Friday, September 18, 2009

Nothing Gold Can Stay

By Eric Kampmann

Our culture is obsessed with the acquisition of material goods
and worldly status. However, in the race to attain these
temporal things, people forget to pursue spiritual riches. When
we spend the best days of our lives chasing after fame or
wealth, then we are to be pitied, for in the end, nothing of
lasting value will be ours. "Meaningless! Meaningless!
Everything is meaningless."(Ecclesiastes 1:2)

Unlike many of the popular writers of the "lost generation" of
the 1920s who reflected a world stripped of God, Solomon is not
writing as a stoic or nihilist. He is simply describing a truth
that has been lost in our own time: The world is nothing more
than a wasteland without God. "All things are wearisome, more
than one can say. The eye never has enough of seeing, nor the
ear its fill of hearing. What has been will be again, what has
been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the
sun." (Ecclesiastes 1:9)

When the purpose of life is reduced to satisfying the appetites
of the body, we ultimately discover that the appetites are
insatiable and, like a fire out of control, they never have
enough. Solomon explains how futile it is to only strive after
things of this world: "I denied myself nothing my eyes desired;
I refused my heart no pleasure. My heart took delight in all my
work and this was the reward for all my labor. Yet when I
surveyed all that my hands had done and what I toiled to
achieve, everything was meaningless, a chasing after the wind;
nothing was gained under the sun." (Ecclesiastes 2:10-11)

Looking back over the course of his long life, Solomon realized
that he had lost his way when he turned to pursuing pleasure as
the primary purpose of life. For no matter how much wealth he
accumulated, no matter how many buildings he built or goods he
possessed, the thirst could never be quenched, nor the appetite
ever satisfied.

What is man without God? The long, sorry history of mankind
wandering in the wilderness of godlessness is perfectly
summarized in the first chapter of Paul's letter to the Romans.
It is a brutal picture, but we deny the truth of it at our own
peril: "...since they did not think it worthwhile to retain the
knowledge of God, he gave them over to a depraved mind, to do
what ought not to be done. They have become filled with every
kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of
envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips,
slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they
invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; they are
senseless, faithless, heartless, ruthless. Although they know
God's righteous decree that those who do such things deserve
death, they not only continue to do these very things but also
approve of those who practice them." (Romans 1:28-32)

Man apart from God is a profoundly lost creature is evoked in
T.S. Eliot's "The Hollow Men." If you remove the Christianity of
Christ from life and describe raw existence as it really is,
life is much like the hard service of a hired hand, as Job
describes it (Job 7:1-5).

In a world where Jesus never existed, one would be forced to
adopt a strategy based on either hedonism or its reverse,
stoicism. Life in such a world would indeed be nasty, brutish and

But in a world where Christ lives through the Holy Spirit, the
issue of hard service and suffering is transformed into
something quite different. Christ asks those who serve to be
strong and persevere, whatever the circumstance. He does not
teach those who follow that life will be a romp in the park;
quite the reverse for he says in the Sermon on the Mount:
"Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and
falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice
and be glad because great is your reward in heaven...." (Matthew

Despite the suffering and conflict in an unredeemed world, we
are called to service through faith. "Finally, brothers,
whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever
is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable - if anything
is excellent or praiseworthy - think about such things. Whatever
you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me -
put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you."
(Philippians 4:8-9) Perhaps knowing what it meant to be a 1st
century Christian would be a good place to start for a sojourner
navigating through a world characterized by Paul as "a crooked
and depraved generation."(Philippians 2:15)

About the Author: Eric Kampmann received an undergraduate
degree from Brown University and a graduate degree in English at
Stony Brook. Eric is the author of two other books: Tree of Life
(2003) and The Book Publisher's Handbook (2007). For information
on his newest book, Trail Thoughts, visit:

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