What the Bible says about
(From Forerunner Commentary)
Ecclesiastes 4:4-8 records Solomon's analysis of four types of workers. He appears to have disgustedly turned his attention from the corrupted halls of justice to the marketplace, watching and analyzing as people worked. Recall how those who work diligently are lauded throughout Proverbs and how Ecclesiastes 2 and 3 both extol work as a major gift of God. Solomon came away from this experience with assessments of four different kinds of workers. Understand that God chooses to illustrate His counsel by showing extremes; not everybody will fit one of them exactly. At the same time, we should be able to use the information to make necessary modifications to our approach to our own work.
The first he simply labels the “skillful” worker. This worker has not only mastered the techniques of his trade, but he is also unusually industrious in performing it. We might better call this person a skillful workaholic. The man's skill is laudable, but his productivity motivates others to envy rather than to admiration. Knowing human nature well, Solomon is motivated to think more deeply about what drives such a person to apply himself so intensely. This may be especially useful for us because it seems to apply well to life in an Israelite culture.
Verse 4 is translated to make it appear as though those watching this skillful worker envy his diligence. However, other versions change the direction of the translation, instead saying that the diligent worker labors as he does because he is driven by his own attitude. The Jewish Publication Society, the New American Bible, and the Revised English Bible all change the word “envy” to “rivalry.” That is, people of this mindset perfect their skills and work industriously because of their competitive nature gone overboard.
They want to have more wealth as well as a greater reputation than others in their field of endeavor. This type is especially strongly driven to stay ahead of the competition. Some have analyzed that such workaholics see themselves in what may be called a “battle for bread”; their purpose in being skillful is less to produce a truly quality product than it is to get rich. Thus, the hands are truly capable, which is admirable, but the heart is out of alignment with God. Solomon describes a law of nature, the survival-of-the-fittest attitude, applied to a person's trade. He concludes that this is detrimental, literally a sheer vanity that makes life meaningless.
He is describing something similar to American capitalism, which is productive but not perfect. This competitive approach to work was not part of God's original creation of mankind but a twist Satan has inserted as part of human nature. It is unbalanced in a number of ways, one of the more obvious being that such driven people ignore or submerge other important aspects of life like marriage and family. The worker may feel good about himself because he is providing well for his family, but he is blind to the fact that others are paying a severe price.
Covetousness, competition, envy, and jealousy are often linked. Competition is not evil in itself, but when being first is pursued at the expense of honesty, trouble will also be produced. We see this when some athletes break the rules by using drugs or when manufacturers cut back on the quality of a product. The world is full of Joneses to keep up with or excel.
John W. Ritenbaugh
Ecclesiastes and Christian Living (Part Five): Comparisons
God had made him perfect in wisdom, had He not? But Helel, who became Satan, corrupted that wisdom. In biblical terms, wisdom is the actual doing of righteousness. What happened in this situation was that Helel's doings, actions, behaviors, became corrupted. He should have known better because God had given him that wisdom. Early on, he had acted in wisdom, but his competitive attitude, his discontent, his pride, caused him to pervert his way of life.
Richard T. Ritenbaugh
1 Peter 3:8
In I Peter 3:8, the apostle uses only seven Greek words, whereas the King James employs nineteen to get the meaning across. At the risk of boring the reader, we will look at I Peter 3:8 in the Greek, as if it were in an interlinear Bible: Telos pas homophron sumpathes philadelphos eusplagchnos philophron. Here it is, word by word, with English equivalents and a note or two:
Telos (finally, in the end, to sum up)
pas (individually and all, each and every one of you, collectively)
homophron (of one mind, in accord with one another; used in the New Testament only this once)
sumpathes (suffering or feeling the same with one another; used only this once)
philadelphos (love as brethren, brothers and sisters, countrymen; used only this once)
eusplagchnos (compassionate, tender-hearted; used just twice)
and finally, philophron (friendly, kind, courteous; used only this once).
The apostle Peter is here summarizing his instructions from the previous 20 verses, going back to I Peter 2:17. That passage deals with relationships: how to get along with brethren, mates, and the world at large.
We could paraphrase I Peter 3:8 like this, which sounds a great deal like The Amplified Bible: “In summation, each and every one of you, individually and collectively, have compassion, sympathy, even empathy for one another, loving everyone as if they were your family; be compassionate and courteous.”
The only way to do what Peter recommends is to consider others more important than ourselves. This can be quite hard to do in this competitive world we live in. We have to win in everything. We have to be in the fastest line at the bank or store. We have to ensure no one breaks in line ahead of us. We have to close up on the car ahead and not leave a gap to allow another car to cut in.
If we fail to do these things, what happens? We are life's losers, right? Of course not. There is no pain in living a courteous life. It does not cost us a thing to tell someone, “No, you go first.”
Why has our society coarsened? Is it because our schools for decades now have emphasized how “special” we all are? We have many adults now who cannot read or write very well and who know little history or math, but they feel really good about themselves! They have high self-esteem. Anything that comes their way is deserved or owed to them because we have taught them that.
Or are we less polite because, as a people, we drift further from God every day?
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