REPOST Today’s AMI QT blog, written by Pastor Mark Chun of Radiance Christian Church in S.F., was originally posted on September 9, 2014; it has been updated. Mark is a graduate of University of California, San Diego (BS) and Talbot School of Theology (M.Div.).
Devotional Thought for This Morning
“The Two Mistakes to Avoid”
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. 5 The fool folds his hands and eats his own flesh. 6 Better is a handful of quietness than two hands full of toil and a striving after wind. 7 Again, I saw vanity under the sun: 8 one person who has no other, either son or brother, yet there is no end to all his toil, and his eyes are never satisfied with riches, so that he never asks, “For whom am I toiling and depriving myself of pleasure?” This also is vanity and an unhappy business.
Throughout the book of Ecclesiastes, Solomon tells us that all of our toil is meaningless. Many of us who are in the workplace can relate all too well with this sentiment. We wake up every morning, tired of the monotony of our work and wonder whether we are getting anywhere with our life. Amid this sobering reality, we tend to make one of two common mistakes. The first is that we use our envious desire of other people’s lifestyles to motivate us and drive our ambitions. It seems like things that were once considered to be luxuries reserved for the wealthy are now marketed as necessities for the common man. Gourmet dinners, extravagant vacations, and designer clothes that mimic the lifestyles of the famous have become the constant temptations that cause us to live beyond our means and to justify why we have to work so hard. Solomon tells us that this is like chasing the wind. It will never end.
The second mistake is to realize that it is impossible to reach this level of wealth and decide to give up on work. Solomon tells us that the person who folds his hands and refuses to work is actually a bigger fool than the man who works out of his envy. He is a greater fool because he will eventually cannibalize his own life. In the end, a man’s laziness eats away at not only what he has but who he is. In time, idleness will erode a person’s self-image, self-control, and self-worth. So this passage describes two equal and opposite errors. As one commentator puts it, “As toil can be all-consuming, so idleness is self-cannibalizing.”
So what is the solution? In one word, it is contentment! To want what God has given to someone else, instead of being thankful for what he has specifically given to you, is the very definition of vanity. To the man who has two hands full of toil and the man who has his hands folded without any toil, Solomon wisely gives the counsel to have one handful of quietness. In other words, we should work diligently, but with the right motivation-that is, not trying to grab everything we can. At the end of each hard day of work, we should find contentment in what God has blessed us with.
Prayer: Lord, teach us the secret of finding contentment in both, times of plenty and in times of want. Help us to look at the example of Christ, who had little material blessings, but was filled with an unspeakable joy. Keep us from the dangers of envy and idleness and to be grateful for every gift that you give. Amen.
Bible Reading for Today: Genesis 39
Lunch Break Study
Read Philippians 4:10-12 (ESV): “I rejoiced in the Lord greatly that now at length you have revived your concern for me. You were indeed concerned for me, but you had no opportunity. 11 Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. 12 I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. 13 I can do all things through him who strengthens me.”
Questions to Consider
- Why is Paul rejoicing?
- What is the secret to a life of contentment?
- Are you able to be content in every season and circumstance of life?
- Contrary to what we might think, Paul was not rejoicing simply because of the monetary contributions of the Philippians. He was not so utilitarian in his dealing with people; and when he was writing to them, he had no personal need for their financial gifts. Paul was far more overjoyed about the renewing of the friendship between them.
- The word translated as “content” is a Greek word used by the Stoics to describe a life that is lived above need and abundance. However, the difference is that the Stoics found contentment in their self-sufficiency, while for Christians our source of contentment is Christ who strengthens us.
- Personal response
How was your day of work? Were you mindful to be content with what God has given you? How were you a witness or an example of the gospel to your coworkers, neighbors, and other non-Christians around you? Take some time to be quiet before God and to reflect on areas of your life where you are struggling with contentment.