A handful of quietness or two handfuls of toil.

 "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. The fool folds his hands and eats his own flesh. Better is a handful of quietness than two hands full of toil and a striving after wind." -Ecclesiastes 4:4-6

Keeping up with the Joneses: A common ideology shared by the great majority of humans, particularly, Americans. Running rampant in our society and in our minds are common, useless lies that we insist on making ourselves believe. "Once I get the new model of __________, I'll be happy." You may not say it audibly, but be honest with yourself, it is an ongoing thought behind the proverbial scenes of your mind. All too often we get hyped up on "stuff," expecting to attain it, and then detach the happiness that is supposed to come prepackaged along with said item. The box is opened and the truth looms overhead yet again, you got gypped. It's not that temporal happiness is nonexistent, but that it (temporal happiness) is not what we are grasping for. We want lasting satisfaction, never-ending joy; And we will attempt to fill that hole inside of ourselves until we drop. Unless, of course, there is a divine intervention along the way.

Today, I stumbled upon a nugget of wisdom in the Scriptures (as quoted above), and I thought I would share my commentary on it, considering the subject matter.

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. (v.4)

My observation is that Solomon is explaining that a man's common cause for labor is fueled by envy, the desire for more. Apparently, the Joneses have been around for quite a while (considering the dating of authorship is widely agreed to be around 250 B.C.). Because a man desires what his neighbor has or just to have more, he works harder. For the sake of greed, a man strives to hone the skills of his trade, thus making him more efficient and profitable. This is the kind of greed that drives men in our modern day. We live lives of much toil in hopes of achieving a type of  "consumerist nirvana," but in the end, we are left barren and hollow. Commentators' thoughts on this particular passage vary. Some suggest it to mean that a hard-laboring, skillful, and honest man is envied by his neighbor, which is also true of moral works. This is a more than viable explanation, as Matthew Henry has noted, "Those that excel in virtue will always be an eye-sore to those who exceed in vice." Because men are prone to laziness, it is always a desirable option to take the easy way out, if available. It is quite evident why the lazy neighbor would envy the hard-working man, for, "Sweet is the sleep of a laborer.1" So, I take the truth of both viewpoints on the verse to be accurate, biblical, and enduring.

The fool folds his hands and eats his own flesh. (v.5)

In short, the fool noted here folds his hands in refusal to work, and brings himself to ruin. Again, Matthew Henry proclaims, "Idleness is a sin that is its own punishment." Perhaps he folds his hands in order to seek more sleep, which is feasible, considering his indolence. Couch potatoes have been around for quite some time, as well.

Better is a handful of quietness than two hands full of toil and a striving after wind. (v.6)

We are exhorted to "..aspire to live quietly, and to mind your own affairs, and to work with your hands,2" for this is the portion of the diligent workers and seekers of the Lord. A life spent in hard labor for the sake of honoring God and providing for family is completely preferable to a life of laziness. A life with only one handful of possessions, but much grace and tranquility, will always trump the life of two handfuls gained by hard labor fueled by greed, hate, and envy.

The ultimate wisdom to see here is that true satisfaction is found in Jesus Christ, the one who grants sweet sleep to the laboring man. Truly, the only 'possession' you have is your eternal soul. As Job said, "Naked I came from my mother's womb and naked shall I return.3" Let us fight not to get hung up on possessions. The hole inside of us that I mentioned earlier is a void filled by Christ alone. Don't wear yourself thin in hopes of dying with the most goodies. May we drop whatever our hands are clenching and spend our days holding handfuls grace and mercy.

1 Ecclesiastes 5:12, 21 Thessalonians 4:11, 3Job 1:21

The Lack of Desire

When a Christian decides to become more minimal and to pare down distraction and excess, following hard after Jesus becomes a bit easier. If you can manage to dispel the idea that you "need" to be constantly connected by email, cellphones, etc, your mind is significantly more free to be about your Father's business. Constant, spontaneous prayer can become a reality you've never known. Your capacity to memorize Scripture may increase significantly. You may even spend significant amounts of time dreaming about different ways you can fulfill the Great Commission, or just different ways you can serve. You can give yourself away and actually serve, rather than just dreaming.

But this isn't reality, is it?

Life gets tough. Despite the magnificent benefits of decluttering mind and home, the war still remains. It will always remain. The struggle between the natural man (the flesh) and the new man (the spirit) is just a fact of Christian life. But this realization doesn't give us permission to be passive. Shall we sin that grace may abound? You may ask, when I have pared down and decluttered as much possible and I still don't have holy desire, what is the solution for the anxiety? First, let me note that it will probably just be a daily struggle. It is for me, at least. The next step is to simply utilize the time and energy you have freed up now, which you used to use for other things, to recognize your utter dependance on the Lord. We constantly draw breath and think nothing of it, but aside from the grace of God we wouldn't have even the strength to draw breath or the breath to draw.

In short, pray hard for God to show your inadequacy and work hard to see it. Ask Him for abilities and talents to display His glorious name among the nations. Pray to be guarded from becoming wrapped up in a viewpoint that makes God's favor dependent on your performance. His favor never changes and you will always fail. Wake up and realize everyday that even your best forthcoming efforts will be imperfect and sinful. Ask for grace.

As Jerry Bridges said, "Even our tears of repentance need to be washed in the blood of the Lamb."

Lord, we want to want you. We long to long for You, but although the spirit is willing, the flesh is weak. We need strength. Strength only you can supply. Grant us holy desires. Let us be overwhelmed with Your goodness and the need to share with others. Let us be an acceptable sacrifice.

"Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise Him, my Salvation and my God." - Psalm 43:5

What Really Stands Out To Me From Jesus Feeding 5000

This is great article with an uncommon, but top-notch perspective. The site as a whole is a complete gold mine. Enjoy :)  - Jesus Feeding the 5000