This devotional is about Ecclesiastes 1.
Like the earth revolves around the sun, your life revolves around something. The center of your life is what you think about day and night. It is the thing that gives you something to live for, the thing that provides you with direction when you have a decision to make. The center of your life is the thing that defines you. It is the word you would put in the blank of this sentence: “I am a ________________.”
Lots of people, though, couldn’t put a word they like into that blank. It might be because they don’t really know what their center is or, possibly, because they don’t like the answer.
Here’s my question: What is your “one thing”? What is your center? What is the thing that guides you, that provides meaning for you and helps you make decisions in life?
Answer this question: “What is my center?”
If you have trouble answering that question, here are some questions that might help you:
- What do you spend money on without worrying about the cost?
- What would you miss the most if it were suddenly gone from your life?
- What would you avoid missing if you had a conflict in life? In other words, if you had to miss a meal or miss work (even if there were consequences) or miss sleep in order to do something, what would that thing be?
If you’re having a hard time answering the question, “What is my center?” then consider the choices you make in life. The center of your life is revealed by the choices you make in life.
Solomon, the author of Ecclesiastes had everything a man could want in life:
- Wealth? According to a webpage I read once that is now gone, Solomon’s peak net worth was $2.2 trillion in today’s money. That makes him the fifth wealthiest man in human history.
- Women? He had 1000 women (700 wives and 300 concubines).
- Career success? He was king of his country and faced no serious threats to his kingdom which expanded constantly during his reign.
- Smarts? Verse 16 says that he “experienced much of wisdom and knowledge.”
Despite all these things, he felt that his life was meaningless (v. 2). Verses 3-11 describe how completely lacking in permanence everything in life is. No matter how great you are, coming generations will barely think about you at all (v. 11).
We may think our lives are centered on pleasure or achievement, or insight or something else, but what really stands at the center of most people’s lives is self.
In other words, most of the time we are self-centered.
Self-centeredness is not the same as selfishness. Selfishness is seeking things for myself by keeping them from others. Self-centeredness means measuring things by myself rather than by an objective standard. A self-centered person does what is pleasurable whether it is right or wrong. The morality of a thing is defined by what you want rather than by an objective standard of morality. A self-centered person seeks to achieve not to benefit humanity but to get credit for greatness from humanity. A self-centered person seeks insight in life for the ego boost that comes from having more insight than anyone else.
A self-centered person may be very generous to the poor or to others. He may be kind and considerate. He may show an interest in other people. But, the self-centered person does these things for self-centered reasons. He is generous, kind, considerate, etc. because he wants to be liked, because he wants attention or because he wants to manipulate other people into doing his will. Self-centeredness is not always easy to see in ourselves or in. others.
Many negative feelings rise from self-centeredness.
Someone who is angry feels offended because he or she did not get what they feel they deserve—respect, admiration, love, etc. The same is true, often, of those who have deep seated bitterness. They are bitter about not getting what they thought or expected out of life. Fear or anxiety can come from realizing that the things someone has could be taken or lost. That person is fearful because he cannot bear the thought of losing it. Depression can come from wanting something that you cannot obtain or that doesn’t satisfy you when you do obtain it.
The rest of this book of Ecclesiastes will chronicle Solomon’s attempt to find a meaningful, satisfying, purposeful center for his life. Here’s a spoiler, though: The only thing worth centering your life on is God.
Did this devotional help you realize how self-centered you are? Did it help you see why you are disappointed, mad, bitter, fearful, or depressed?
What would your life look like if it were truly centered on God–not as the “correct Christian answer” to a question about centeredness but truly in your thoughts and actions?
We’ll look at this more in future chapters of Ecclesiastes but, for today, the application is to repent and ask God to lift your self-centeredness and to teach you to focus your life on him.