Then I saw that all toil and all skill in work come from a man’s envy of his neighbor. This also is vanity and a striving after wind. (Ecclesiastes 4:4)
Our theology of work says that work has inherent value. Work is not something we do to get to the weekend; work is part of what it means to be an image-bearer of God. It’s not something we do because we have to; it’s something we do because of who we are.
But we’re fallen creatures, and sin has affected our work. The author of Ecclesiastes categorically states that we’re now motivated to work out of envy. In other words, our work has inherent value, but we’ve turned it into a competition to outdo everyone else.
I want to believe I’m motivated to pastor because the work has inherent value, and because it’s what God has called me to do. But I recognize the temptation to compare my ministry to others, to try to outdo them – essentially, to pastor out of envy.
Ecclesiastes tells us a better way:
Better is a handful of quietness than two hands full of toil and a striving after wind. (Ecclesiastes 4:6)
There is a way to work and pastor out of a quiet heart. Our motives will never be completely pure, but I pray that God would teach me to pastor from a heartful of quiet rather than two handfuls of envy-driven toil.
God save us from pastoral envy.