Not that I was ever in need, for I have learned how to be content with whatever I have. I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little. For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength. [Philippians 4:11-13 (NLT)]
The story is told of a great king who ruled a large prosperous kingdom. Rich, powerful and considered wise, he lived in a richly appointed castle, dutifully served by servants and surrounded by nobles and beautiful women. He lacked nothing, drank only the most exquisite wine and ate nothing but the most delectable food. Yet, the king never seemed to have enough to feel satisfied. Even though he kept his servants busy searching for more gorgeous flowers for his garden, better chefs for his kitchen, finer tailors for his robes, faster horses for his stable, or larger rubies for his crown, true happiness and peace escaped him. Despairing of ever feeling content, he sent his servants in search of the happiest man in the kingdom and told them to bring back that man’s coat. Surely, the king thought, once he possessed the coat of a contented man, he would find peace and contentment. The servants searched high and low and finally returned empty-handed to the king. “Couldn’t you find the happiest man?” asked the king. When a servant admitted he had, indeed, found him, the king demanded, “Then why didn’t you bring me his coat?” The servant meekly replied, “Because, your majesty, he has no coat!”
It’s too bad the King in this story hadn’t read Ecclesiastes, written by another wealthy and wise king, Solomon. God gave Solomon the gift of wisdom early in his kingship but that didn’t prevent him from making poor choices, ignoring his father’s advice, and disobeying God. After all, wisdom, like salve for a burn, is only good if it is applied and, unfortunately, Solomon stopped applying his. Toward the end of his life when writing Ecclesiastes, the wise king realized how empty and futile his years had been. Security and contentment had not been found in the magnificence of his court, the hundreds of wives, their pagan gods, or his 40,000 chariot horses and 12,000 charioteers. Although Ecclesiastes is negative and pessimistic and makes for a rather depressing read, Solomon wanted to spare future generations his bitter lesson that life is meaningless and empty when it is lived apart from God.
Contentment and happiness will never be found in wealth like Solomon’s nor will it be found in possessions, achievements, power or pleasure. Most certainly, it won’t be found by wearing the coat of a happy man. We don’t need the wisdom of Solomon to know that true contentment, peace and even joy can only be found in a relationship with God.