Parallels Between Jay Gatsby & King Solomon

A month ago, I decided that I would re-read The Great Gatsby before seeing the movie in theaters with my family. I read the book for the first time in probably six years, and once again I was glad that I had read it. The movie was solid, if not slightly underwhelming, but I still enjoyed it nonetheless. Fast forward to this past Sunday morning at Ethos Church. Brandon spoke about King Solomon and Ecclesiastes 2. During the sermon, I was continually struck by the parallels between King Solomon and Jay Gatsby. I’m not the first and will not be the last to make these comparisons, but I hadn’t thought about it before that moment. I additionally drew comparisons between both of them and myself. I decided to skim through The Great Gatsby and read Ecclesiastes to see what I could find.

The Great Pursuit

King Solomon and Jay Gatsby were both once in a generation characters (pretending that Jay Gatsby was a real person). They pursued every avenue of potential happiness at their disposal. Both had seemingly unlimited amounts of money, women, power, entertainment, and fame, and for short periods of time, it made them happy. “My heart took delight in all my labor, and this was the reward for all my toil” -Ecclesiastes 2:10.  “But there was a change in Gatsby that was simply confounding. He literally glowed; without a word or a gesture of exultation a new well-being radiated from him and filled the little room‖” –The Great Gatsby Ch. 5. They enjoyed the ego boosts from everyone telling them how incredible they were. They loved eating the best foods, enjoying the best entertainment, spending time with the most amazing people, and having any and every physical good they could conjure up at a moments notice. All of these emotions were fleeting; however, as both quickly felt empty by the things that they thought would leave them fully satisfied.

The Great Letdown

Yet when I surveyed all that my hands had done and what I had toiled to achieve, everything was meaningless, a chasing after the wind; nothing was gained under the sun. -Ecclesiastes 2:11 (Underlining added for emphasis)

Gatsby believed in the green light, the orgiastic future that year by year recedes before us. It eluded us then, but that’s no matter–tomorrow we will run faster, stretch out our arms farther…. And one fine morning– So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past. –The Great Gatsby Chapter 9 (Underlining added for emphasis)

People refer to this quote from Gatsby as if it is a positive metaphor, as it is pushing up to strive for our dreams. I might be misinterpreting it, but I view the quote quite differently. I see that Gatsby clawed, reached, stretched, and did everything is his power to obtain the green light. Ultimately, he never fully realized that the light was unobtainable, and that his efforts were like a boat beating against the current. Solomon had similar feelings in Ecclesiastes. The word “meaningless”  is referenced 11 times in the NIV of Ecclesiastes 2. Instead of comparing his toils to a boat against the current, Solomon used an even more discouraging comparison when he said that it is like “chasing after the wind”, an clearly impossible task. They got there in different ways, but both men came to the same conclusion that things of this world will always leave you feeling empty.

Different Endings

While the stories of Jay Gatsby and King Solomon have many similarities, their endings could not be more different. Jay Gatsby continued to hunt for the ever-elusive longing in his heart, up until the day he was murdered in cold blood in his own back yard. Despite having everything he ever dreamed or wanted, he was always left wishing for something more. Solomon, on the other hand, finally realized that his earthly pursuits were meaningless. He came to know that Jesus was the only one who could truly satisfy the desires of his heart. “To the person who pleases Him, God gives wisdom, knowledge and happiness” -Ecclesiastes 2:26. He realized that GOD gives wisdom, knowledge, and happiness. It does not say that man takes wisdom, knowledge, and happiness, yet we try take it for ourselves every day.

Joy in the Lord

We do not have to be multi-billionaires living lavish lives to relate to either of these two men. We have all pursued any number of pointless endeavors in hopes of capturing the desires of our hearts. Even when we achieve what we had so desperately longed for, it never quite fulfills us like we had hoped. We then move on to the next great thing thinking that maybe this will be the thing that finally gives me joy. If we (I) continue to live our lives like this, we will end up like Gatsby and never find true joy. All of this is not to say that God wants us to be miserable. I believe with all of my heart that God wants us to enjoy this life. He wants us to pursue our dreams and aspirations, but we need to keep everything in perspective. I pray that I, and all of us, can embrace King Solomon’s lesson that the only true fulfillment in life comes through Christ Jesus.


Hard Work: Lesson Learned From My Dad

This past weekend, my family was fortunate to celebrate my dad on two separate occasions: Father’s Day and an awards banquet. As many of you know, my dad was honored for being the Supplier of the Year by the Tennessee Grocers Association. While he is always the first to deflect all accolades and praise; it was truly a culmination of the hard work that he and his family have put in for Purity over the past 50+ years. His introduction took seemingly forever because the individual introducing him decided to read off all of his accomplishments and involvements with other organizations and nonprofits. For his speech, rather than elaborating on the success he has had, my dad read off a list of names of individuals from Purity that had served the company for 25+ years. He acknowledged to the large audience that it was these individuals’ hard work that made Purity the company that they are today, not himself or his dad or his dad’s dad. He also called of all us (family) up on stage to thank us for our support. Last, he thanked his Lord and Savior Jesus Christ for all the blessings that he has showed to himself and our family. My dad showed everyone how to be honored yet still give credit and acknowledgement to everyone that deserves it.

