Then I observed that most people are motivated to success by their envy of their neighbors. But this, too, is meaningless, like chasing the wind. – Ecclesiastes 4:4 NLT
Remember, the real theme of the book of Ecclesiastes seems to be about havinga God-centered worldview than a me-focused one. It is about learning to see life from God's perspective, not our own. We are limited in what we can see. We don't know what God is up to or what He has planned. So when we try to live our lives focused only on the horizontal, we end up with a warped perspective, and it skews just about everything we do. For instance, even our motivation to succeed in life is based on envy and jealousy. We take a look around us and see what others have achieved and the lifestyle their achievements have made possible, and we decide to work harder so that we can enjoy the same things. In the end, this kind of motivation proves futile and meaningless. It's a vapor that fades away. Why? Because our perspective is wrong. Solomon goes on to warn us, "Those who love money will never have enough. How absurd to think that wealth brings true happiness! The more you have, the more people come to help you spend it. So what is the advantage of wealth -- except perhaps to watch it run through your fingers! People who work hard sleep well, whether they eat little or much. But the rich are always worrying and seldom get a good night's sleep. There is another serious problem I have seen in the world. Riches are sometimes hoarded to the harm of the saver, or they are put into risky investments that turn sour, and everything is lost. In the end, there is nothing left to pass on to one's children. People who live only for wealth come to the end of their lives as naked and empty-handed as on the day they were born" (Ecclesiastes 5:10-15 NLT). So is Solomon saying hard work and wealth are wrong? No, he was a very wealthy man who worked hard at being the king of Israel. But he had learned that his wealth and hard work didn't bring him joy and fulfillment. When he made those things his focus and demanded that they meet his needs, he discovered that they could never deliver.
But with a slight change in perspective, things can take on a different light. "Even so, I have noticed one thing, at least, that is good. It is good for people to eat well, drink a good glass of wine, and enjoy their work -- whatever they do under the sun -- for however long God lets them live. And it is a good thing to receive wealth from God and the good health to enjoy it. To enjoy your work and accept your lot in life -- that is indeed a gift from God. People who do this rarely look with sorrow on the past, for God has given them reasons for joy" (Ecclesiastes 5:18-20 NLT). The ability to work is a gift from God. Any wealth I gain from working is a gift from God. Any pleasures that my hard work afford me are a gift from God. The food I eat, the home I live in, the friends I have, are all gifts from God. To enjoy your work and accept your lot in life – that is indeed a gift from God. How many of us work, but rarely enjoy it? How often do we complain about how hard we work and how little time we have to relax and enjoy the benefits of our labor? When we sit down and eat a meal, we probably don't stop and think about the fact that the food we are eating was made possible by our hard work. We don't make that connection. We don't savor the moment. If we lived in an agrarian culture where we labored all day to plant, tend, and harvest the food we eat, we would probably more readily enjoy the consumption of the fruit of our labors. God used our labor along with His creative power to produce the food we are eating. It is a gift from Him.
I love Solomon's advice in chapter six: "Enjoy what you have rather than desiring what you don't have. Just dreaming about nice things is meaningless; it is like chasing the wind" (Ecclesiastes 6:9 NLT). One of the curses of this world is our constant dissatisfaction and desire for more. We are in a constant pursuit for the next thing. The next job, the next relationship, the next new technological toy, the next great book, the next new diet, the next great vacation spot, the next … And when we get that next new thing, we rarely sit back and enjoy it, because we are immediately distracted by something else we don't have. So Solomon says, "Enjoy what you have!" Savor the moment. Enjoy the meal you're eating, the friendships you have, the moment you're in, the home you're living in, the health you're enjoying. Remember that everything is a gift from God. The next new thing will never satisfy, if the old thing never did. Only God can bring satisfaction. Keep your eyes focused on Him.
Father, what a temptation it is to keep looking for more and never enjoy what we already have. I spend so much time thinking about what I don't have instead of enjoying what I do have. Help me to rest in You and be satisfied with what You provide. The constant quest for more is not only tiring, it is ultimately unfulfilling. It can't deliver. Thank You for all You have already given me. Help me learn to enjoy every moment of life as a gift from You. Amen