Alone at the Top – Ecclesiastes 4
It’s lonely at the top … just ask Charles Foster Kane.
Perched atop his 49,000 acre estate known as “Xanadu,” Charles Foster Kane embodied the man who had everything money could buy. As a multi-millionaire newspaper magnate, Mr. Kane assumed power and accumulated wealth with an insatiable vengeance. Yet in his quest to “have it all,” love alluded him … and poor Charlie died alone, ensconced in what ultimately appeared more like a mausoleum than a mansion.
OK, so I confess I’m a film junkie … and I have to agree with the American Film Institute that Citizen Kane (loosely based on the life of William Randolph Hearst?) arguably remains the best American movie ever made.
I further propose that Charles Foster Kane would have been well served by the book of Ecclesiastes.
After all, the epically affluent King Solomon was also familiar with the potential futility of our human strivings. With his vast wealth and powerful position, Solomon was probably the envy of everyone in Israel … though contentment notably eluded him. In his penetrating search for purpose and meaning, Solomon wisely concludes that we spend most of our lives “chasing after the wind,” while true fulfillment is found in God alone.
One could argue Solomon struggled with depression as he contemplated the human condition. He begins chapter four by sorrowfully speculating that perhaps the luckiest people of all are those who have never been born to witness “the evil done under the sun” (verse 3).
He proceeds to acknowledge that human effort and achievement often stem from a competitive, desperate attempt to keep up with the Joneses (verse 4). And though laziness has its naturally negative consequences, Solomon suggests that workaholism also proves self-destructive (verses 5-6).
Solomon then extols the virtues of companionship, exhorting us to choose relationship over riches. He ponders how pointless it is to forsake friendship for financial gain, or to toil tirelessly only to serve oneself. He essentially reminds us there is safety in numbers, and that investing in relationships proves profoundly beneficial, if not life-saving (verses 7-12).
Finally, Solomon reflects on the slippery slope up the ladder of success. Fame is fleeting. Yesterday’s hero often becomes today’s washed-up has-been (ask any President, athlete or movie star). The public is hopelessly fickle, and we best hold loosely to our coveted positions (verses 13-16).
Today is Maundy Thursday (also known as “Holy Thursday”), commemorating the Last Supper when (the night before His crucifixion) Jesus shared the Passover meal with his disciples. The evening was replete with symbolic gestures, including events which formed the biblical basis for Communion. And in a stunning demonstration of humble service, Jesus “showed His disciples the full extent of His love” by washing their feet (John 13).
Jesus embodied the antidote to the restless yearnings of people like Charles Kane and King Solomon.
And our merciful High Priest ascended that lonely road to Calvary so none of us needs to be left alone at the top.
After a quarter century (willingly!) spent in the trenches of childrearing, Stacy suddenly discovers herself in a season of rediscovery. Having also worked the last seven years for Irvine Unified School District, she is now taking time to nurture neglected relationships, laundry loads, half-read books and unpursued dreams. A graduate of UCLA with a degree in English literature, she has entertained a life-long love affair with language, preeminently, God’s Divine written Word. Stacy, her husband, Steve, and their four adult children all actively live, work, worship and play in southern California. While awaiting honest inspiration, she blogs at “Searching for Sanity and Missing Socks.” StacySharpe.wordpress.com.