Behold that which I have seen: it is good and comely for one to eat and to drink, and to enjoy the good of all his labour that he taketh under the sun all the days of his life, which God giveth him: for it is his portion. (Ecclesiastes 5:18)
The second half of ch.5 is taken up with a meditation upon the Providence of God. Recently, I wrote an article on providence that is good to read in conjunction with this one.
This inspired meditation on providence fixes its interest on the rich man and the laboring man. The Preacher finds that men’s appetites increase in proportion to their wealth (v. 11). Ultimately, riches do not satisfy them because the deeds done to acquire these riches leave them estranged from God.
In contrast, for the laboring man, his sleep is sweet (v.12). The Preacher takes from these observations that one should enjoy that which Providence has given him, no more and no less. One may become covetous and seek more than what God has provided. Such striving and discontentment is the cause of so many sins, conflicts, and ills for man. So often, we seek the blessings of God’s providence in goods, reputation, and advantage. We want God to bless us. But we don’t want God. A resolution to be content with what God has given is the sign of a yielded heart, of one who has given himself over to trust in the goodness, holiness, and provision of the Triune God. To do so joyfully is one of the chief weapons against Satan, who loves nothing more than to tempt man through discontentment. Indeed, this was one of his snares for our parents Adam and Eve, that they could “be like God” though they were but men.
We should be content in our labor. We must not become slaves to our work and neither should we be given to laziness in it. God has given us work to do for our good and acceptance of that work according to his Providence is a holy thing. Indeed, it is our portion, our gift.
Wilhelmus a Brakel, in commenting on the 10th commandment, says this:
We must also joyously embrace the will of God in that which we must undertake, and we must accomplish it out of love. To be satisfied while missing what we would desire to have does not preclude our being sensitive about this, nor the use of means ot obtain that for which we have a holy desire. It does preclude emotional upheaval and torment, however, and consists in being quiet, calm, and content – this being the will of our Father and to our advantage.
Make this your prayer:
Our Gracious and Sovereign Father, we give you thanks for the many blessings you have given us. We rejoice in our provision and in our want. We pray that you would keep our hearts from the sin of discontent and envy and would transform us into the image of your son, Jesus Christ, who had no place to lay his head and was content in all the provision given to him in his earthly life. May no estate, whether high or low, move our faith from the conviction that we are your sons and daughters because of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, by whom we have been given the greatest gift of eternal blessedness with you, our loving and gracious Father, to whom we are united by your Son, Jesus Christ and in whose name we pray. Amen.