We suffer from a “getting” obsession fed by a “must have” culture. Look at the advertisements. The advertisers play to the “greed need” in us. Eden’s appetite, I call it. To see it…is to want it. To want it…is to have to have it. Solomon had the means to get it and as he testifies, “I never said no to myself” (2:10, MSG). Do you know anyone who never says “no” to himself or herself? I do! Me, for one! At least that’s how “the old me” would like to have it–and the old me tries to have her way far too often.
Solomon indulged himself with wine, women, and song–but his wine only chloroformed his conscience, his women promised more than they delivered, and he ended up singing a very sad song. “I find more bitter than death the woman who is a snare, whose heart is a trap and whose hands are chains,” he laments (7:28). He had all the women he wanted and also the means to possess every object he desired in his world. Still, he was not fulfilled.
Our own “must have” culture isn’t only obsessed with getting everything we crave, it is obsessed with “being” the sort of person we each want to be. I must “be” the sort of person my culture promises will bring the greatest rewards. It’s not only a matter of having everything our greedy hearts want, but of defining and shaping ourselves into the person we want to become – the one who will win the most prizes. The devil assures us we can do this all by our clever little selves. Self-indulgence, self-expression, self-fulfillment, and self-actualization lie at the heart of our cultural agenda as we travel the path toward superhuman status through self-empowerment. Recently I was struck by a typical advertisement to this end.
It concerned Ralph Lauren’s new perfume for young women–specifically for carefree, confident teens and twentysomethings he calls “Ralph Girls.” The advertising copy for the fragrance reads, “Ralph Lauren was inspired to create RALPH by his daughter Dylan and her friends. Girls today believe in themselves, they have hopes, dreams, promise, possibilities…and the power to make it happen” (italics mine).
Does the “Ralph Girl” and her sisters in our generation really believe she has the power to make her dreams happen? According to Ecclesiastes, “time and chance happen to them all” (9:11). Chance events can be both pleasant and unpleasant–and they certainly can determine whether or not we achieve our “dreams”! When I first came across this advertisement, I thought about how it reflected the beliefs of our culture. A common adage spouted by secular “motivational speakers” goes something like this: “You are never given a dream without also being given the power to make it come true.” Really? Hearing it actually makes me incredulous. But this is what our society chooses to believe.
Is life all about being a “Ralph Girl”? Does perfume really aid you in getting what you want? You may go to your coffin smelling beautiful and with the smoothest skin and even be buried in the trendiest of clothes, but what then? According to the Teacher, “the dust returns to the ground it came from, and the spirit returns to God who gave it” (12:7). I’m all for smelling nice and looking nice. But I’m more for “being nice and doing nice.” Whether it’s perfume or pleasure, the delusion permeates our world: this is what life is all about!
The whole thing, as we have already learned, the whole plan for fulfillment and meaning, is to “fear God and keep his commandments.” Fulfillment is found in knowing a God who in the knowing gives meaning and joy to the simple things of life.
Just Between Us Magazine