Eye Spy Fulfillment in Life
Eye spy with my little eye
There are few other circumstances in which my survival instincts kick in more than on a road trip with my three children. While on the road, my wife and I will do almost anything to survive—snacks, music, shows.
So desperate are we at those times that we’ll even submit ourselves to what may be the most dull, monotonous game ever invented: Eye spy. Have you ever had to play this game?
“Eye spy with my little eye, something that is … green.” “Is it the grass?” “No.” “The trees?” “No.” “Is it mom’s shirt?” “No.”
There’s no score keeping and there’s no end. It’s an exercise in futility and pointlessness.
Sadly, many people live their whole lives unaware that they are playing a very similar game.
“Eye spy with my little eye something that will give me purpose.”
“Eye spy with my little eye something that will bring lasting meaning to my life.”
And we offer our best guesses. “Is it a spouse?” No. “Children?” No. “Is it my dream job?” No. “What about popularity, reputation, friends, influence?” No, no, no, no.
And many people plod along the road trip of life playing this dull, mindless game of Eye Spy, searching desperately for fulfillment.
The search ends in the book of Ecclesiastes. From a few passages in this book, I’m going to point out to you the secret to living a fulfilling, meaningful life.
Searching for meaning
This book was written by a man who identifies himself in the first verse as “the Teacher, son of David, king in Jerusalem.” Ecclesiastes is like this man’s memoirs. He’s nearing the end of his life and looking back at his personal game of Eye Spy, his personal search for fulfillment and purpose and meaning in life.
And he begins by listing some of his initial guesses; things he tried but that didn’t work the way he thought they might. Some will sound familiar to us today.
What about knowing stuff?
His first guess was intelligence. The Teacher tried to find fulfillment and purpose in a growing intellect. He consumed information wondering if that would fill the purpose void in his life. And when all was said and done, the Teacher knew much:
And I set my mind to seek and explore by wisdom concerning all that has been done under heaven. … I said to myself, “Behold, I have magnified and increased wisdom more than all who were over Jerusalem before me; and my mind has observed a wealth of wisdom and knowledge (1:13a, 16).
This king was convinced that if he only understood all the mysteries of the world, if he could only establish himself as intellectually superior to those around him, then he could die happy! His life would be full and significant.
But that’s not what happened. While the Teacher knew much he eventually found it all to be foolishness.
I realized that this also is striving after wind. Because in much wisdom there is much grief, and increasing knowledge results in increasing pain (1:17b–18).
Eye spy with my little eye something that brings fulfillment to this life. Is it wisdom? Intellect? Knowledge? The Teacher was met with a resounding ‘No.’ True fulfillment can’t be found in intelligence.
What about feeling stuff?
The Teacher’s second guess is pleasure. He thought, if I can just experience all the good things of life, then I’ll be satisfied, fulfilled, happy. And, as the king, he was able to experience much!
I said to myself, “Come now, I will test you with pleasure. … I explored with my mind how to stimulate my body with wine while my mind was guiding me wisely (2:1a, 3a).
He deprived himself of no experience—parties, women, travel, food. If he thought it would feel good, he made it happen. He scratched every itch of desire hoping it would lead to fulfillment in life.
And yet, while the Teacher experienced much, he eventually found it all unsatisfying.
And behold, it too was futility. I said of laughter, “It is madness,” and of pleasure, “What does it accomplish?” (2:1b–2).
The Teacher doesn’t deny that all those pleasures brought laughter, amusement, and joy. But that laughter was fleeting, hollow, empty, and meaningless in the end. While he scratched fervently, he just couldn’t reach the most relentless itch, that for meaning in life. The Teacher found that fulfillment can’t be found in pleasure.
What if I own stuff?
