What's Your Motivation?
I know I've read the book of Ecclesiastes before, but reading it at the start of the new year, it all seems so fresh to me. That's one of the things I dearly love about the Word of God; no matter how familiar we are with it, whether we've laid eyes on a passage one time or a thousand, it's timeless and relevant and good.
I, like so many others, started January with new hopes and dreams and resolutions to change poor behaviors. We've written about resolutions before (like why you don't have to wait for New Year's to make them) but as I came across this verse in Ecclesiastes 4, I had to reexamine myself and look at the reasons for why I want what I want and do what I do.
Many of the resolutions I made were in regards to things I'd like to accomplish in my professional life–my work. Read the words of Solomon, inspired by the Holy Spirit, "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" (Ecclesiastes 4:4).
Is this true of you? Have you allowed envy to motivate and energize your pursuits, both professional and personal? I know I have. The Word of God calls that kind of motivation "vanity and a striving after the wind." In other words, it's meaningless and useless to work and live that way because what happens when we live to get what others have? We will live a life of constant discontentment. Solomon explains, "yet there is no end to his toil, and his eyes are never satisfied with riches..." (Ecclesiastes 4:8b). When we do what we do out of envy for what someone else has, our pursuits will be fueled by pride and selfish ambition and we will come to see people as our competition.
So what's to be done to remedy our situation? How do we fight the temptation to work out of envy for what others have? How do we move from envy as motivation to a right motivation? It takes examining and embracing.
Some of us might not even recognize that envy has been driving our work and pursuits. Think about the things you really want. Ask yourself: Why? What's your reasoning for wanting what you want? What would getting what you want bring you? Does it increase your joy and delight in Christ?
The truth is, not only is striving out of envy a sinful way to live, it's also a painful one. It leads us to discontentment, feelings of hopelessness, it gives us resentment towards others, and if we are not careful, bitterness towards the Lord. We come to think God is holding out on us, yet this is a lie. The Lord offers us a sweeter motivation and it's the opposite of envy: delight. If our pursuits are motivated by delight in the Lord, we will experience contentment despite our circumstances, hope where things feel hopeless, and deep all-satisfying joy and peace unlike anything the world could ever offer. God wants you to delight yourself in Him and what He has done. Whereas, working out of envy is meaningless, delighting in God is meaningful and leads to sweet satisfaction. To abandon envy, we must strive for joy instead and embrace delight.
How precious is your steadfast love, O God!
The children of mankind take refuge in the shadow of your wings.
They feast on the abundance of your house,
and you give them drink from the river of your delights.
For with you is the fountain of life;
in your light do we see light. Psalm 36:7-9
We need to remember that it's not necessarily bad to want things, however, the problem comes when we start to live for our desires above delighting in God. To examine your desires further, check out our free 6-day study, How to Deal with Unmet Desires & Satisfy the Longings of Your Heart.