1. (4-6) Success often gains the envy of one’s neighbor.
Again, I saw that for all toil and every skillful work a man is envied by his neighbor. This also is vanity and grasping for the wind.
The fool folds his hands And consumes his own flesh. Better a handful with quietness Than both hands full, together with toil and grasping for the wind.
a. For all toil and every skillful work a man is envied by his neighbor: The Preacher thought of those who gain success through toil and skillful work – and how it simply brought envy and sometimes hatred from others. This common jealousy of success made life seem like vanity and grasping for the wind.
i. “For if a man act uprightly and properly in the world, he soon becomes the object of his neighbour’s envy and calumny too. Therefore the encouragement to do good, to act an upright part, is very little. This constitutes a part of the vainand empty system of human life.” (Clarke)
b. The fool folds his hands and consumes his own flesh: Solomon here answered the tendency for those jealous of the success of others to be lazy. Like fools, they fold their hands and do nothing – and so waste away. Yet it wasn’t the success of their neighbor that made them waste away; the foolish, lazy man consumes his own flesh.
i. Consumes his own flesh: “This expression is really equivalent to ‘destroys himself,’ ‘brings ruin upon himself.’” (Deane) A similar thought from a different perspective is found in Psalm 27:2.
c. Better a handful with quietness than both hands full, together with toil and grasping for the wind: The Preacher reflects on the value of contentment. It is better to have less and be content (with quietness) than to have more and constantly be grasping for further success.
i. Solomon weaved some fascinating themes together.
Hard work and success are good and not to be envied.
Laziness is wrong and destructive.
Yet even the one with full hands must learn contentment.
PRAYER: Lord, I don’t know when I started believing the lie that more is better. More things consumes my time. More activities take me away from those closest to me—and away from time with you. More desires fill me with longing instead of thankfulness, yet even when I receive what I think I want, it leaves me with emptiness inside. Today, Lord, I choose to be thankful with my one handful. It is enough. Fill my heart with gratitude and remind me of the futility of chasing after the wind. In Jesus’ Holy name, I pray. AMEN.
GOD BLESS YOU.