Balancing the Desire to Compete.

Much of life is about balance. Solomon reminds us of the need to balance work and family, avoid over-competitiveness, and find the mean between being workaholics and lazy.

We all long for rest, but sometimes it is hard to come by because we are so competitive. Solomon's achievements were imbalanced. The passion to achieve and be at the top isn't hard to spot in multiple arenas: sports, academics, neighborhoods. Often it overlaps with coveting what others have. Cain and Abel are a biblical example, as is Saul and David.

The world of competition is often devoid of courtesy and characterized by self-promotion. Even the secular world recognizes that individual competitiveness can become imbalanced. Unchecked, it has destroyed families, churches, and Christian organizations. It causes others in your proximity to doubt their own value.

When one takes an eternal perspective, he or she realizes that these passions and achievements won't last forever. (See Ecclesiastes 2:18-21.) Why do we feel we have to be great anyway? Our desire should be to make God known as great. (See Acts 20.)

Any gains made by over-competitiveness are short-lived and enjoyed alone. The person who lives this way is self-consumed (Eccl. 4:5).

A literal translation of Ecclesiastes 4:6 would say, "Two handfuls are not better than none if they are gained at the expense of peace." (See Proverbs 29:9 and 1 Timothy 6:6.) "It is never wise to give up on contentment and capitulate to envy and oppression," said one commentator. Iain Provan said, "Life for the body is no more achieved through grasping with both hands than through folding them. The single handful symbolizes the way ahead."

To work hard is biblical. To pursue and achieve is part of the Dominion Mandate. But it should never be done at the expense of godliness.

Application Points

  • Ask those who know and love you, "Am I imbalanced in my competitiveness?" When you talk with others, do you sound content?
  • Striving is anti-neighbor. Who is left behind in your quest to achieve?
  • It's good to have the things that money can buy as long as you don't lose the things money can't buy. Life is a gift, not gain. Live to give, not to gain.