Never Start a Soul-Fire With Comparison

The Psalmist pleads the Lord declare him innocent of hidden sins, as well as those sins willfully committed. It’s evident God does this through His church for His church. He also does this through His Spirit when we read His Word. I pray these few thoughts from Ecclesiastes 4:4-8 are an encouragement to your soul as they were mine.

“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. Again, I saw vanity under the sun: 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.

Calling, Not Comparison

In verse 4, the author writes that toil and work rise out of envy and jealousy of those around us. This is dangerous. Comparison is the wrong way to start the fire in our souls. It’s the wrong match to use when we want to light up the passions we have. It’s an insufficient spark for the drive we have to produce good and serve others. This desire to create and to live and work comes from a deep sense of direction and call on our lives from God, not from looking out our window to see what everyone else is doing.

We will kill ourselves chasing after the fame and accomplishments of others. Why? Because we weren’t created to be other people. We were created to be who God made us, and that’s different than the family across the street or the dude across the hall in our dorm or the girl on our Facebook feed. It’s so easy for us to compare, but just because it’s easy doesn’t make it right.

Comparison is more dangerous than it is easy.

God’s precious, sweet, divine call on our lives and the grace he bestows upon us as his children is what gets us going. Using comparison as kindling for the fire in our hearts will ignite an unrelenting fire we don’t want to start. Rather, the truth that God is watching over us and commissions us to love him and live our lives according to his purposes should be the spark we use to get our fires going, not the Instagram updates from our friends in Paris. This is going to look, in one sense, different for everyone. Some may be bankers. Some may be moms. Some may be writers. Some may be salesmen. But the underlying mission for everyone is all the same: make God’s name famous and do that by making disciples.

When we live out of comparison, we’re ruining our lives and we’re running ourselves into the ground. When we live out of our calling, we’re bringing our lives into the mission of God and that restores joy and moves His kingdom forward.

 

Him, Not Them

Intertwined with our calling is the One who calls us. In verse 8 the writer describes the true nature of our souls: we’re so deeply concerned with our passions and our desires and our lusts that we’re never satisfied. But it doesn’t stop there. We move forward, chasing all that entices, without ever stopping to ask why we’re doing it and how we got to where we are. We must learn to stop and ask, Why am I doing this? Why am I working like this? Why am I striving so hard after this one thing? Why am I trying to do all these different things?

I wonder if this cuts you as deeply as it does me. Engaging in social media and monitoring what certain people are producing, such as articles, blogs, videos, tweets, books, can cause me to feel less important. I feel inactive. I feel worthless. I feel less than what I should be. But why? It’s because comparison sneaks in and it drives us to the desperate need to produce, to churn something out, to write more, tweet more, engage more, be different, be more.

It’s at this point we must turn to God’s truth and the reservoir of wisdom and life that are in His Word.

The underlying mission for everyone is the same: make God’s name famous and make disciples.

Ecclesiastes 4:8 says it all. For whom am I toiling? What is driving us? The Spirit broke me on so many levels when reading this, the main one being my faithfulness. You see, there are times where we think doing several things below average is better than doing a few with excellence. We need to step back and evaluate before we issue the verdict. We need to step back and realize that being faithful right now, in this season, with these responsibilities, we may not be able to do what we think we can or even want to.

Faithfulness looks at what’s in front of us and stays the course. And that looks like setting priorities and knowing the Lord has called us to faithfulness in this season with a certain number of things. And right now, to try and bring on other things as if our current responsibilities weren’t there would be foolish.

More importantly, for me, and maybe you as well, adding things to our plates would be for other people’s approval and to be seen in a certain way in other people’s eyes, rather than realizing our work is for the Lord, first and foremost. He is the reason we strive.

 

He’s Better

We need to realize all our running around means nothing without Him. We run around and try to do everything we can to keep control and take control when we lose it. But verse 6 calls us to a better way.

“Better is a handful of quietness than two hands full of toil and a striving after the wind.”

Why is this so important? Because instead of two hands filled with work and control, we need to let one go and grab hold of quietness and meditation. Why? Scripture calls us to be still and know that He is God; to stop our striving, stop our toil, and know that He is above it all. When we’re still, when we’re quiet, when we stop, when we meditate, when we rest, we concede control, letting him know that we trust Him. We grab hold of meditation on God’s Word and times of stillness in prayer because we need Him. This is where we go to meet with the Lord and surrender to Him. This is us letting Him know we understand we can’t do it alone. We don’t have what it takes. We grab hold of Him because we know what life would be without Him.

Stop striving. Let go.

Grab hold of the faithfulness of God and let His work done on your behalf in Christ give you joy and passion.

 

 

Jonathan C. Edwards (@NotThePuritan)

Jonathan (M.Div, Th.M) is the Director of Curriculum for Docent Research Group. He is the author of "Left: The Struggle to Make Sense of Life When a Parent Leaves," available now!

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