Letting Me Learn on my Own

For better or worse, I have learned almost everything that I know from my dad. In addition to walking with the Lord, life lessons, sports, finances, business, and treating people with respect, my dad has taught me about hard work. He has always pushed me as far as I wanted to go, but never overstepped his bounds and pushed me too far. After my junior year of high school, my dad approached me after my final track meet. He said to me “Taylor, I want to support you in any way that I can. If you want to put in the work, I’ll help you to be an All-State caliber track athlete. If you don’t want to put in the work, I will support that too. You just let me know.” In the end, I decided to be slightly lazy and not push myself to my full limits. My senior year, my relay team finished 5th in the State 4×200 relay, but I did not qualify for any individual events, finishing 3rd in the Region in the 110m hurdles and 8th in the 200 meter. If my dad would have pushed me, I would have likely been to State for all three events, but he knew that it was not his battle to fight. I had to learn how to work hard on my own. Eventually, he wouldn’t be there to push me, and I would fall back if I didn’t learn on my own. I have slowly learned some of these valuable lessons about hard work.

New Balance

My dad openly criticizes himself as being a workaholic. While there are hints of this, I can gladly say that he is not one. I’ve seen and experienced workaholics. Workaholics draw their energy and worth from their jobs. They miss out on important life events with family and friends due to their work. They never leave work at the office and are always bringing it up in conversations. None of those things depict my father. He has always been at my games/meets, chorus performances, Singarama show, birthdays, and other important life occasions. I can see that his joy comes from the Lord, his family, and his close friends. I have seen this balance firsthand, and it makes me want to exemplify this in my own life. At one point, I was working full-time, studying for the CPA, leading a house church, and serving as the president of a fraternity. These commitments took up seemingly every hour of my day and I realized that I was probably doing too much. I was working too hard. I didn’t have enough time in the day to be with my wife (fiance at the time), family, and friends. My balance was all out of whack. I have tried to learn from my dad that while you can push yourself, you cant do it ALL. Eventually, you have to say no to a few things to make time for the most important things.

Working Hard or Hardly Working?

One of the most beautiful (but also terrifying) things about life is that we only get one shot at it. God purposefully decided to give us one chance instead of 100 lives. If we had 100 lives, we wouldn’t live each one to fullest, knowing that we could do it all over again if we messed up our previous one. Since we know that we are finite, why don’t we make the most of our opportunities? Why aren’t we striving to be better? Why would we ever not work as hard as we can at everything we do? This does not mean that we overwork and live miserable lives. That we should never take vacations or relax on the weekends.  It means that we should always be pushing, striving, stretching, reaching, and trying be better than the day before. Each day on Earth is an opportunity to do amazing things. Don’t sell yourself short and I’ll do my best to do the same. Luckily, I have learned from one of the best. He’ll never know how much I appreciate everything he has taught me, but hopefully this will give a glimpse into the lessons I learned from him. Happy Father’s Day Dad, you’re the best.

Quotes About Hard Work

“Servants, do what you’re told by your earthly masters. And don’t just do the minimum that will get you by. Do your best. Work from the heart for your real Master, for God, confident that you’ll get paid in full when you come into your inheritance. Keep in mind always that the ultimate Master you’re serving is Christ. The sullen servant who does shoddy work will be held responsible. Being a follower of Jesus doesn’t cover up bad work.”

-Colossians 3:22-25 The Message

Each day is God’s gift. It’s all you get in exchange
For the hard work of staying alive.
Make the most of each one!
Whatever turns up, grab it and do it. And heartily!
This is your last and only chance at it,
For there’s neither work to do nor thoughts to think
In the company of the dead, where you’re most certainly headed.

-Ecclesiastes 9:8-10 The Message

There are no shortcuts to any place worth going.  –Beverly Sills

Dictionary is the only place that success comes before work. Hard work is the price we must pay for success. I think you can accomplish anything if you’re willing to pay the price. –Vince Lombardi

I know you’ve heard it a thousand times before. But it’s true – hard work pays off. If you want to be good, you have to practice, practice, practice. If you don’t love something, then don’t do it. -Ray Bradbury

Hard work without talent is a shame, but talent without hard work is a tragedy. -Robert Half

If the power to do hard work is not a skill, it’s the best possible substitute for it. –James A. Garfield

No one ever drowned in sweat. –United States Marine Corps