Under The Sun? Or Under The Son? – Series on Ecclesiastes
Finding True Contentment
31 August 2014
By the grace of God it is better to live in contentment for what He has given us rather than to live in envy of all that we see around us. This is the conclusion that Solomon reached while contemplating the problem of injustice, which we saw last time.
But in the passage before us, he turns to what we call the ‘rat race’. And he uses hyperbole to put across the point that envy is one of the greatest motivators for success. He’s not saying that we work only because we envy, because he actually says that work is something that come from God (in chapter 2). But his point here is that sin corrupts everything we do. Therefore, his basic premise is that merely running the rat race is as meaningless as chasing after the wind.
Then, in verse 5, Solomon goes to the other extreme by describing a slothful person who chooses not to work and hence consumes all that he has. So in the first instance we have one sort of person who is driven by envy so that their work consumes them. But then on the opposite end of the spectrum is a person who is driven by sloth and consumes all they has.
Moving on to verse 8, Solomon turns his attention to an unsaved person (because he is ‘under the sun’) who only works for himself. He doesn’t seem to have children or siblings because, at the end of verse 8 he asks — “For whom am I toiling and depriving myself of pleasure?” This is someone who never stopped to ask some basic questions as to the point of all his work.
All of this adds to Solomon’s feeling of frustration because even after having considered all the options for work, he still is stumped by the meaninglessness of it all.
Applying this to ourselves we must ask ourselves the following: Are we working out of envy? Are we not working at all? Or are we working tirelessly without any point to our efforts? We must keep our work in perspective. It’s good to work hard to advance our careers instead of sitting on our hands. The key is having the right motivation. It shouldn’t be out of envy but for the glory of God because as Christians, our foremost priority is to honour God. If our work comes in the way of honouring God (by serving Him or His saints or our families), then we need to seriously take stock of our work and the heart attitudes that drive us. There isn’t enough money in the world that can make up the damage that is wrought on our family or church from over-commitment to our work.