Better is a little with the fear of the Lord than great treasure and turmoil with it.
In Ecclesiastes 4, Solomon saw three things that caused him to doubt God’s control of His creation. The first was the oppression of the righteous. The second is the intense competition between people. Look at verse 4: “I have seen that every labor and every skill which is done is the result of rivalry between a man and his neighbor. This too is vanity and striving after wind.”
We think, “Solomon, that is the American way. Don’t you realize competition is a good thing?” But what is it that drives competition? It is that insatiable desire for more, also called greed. That was what brought the United States to its knees economically about fifteen years ago. People wanted bigger houses than they could afford, and banks fueled that desire by lending more money than was prudent to lend. The result was the Great Recession.
That insatiable desire for more destroys our lives individually as well. Singer Diahann Carroll once said, “The big trouble with success nowadays is that its formula is often the same as the one for a nervous breakdown.” And no matter how much effort you put in or how many hours you spend at the office, there is not enough you can have to fill the void of an empty life. As the comedian Jackie Gleason wrote, even if you win the rat race, “you are still a rat.” That is what Solomon was saying–chasing after things that will never satisfy us is ludicrous.
How do we remedy that competition? The human answer is to say, “I am tired of the rat race, so I am going to bail out early. I am going to retire and buy a Winnebago.” Is that the answer? Solomon said no. Look at verse 5: “The fool folds his hands and consumes his own flesh.” When you quit doing anything productive, it is like you are consuming your own flesh.
So what is the real answer to this intense competition? In a word: contentment. Verse 6 says, “One hand full of rest is better than two fists full of labor and striving after wind.” Instead of having two hands full of labor or two hands full of retirement, why not learn how to work and to rest? Learn how to say, “I do not have to have more and more. What God has provided is enough for me.” Paul said it this way in 1 Timothy 6:6-8: “Godliness actually is a means of great gain when accompanied by contentment. For we have brought nothing into the world, so we cannot take anything out of it either. If we have food and covering, with these we shall be content.” The answer to intense competition is contentment.
Today’s devotion is excerpted from “Why Suffering?” by Dr. Robert Jeffress, 2009.
Diahann Carroll, as quoted in “Words of the Week,” Jet, September 21, 1961, 30; Jim Bishop, “The Golden Ham: A Candid Biography of Jackie Gleason” (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1956), 258.
Scripture quotations taken from the (NASB®) New American Standard Bible®, Copyright © 1960, 1971, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission. All rights reserved. www.lockman.org.