“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 ESV
As men we love to compare things. Our visual perception gives us all sorts of information about the world, other people, and us. Who among us doesn’t know who is the most attractive woman in the room we are in? Who doesn’t stand in the aisle of a hardware store and pick a power tool based on which box has the biggest number on it? (Amps…volts…horsepower…not sure how much I actually need, but more has to be better, right?) The other thing we do constantly is compare ourselves to other men. Teddy Roosevelt famously said “Walk softly and carry a big stick.” Occasionally I catch myself thinking, “My stick’s bigger than his.” We try to keep up with the Joneses because somehow we need that validation, even though we know full well it’s meaningless.
The writer of Ecclesiastes noticed this tendency too, so it’s definitely not a modern thing. Envy is one of the great errors that leads us to chasing the wind, as the wisdom teaches. We are supposed to work hard, because a man with idle hands eats his own flesh for lack of anything else to eat. But if we are so driven to success and hard work because of envy we have no peace. There will always be that insatiable hunger for more, faster, bigger, better…but peace and quietness knows when to say, “Enough.”
Daily Battle Order:
Resolve not to compare yourselves to other men or envy their possessions. Screw the Joneses! Don’t get into meaningless stick measuring contests. Learn when to say “Enough.” If you do not cultivate this inner peace, you will always be too drained or distracted for the real battles you face.