The Vanity of Envy


In Ecclesiastes 4:4 King Solomon says, “Then I saw that all toil and all skill in work come from a man’s envy of his neighbor. This also is a vanity and a striving after wind.”

So, Solomon is saying that the reason he sees people working so hard, and striving, and toiling is what? It’s because of envy! It’s because they want what others have. It’s what we would call trying keep up with the Jones’.

Friends, is this something we still see in our day? Absolutely it is. Do you ever struggle with this? I know I certainly do. We see our neighbor, or our friends with a new car, or a bigger house, maybe even a new boat…and we want what they have! It’s something that I believe we all struggle with on some level, or at the very least we have at one time or another.

We want what other people have, and so many people are out there killing themselves, and working themselves to death – not because they have to and not because they need more money to survive – but simply because they want more stuff. They want the things they see that other people have.

Again, I believe we all struggle on some level with this…it’s simply a part of our sinful nature.

But, Solomon says that this is vanity. It’s pointless! Solomon says that it’s a “striving after wind.”

Now don’t get me wrong, this isn’t to say that hard work is bad. The Bible certainly doesn’t say that, in fact it says the opposite. Hard work is a good thing. It is a virtue to be a hard worker.

But the question is, what is our motivation? Are we working simply to get more stuff? Or is our work motivated by the desire to honor and glorify God? Because it should be! Is God at the center of even our work ethic? In Colossians 3:23 the Apostle Paul says that, “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord…”

So, your work is to be done for the Lord. So yes, work hard, but not for stuff, not out of envy, but for the Lord!

But, if we just take Solomon’s words here at face value, we could get the idea that maybe we shouldn’t be such hard workers. Some people do see the greed and selfishness that motivates so many people to work, and they come to the conclusion that they don’t want to be in this “rat race” so they just decide they aren’t going to do anything! That’s sometimes why we see 30-35 year old grown men still living with their mamas, or why people decide to be “free spirited drifters” bouncing around from place to place, just ‘living for the moment’ or trying to be ‘free’ and not ‘tied down by “the man”…whoever “the man” is…

But that’s not the right way either, is it? I think experience and common sense would tell us this.

Look at Ecclesiastes 4:5, “The FOOL folds his hands and eats his own flesh.”

Solomon says it’s a fool that won’t work. If you won’t work and take care of yourself you will eventually starve. You can’t provide for your needs if you don’t work, so a failure to work is self-destructive…it’s foolish! This is true economically, physically, mentally, and spiritually. We were created to work! One of the purposes of our existence is to work. I believe that this is why we feel so satisfied after a good hard day of work. So a refusal to work, when we get right down to it, is rebellion against God. (Of course some are disabled or simply unable and can’t work, this is another scenario altogether which I am not speaking of here. Please don’t misunderstand me.)

So, if working our fingers to the bone for more stuff isn’t the right way, and if refusing to work altogether isn’t the way to go…then what is? Well, Solomon tells us.

Ecclesiastes 4:6, “Better is a handful of quietness than two hands full of toil and striving after wind.”

Very simply Solomon is telling us to be content. Yes, work hard. Yes, provide for your needs. And THEN enjoy what you have. “One handful of quietness is better than two handfuls of striving after the wind.”

Contentment, being content with what God has blessed you with is much better…INFINITELY better that striving for what can’t satisfy.

My church hears me say this time and time again, but folks this world will never provide you with enough “stuff” or money to make you happy. This world can’t satisfy you and this is why it’s pointless to continue to strive and chase after the wind for more of what this world can offer you! Friends, you CAN’T keep up with the Jones’….

Someone will ALWAYS have more than you do! Always. And if you are living your life, and working simply for what others have, or if you are constantly competing or trying to keep up with other people then it is absolutely a striving after the wind, because you will never have enough…

So, be content. Enjoy what God has given you, and WILL continue to give you. Ultimately, our satisfaction and contentment comes when we realize that all we really need is Jesus.