So what’s next!? The Teacher moves on to a third guess: Possessions. If I work hard and own everything I want, then the worth of my life will increase as well, won’t it? And, again, being the king, the Teacher owned much [2:4b–8, 10a]:
I enlarged my works: I built houses for myself, I planted vineyards for myself; I made gardens and parks for myself and I planted in them all kinds of fruit trees; I made ponds of water for myself from which to irrigate a forest of growing trees. I bought male and female slaves and I had ahomeborn slaves. Also I possessed flocks and herds larger than all who preceded me in Jerusalem. Also, I collected for myself silver and gold and the treasure of kings and provinces. I provided for myself male and female singers and the pleasures of men—many concubines. … All that my eyes desired I did not refuse them (2:4–8, 10a).
The Teacher built himself an empire of possessions. He said it himself: “I denied myself nothing my eyes desired.” If he wanted it, he got it. To some of us, that sounds like a recipe for contentment, doesn’t it?
And yet, even though the Teacher accomplished much and owned much, we find as we read on that he eventually found it all valueless and profitless.
Thus I considered all my activities which my hands had done and the labor which I had exerted, and behold all was vanity and striving after wind and there was no profit under the sun (2:11).
As he looked around at his matchless collections of stuff and the monuments to his work ethic and resourcefulness, he couldn’t help but frown and shrug. He had worked hard, been productive and efficient. And yet, he was now realizing that fulfillment can’t be found in possessions.
What an exhausting game. “Eye spy with my little eye, something that brings my life meaning and purpose and fulfillment.”
“Is it knowing stuff?” No. “What about experiencing stuff?” No. “How about owning stuff? Accomplishing stuff?” No.
Can you relate?
Have you ever tried to find meaning, purpose, and fulfillment in life by one of those means? Maybe you are still trying to do that now. Maybe you are and you don’t even realize it!
If I get good grades, make the honour roll, graduate, collect degrees, diplomas then I’ll have arrived. If I develop a reputation for being well-read and worldly, skeptical, curious, or wise, then that’ll make me someone!
If I collect experiences, then I’ll be okay: Passport stamps, parties, sensations, highs, sexual exploits (physical or virtual). If I only experienced _____, then I’d be satisfied.
If I work hard, get the good job, climb the ladder, make a name for myself in the business of my choosing. Cars, clothes, the dream home, the newest gadget. If I just owned ______, then I wouldn’t have to think about it anymore and I’d be happy. He who dies with the most toys wins!
And it’s not just these three. We churn out guesses to this silly game of Eye Spy. Marriage will bring me fulfillment. Kids. My influence in the community. My reputation among peers. Followers on social media. Fame. Comfort. Which are you most drawn to in your life? What do you bank on to bring meaning and purpose to your life?
The Teacher in Ecclesiastes stands knowingly shaking his head at us, warning us that none of those things will work. None of those guesses will end this exhausting game of Eye Spy and the search for fulfillment. So what will?
How do we win this game?
Well, if we flip to the end of Ecclesiastes, the Teacher shares what he’s come to realize at the end of his long, tireless search.
The conclusion, when all has been heard, is: fear God and keep his commandments, because this applies to every person (12:13).
By God’s grace, the Teacher eventually came to this liberating realization: True fulfillment, meaning, purpose in life is only found in a right-relationship with God. Many people today have also come to that understanding. Some of you perhaps still need to grasp it.
A right-relationship with God is the only means by which we can experience fulfillment. Nothing else will really scratch that itch. Nothing else will end the dizzying game of Eye Spy.
And the unbelievable thing is that God wants us to know him. That’s why, ultimately, he has revealed himself to us in his Son, Jesus Christ. He has told us about himself and about the way he works in this world in the Bible. He is demonstrating his character through the people of the church.
It’s only when we know God rightly, as he has communicated himself, that we can find fulfillment in life. When we do then the enjoyment of knowing stuff, experiencing stuff, and owning stuff will take on a whole new meaning.
God is inviting us to lead lives of fulfillment and purpose. He warns us through the Teacher that the things we typically chase—intelligence, pleasure, possessions, and the like—will ultimately leave us wanting. Instead, it’s only through a right-relationship with him that we find true fulfillment, and he offers that to each and every one of us through his Son, Jesus.
May we take him up on that offer and end this tiring game of Eye Spy in search of fulfillment and meaning in life. Those are only found through the Author of life, God himself. Come to him.
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