all figured out. As long as your reputation is in tact with everyone else around you, that’s all you need, even if you know everything inside is a mess.
A good reputation isn’t the key to life at all.
Solomon looks at one more key to life in verse 23: “I have tested all this by wisdom. I resolved, “I will be wise,” but it was beyond me. What exists is beyond reach and very deep. Who can discover it? I turned my thoughts to know, explore, and examine wisdom and an explanation for things, and to know that wickedness is stupidity and folly is madness. And I find more bitter than death the woman who is a trap: her heart a net and her hands chains. The one who pleases God will escape her, but the sinner will be captured by her. “Look,” says the Teacher, “I have discovered this by adding one thing to another to find out the explanation, which my soul continually searches for but does not find: I found one person in a thousand, but none of those was a woman.” Solomon’s searched, but he’s struck out finding the key to life in RELATIONSHIPS. Solomon would’ve been on Tinder like crazy if he had it. Because we know he had 1,000 sexual partners and we see in these verses that all he found was emptiness there. You’d think at least one of these thousand women would unlock true joy and contentment for Solomon, right? It didn’t happen. He did find 1 guy in a thousand guys who was wise, but even still back in verse 20 Solomon said that every person is sinful, so even this one person isn’t THAT good and will probably let Solomon down.
Maybe you think that if you can just find the right spouse, or if you just had a different spouse, that you could finally be happy. Maybe you think if you had a different friend group, a different community, a different country, whatever, that you’d be happy because you’d have different relationships. But Solomon says that the key to life doesn’t come through relationships. They were never intended by God to give us ultimate joy, and so maybe some of us need to stop viewing our spouses, kids, friends as the ultimate source of our joy and contentment in life.
Solomon concludes it all in verse 29: “Only see this: I have discovered that God made people upright, but they pursued many schemes.” He said that God made people upright. God gave us the key to the good life, the REAL Good Life, but we rebelled and thought that other ways would be better. We pursued many schemes, many other routes to the good life than God’s way. And we’ve made a mess of it all.
So now we need God to give us a better key to the good life than we could ever find on our own.
That’s what the gospel is. It really is THE key to the good life now, and forever. The gospel is this: That Jesus, who was fully God and fully man, was born into this broken world, and he lived a perfect life. It wasn’t a life of only good vibes and affirmation; people hated Jesus! It wasn’t a life of having everything Jesus wanted right now, he endured the cross, suffering the shame. It wasn’t a life of karma, because Jesus definitely didn’t get treated the way he deserved. It wasn’t a life filled with fulfilling relationships; all his friends deserted him. It was a life that was fully pleasing to God. And Jesus laid down that life when he died for you.
And because he lived that kind of life, God can now credit Jesus’ life to us. A follower of Jesus is someone who’s actual life is sinful, broken, a complete mess; but because of what happened in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus, God literally gives each follower of Jesus the life OF JESUS.
And that’s the key to the good life. Not that we achieve it on our own; but that God achieved the good life for us. He lived it. He did it.
And now, look at what Colossians 3 says: “For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.” So the key to the good life is that we need to die. We need to die to our own pursuit of the good life, and instead be united to Jesus by giving Him our lives. And when that happens, our life becomes so married with Jesus that it says our life is hidden with Christ in God. We’re totally united to him. And when he comes again, which he promised to do, we’ll be with him forever and it’ll be glorious.
That’s the good life we’ll live forever. And that’s the key to life right now.