“Fools fold their hands and ruin themselves. Better one handful with tranquility than two handfuls with toil and chasing after the wind.” Ecclesiastes 4:5-6 (NIV)
I knew what I had to do. I needed to sit down at my computer and get to work. But I didn’t feel much like working. So I decided to go into the kitchen and make a second cup of coffee.
Returning to my desk, I started answering emails instead (that’s easier), and then I posted a photo on social media (that’s more fun). Anything to avoid the work at hand!
Have you ever been there? There are days I waste time watching movie previews or shopping for clothes instead of getting my work done. But then there are other days when I overwork. I linger at my desk, getting just one more task done, even though the clock (and my kids) are saying the workday is long over.
Today’s key verses written by King Solomon address this tension between working too little and working too much, the ultimate work-life balance. Solomon presents two striking ideas, both concerning fools: “Fools fold their hands and ruin themselves. Better one handful with tranquility than two handfuls with toil and chasing after the wind” (Ecclesiastes 4:5-6).
The first fool does nothing. The second fool does way too much.
The first statement denounces laziness. The second condemns the workaholic.
The first fool folds his hands, refusing to work. It’s a picture of idleness. This is a person who loves comfort more than commitment, sloth more than work. As it says in Proverbs 6:10-11 (NIV), “A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest — and poverty will come on you like a thief and scarcity like an armed man.”
In today’s vernacular, we might not be folding our hands. Instead, we might be swiping, pressing, typing and tapping on devices. We’re clicking on ads and catchy headlines. We might start with research but end with YouTube.
On the other hand, there’s the fool who works too much. She spins and toils and spins and toils, always reaching and grasping for more. You can work tirelessly, but it is never enough.
Solomon’s advice is to strike a balance between sloth and over-work to gain more. When Solomon recommends “one handful with tranquility” or “quietness” (NKJV), he is talking about a modest amount of goods or property acquired through calm, reasonable activity. As Solomon writes in Proverbs 15:16, “Better a little with the fear of the LORD than great wealth with turmoil” (NIV).
We don’t need two handfuls of stuff all the time. Our shopping carts don’t have to be filled to overflowing. One handful will do just fine, enjoyed with contentment, peace of mind and conscience.
So how can we tell when we’re being too lazy or when we’re working too much? We can return to the origin of Solomon’s wisdom, a prayer to God that went something like this: “Please God, grant me wisdom so I can tell the difference between what is right and what is wrong.” Let’s open up our hands to God, and He will show us when to work and when to rest.
Heavenly Father, You are Jehovah Jireh, my Provider. Thank You for providing my daily bread. Give me the wisdom to know when to work and when to rest. Help me to be hardworking and industrious while being calm and healthy physically, spiritually and emotionally. Lead me in my work and relationships by the Holy Spirit. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
TRUTH FOR TODAY
1 Timothy 6:9-10, “Those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.” (NIV)
Galatians 6:9, “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” (NIV)
We all want to live free. But true freedom is only found in Christ. We are excited to kick off our next First 5 study, Galatians: How Jesus Invites Us to Live Free on June 15! In this study, we will work through the book of Galatians verse-by-verse each day. We'll dig deep and learn about what it means to live free in Christ. Find out what Jesus has freed you from and what He has freed you to.
As a mom, are you feeling lonely, unappreciated or just plain tired? Motherhood is not an easy job, but it’s an important one. That’s why Arlene Pellicane wrote 31 Days to Becoming a Happy Mom. Renew the joy of being a mother, and find support in Arlene’s helpful book, available in the Proverbs 31 Bookstore.
Watch Arlene’s free video series from 31 Days to Becoming a Happy Mom at Arlene’s website or Instagram.
REFLECT AND RESPOND
Do you identify more with the person who works too little or the person who works too much? What’s something you can do this week to enjoy the right amount of work?
How does social media and/or time on your phone increase your risk of becoming more idle? What’s something you can do to be more focused? We’d love to hear your thoughts in our comments!
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