13 Better a poor but wise youth than an old but foolish king who no longer knows how to take warning. 14 The youth may have come from prison to the kingship, or he may have been born in poverty within his kingdom. 15 I saw that all who lived and walked under the sun followed the youth, the king's successor. 16 There was no end to all the people who were before them. But those who came later were not pleased with the successor. This too is meaningless, a chasing after the wind.
Achievement. Something we want to believe speaks of our life.
This text, again, takes a stab at predecessors and successors and basically says, "Do your thing. Make your splash. Climb the ladder. Make your mark. Be the Cinderella story. Be the Glory Story. In the end, you won't be able to please people even if, for a time, they follow you."
That hits me between the eyes, especially at my age. I was young and I've come of age essentially--in my culture--having a kingship of sorts as the lead pastor of a church. I was a small town kid who went to college and continued to climb the ladder of success eventually becoming the lead pastor of a mid-size congregation. I'm the story of one born in poverty who rises to a place of cultural power. (though we know the kingdom doesn't function with power as currency like the secular sector...at least it shouldn't) But a sad feeling can settle o're my heart on days like today...my day off.
It is the feeling that there were people who served God before me that had a "hay day" in their own right. They made a splash in this town and led what was thought to be a communal revival. I've heard several stories of ministries that were exploding at one time only to drive by their properties and see the weeds growing in their mulch beds and the parking lots empty on Sunday morning. At one time a charged move of God was occurring only to dissipate and dissolve. Like the passage says, "There is no end to the people who came before me." And make no mistake, they led vibrant works of God as well.
There's something inside of me (a dark shadow) that whispers that I'm different than they were. That what I'm leading or am a part of is "special". That somehow whatever they did was "lesser" than what I'm doing, or at the very least "unlike" what I'm leading...they were missing something I have figured out. But I couldn't be more drunk on delusion to believe such a pile of poo-poo. They thought they were special, too. And what they were leading was probably unique in the day. They believed they were a part of something that would be lasting and everlasting, as do I. This is not wrong in its entirety, but the belief that we are "outliers" who have discovered the holy grail and are doing something never done, making history, so to speak, is laced with pride and prejudice. Personalities have come and gone. I will be one of them.
And just so I don't lie to myself, the author wants to make it clear that people will "follow" you and your story of pauper to power, peasant to king...but in the end, you won't be able to "please" them. For all your achievement and proven production, they will not be satiated. They weren't pleased with who has gone before you and don't for a second believe that they will be pleased with you. People-pleasing is an oxymoron...it's just not possible. You can please someone for a short while, and they will follow you as long as that pleasure is stroked, but by and large, people stop following when you stop pleasing...it's that simple.
The author here is drilling home the point that no matter what tactics you employ and how different you think you are from former leaders, you will let people down, too. You won't live up to the expectations either. You will fail to please them in the fulness that they desire to be pleasured. Because much like you, their expectations aren't matching their experience either. So the meaninglessness of their chase is going on all the while yours is going on. They think you will fulfill what they are looking for in a leader, you think they will fulfill what you are looking for in a follower...and both will be dashed against the rocks of reality. We cannot fully please each other, we were never meant to.
As so the tail keeps wagging the dog and the dog keeps chasing its tail. This tail is a tale we think can avoid. But despite our attempts to prove we are different, special, and unique...we come to find that we aren't that one exception to the rule.
We aren't exceptional. Dang.