Summary: A look at chapter 4. We need to live within community.
Three is Better Than One
August 2, 2015
We’re in week 4 of looking at Life Lessons from Ecclesiastes. Again, this is not very optimistic literature, but if we’re willing we can find the hope in this book. Solomon is the writer and he’s trying to find every avenue to experience pleasure and success in life. Even thought he was already king, and had amassed a fortune and was the strongest nation in the world, there was still something fleeting.
He was trying to gain everything through his own works. It was all about Solomon, and periodically he would get his heart and soul in order and realize it’s about God, not about him, but, that didn’t seem to last long.
Honestly, that’s the beauty of this book. It’s raw and honest. That’s the Bible. That’s God! How many of us will stop and say, “wait, I need to get back to God, I need to change my life, I need to get my priorities straight.” We do it for awhile and life changes for the good. We seem more at peace, less anxious . . . but then we stop! For some strange reason we stop doing what we were doing. We go back to our old ways. We pursue life, liberty and happiness . . . but from all the wrong sources. And we end up with no life, shackled and unhappy.
At the beginning of chapter 4, Solomon spoke of oppression and the fact that it would be better if you were never born. That would save you from suffering. Then he made several observations about working and life.
Solomon offers us 3 thoughts on 3 different mindsets when it comes to work. In Ecclesiastes 4:4, He wrote ~
4 Then I saw that all toil and all skill in work come from a man's envy of his neighbor. This also is vanity and a striving after wind.
First, is the person who is all about the victory. They have to have the most toys to win. They have to have the most sales, the most victories, the most of whatever it is. As I’ve said before, there’s nothing wrong with the most wins or sales or whatever it is you are striving after.
But the point Solomon is trying to make is what is the real driving force? Is it your ego? Is it what others think of you? Is it all about you? Because that is what often drives us, then in the end we have no contentment. And that is really what Solomon is talking about.
When we are envious of our neighbor, our drive and motivation is based on the wrong things. In the end, he says it’s like striving and chasing after the wind. It’s vain, it’s meaningless. We really don’t have happiness.
In 2:24, Solomon told us work is a gift from God. But like all of God’s blessings, work can also be distorted by sin.
We this in all aspects of life. It causes us to work harder, not more productive, but harder and we end up running in vicious circles. We get nowhere and realize how terribly unhappy we are.
Solomon says there is another option . . . In verse 5 he explained . . .
5 The fool folds his hands and eats his own flesh.
That doesn’t sound like a very good option either. This second approach to work shows the opposite approach to the envious person. Instead of being extremely competitive, there are others who do not work at all. They simply fold their hands and do nothing.
Now the part about eating their own flesh is really a metaphor. Their disinterest is just as destructive as the person who is envious and all about competition. Doing nothing is just as destructive. Often times, doing nothing takes away a person self-respect and view of themselves.
Both of these approaches to work are wrong. It is wrong to base your work as a competition with others, so that you become envious when others have success. And it’s wrong to become so idle that you accomplish nothing at all
There is third approach. It’s found in the person who has learned to be content. Solomon wrote ~
6 Better is a handful of quietness than two hands full of toil and a striving after wind.
It’s learning to be satisfied with one handful, rather than pushing for more and more so that you can get two hands full. But at the same time, feel like you’re chasing the elusive wind.
You can find story after story of people who have made it their goal in life to make a lot of money. And when they make that money they discover that money never satisfies.
Solomon was not opposed to hard work. Work hard, but be content with what you have. Find your satisfaction in what God provides us. Most of us want so many others things in life that it’s hard for us to say if Jesus is even enough for us.