John Piper has said, “No matter how glorious you are, you will never be glorious enough to satisfy your own soul.” Folks, this is truth and a truth we would be wise to take to heart. The only thing that is glorious enough to satisfy our soul is the Lord Jesus Christ. No matter how glorious you are and no matter how glorious you think your stuff is, or the stuff that someone else has is…it will never be glorious enough to satisfy your soul. Therefore, the only right option and the only logical option is to run to Jesus, who as I’ve said so many times, is the only one who truly satisfies.


To the praise of his glory…

Redemption is an amazing thing. Honestly it is something that is a bit hard to wrap our minds around. It isn’t so hard to imagine that God ‘could’ redeem a sinful people…after all he is God. To think though that God would actually ‘want’ to, is a bit hard to imagine. To know that God ‘can’ and’ does’ want to redeem his people, and that God in fact does this very thing, well that deserves a wow.

The fact that God himself took on human flesh, became a man, lived here in our sinful world, spotless and free of sin, only to one day die on a cross…well, yeah. Amazing. Not only that, this God, who became human flesh, Jesus, was raised from the dead. God did all of this, to redeem his people.

Redemption is amazing.

Redemption being so amazing, we are tempted to make everything about redemption. We are tempted to make redemption the pinnacle of creation, the pinnacle of God’s work done through Jesus. But it wasn’t…and we shouldn’t.

The pinnacle of all things…the purpose of all things…is God’s glory. But don’t just take my word for it, hear the Apostle Paul:

    Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.
In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory. In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.
~Ephesians 1:3-14 ESV

Redemption is an amazing thing, it is an amazing gift. The Gospel is full of amazing gifts. But ultimately the gift of redemption, like all of the other gifts are designed for one purpose; that God would be glorified. We must be ever so careful, not to forget this. As we praise God for all of his gifts, let us not forget the ultimate purpose of them. To bring him glory. Let us not just shout for joy because we have been(and are being) saved, but let us shout for joy because our being saved is bringing him glory. Because that is what it’s all about.

Redemption isn’t the main thing, though in many places and in many hearts it seems to be. God is the main thing. His receiving glory from the praises of his saints…That is the main thing. As one of my favorite people in the world would say, “let’s keep the main thing, the main thing.”

Death, Tragedy, Glory, and God: Is there more there than we think?

Continuing to add to couple of weeks of tragedy, I heard two days ago about the death of our pediatrician’s 22 year-old daughter due to H1N1. My prayers go out to this family, especially with her 3 year-old little girl.

I read in the news that now this doctor was on a mission to get all children in the area vaccinated. My wife also told me, as we were discussing this tragedy that he and his wife were planning to give out vaccinations at their daughter’s funeral. This got me thinking, how so many times when a family is struck by tragedy or the death of a loved one, there is this innate desire to use it for good. There is this longing within us that a tragedy or the death of a loved one should mean something, can be used for something.  How many times have we heard the phrase, “I didn’t want his/her death to be in vain.” How much good has been done, and how many lives have been changed because of someone taking death or tragedy, and using it for good.

As I said though, this got me thinking. Why do we as humans have this desire to turn bad around and use it for good? Why do we so often want to use the tragic death of a loved one, and use it for the good of others? I think I have an answer, or at least a thought on what the answer could be. Could it be, that God has programmed this into the DNA of humans to prepare our hearts for the Gospel? What greater good has come about as a result of a tragedy, than the atonement of our sins, through the blood of Christ? What greater good has come about than the salvation of our souls, as a result of the brutal murder of our Savior, God’s own son, Jesus? (Ephesians 2:13)

The idea of tragedy/death bringing about good, and being used for good isn’t a new, or even unique concept. Just watch any number of movies. Like I said, I believe that just maybe this is something that has been programmed into the hearts, mind, and DNA of humans in preparation for us to receive, or be able to receive the truth of the Gospel. The thing that boggles my mind though, is that God didn’t just decide to use the tragedy of the cross for good, but He planned it. (1 Peter 1:2) He used, no planned the tragedy of the cross for the greatest good imaginable, to bring a people who were once far away, near to Himself. Thank God that His ways are not our ways.

What love does it show that the God of the universe would come down, take on flesh, and die for us? Not because He had to, or needed to, but because He wanted to. He planned to…from before the foundations of the earth. (1 Peter 1:2, Romans 8:29, Ephesians 1:4-14) Simply amazing…