Ecclesiastes 4:4-6: Laziness and Overwork

Read: Ecclesiastes 4:4-6: Laziness and Overwork

The Preacher in his day was undoubtedly devoted to his pursuits, which were many, the found the time to accumulate wealth and wisdom and complemented it with pleasures of all sorts (Ecclesiastes 2:1-11). In all his pursuits, he said that they were meaningless like one chasing after the wind. In light of that, the Preacher has a healthy appreciation concerning work, saying that it is right for man to work and enjoy the fruits of his labors (Ecclesiastes 3:11-12). The preacher does disdain two things: laziness and workaholism.

To laziness, the Preacher says that a fool folds his hands – that is he does nothing – and this leads to ruin. This is consistent with the rest of wisdom literature and the Bible in general. Proverbs is replete with verses about laziness. Here are a few: Proverbs 19:15, Proverbs20:4, Proverbs 21:25, Proverbs 26:12-16. 2 Thessalonians makes a sting remark concerning those that do not work, saying they should not eat. The passages continues, speaking about busybodies – those that full their lives with fruitless endeavors and have the appearance of work, but they themselves are not working at all.

To workaholism, the Preacher says that it better to have one handful and be tranquil than two with toil. In other words, one should not work overwork himself so he or she can have two handfuls when one is enough. The Preacher speaks to the matter in Ecclesiastes 5:12, saying that the sleep of a worker is satisfying, but the one who is wealthy cannot sleep. That is, he cannot sleep because he is consumed with the acquisition of wealth. 1 Timothy 6:6 and Philippians 4:11 speak to the matter of contentment too. Paul had struggled in life having plenty and not having anything at all. He says that he learned to be content in all things when there was abundance and when there was not.

Overworking and laziness are nothing new. They existed in the day of the Preacher and they exist even now. Psalm 127 is a word to how one should orient his or her work. The Psalm says that unless the Lord builds a house, then the builder labors in vain. All the toiling and hard work is of no purpose unless they are for the purpose apart from God. The Psalm also teaches that children are the “heritage” of the Lord and a blessing from him. The warning against work for purposes other than those that are Godly purposes goes against the true blessing of the Lord serves as a warning to those who work: don’t forget the blessing, namely the family that God has given. Work for purposes that are in accordance with the Lord, and one will find contentment in this!

Lord, you build my house!