20 Death and Destruction are never satisfied,
and neither are human eyes.
21 The crucible for silver and the furnace for gold,
but people are tested by their praise.
Perhaps Solomon wrote this verse from his own experience, as he was the richest and most successful of all Israel’s kings. When he had achieved everything he had set out to do, this is what he wrote: “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.” Our eyes are never satisfied because they do not see the heart. On the surface, Solomon had it all. Surely he was envied by many. “If I only had what he had,” envy says, “then I would be satisfied.” It often appears that those who have more than us must somehow be happier, but experience tells us otherwise. If true satisfaction is to be found in life, it is surely not through appearances.
“The crucible for silver and the furnace for gold, but people are tested by their praise.” Success can be an even greater test of character than suffering, as it affords complacency like nothing else can. In seasons of difficulty the goal is simple: survive the storm. But what of seasons of prosperity? The greatest spiritual danger is our own success, of which the Israelites were warned in Deuteronomy 8:
“When you have eaten and are satisfied… be careful that you do not forget the Lord your God, failing to observe his commands, his laws and decrees that I am giving you this day. Otherwise, when you eat and are satisfied, when you build your houses and settle down, and when your herds and flocks grow large and your silver and gold increase and all you have is multiplied, then your heart will become proud and you will forget the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery.”