Six Habits Similar to Chasing the Wind
“What do people get for all their hard work under the sun? . . . Everything is wearisome beyond description . . . and really, it is all meaningless—like chasing the wind (engaging in meaningless activity).” Ecclesiastes 1: 3, 8, 14 NLT.
This sense of futility may well be the attitude of some individuals who are frustrated at the inconvenience of the COVID-19 pandemic. Their efforts to control their time and movements become pointless, and they may throw up their hands in despair. But worrying over conditions that we cannot control is only one of several habits which may be labeled meaningless.
Throughout Ecclesiastes, credited to the authorship of King Solomon, we find six destructive habits which are similar to chasing the wind. As we read them, let's take inventory of our attitudes and habits. Let's be intentional about choosing habits which can increase our productivity and feed our sense of purpose.
1. Seeking to Know Everything
"So I set out to learn everything from wisdom to madness and folly. But I learned firsthand that pursuing all this is like chasing the wind." (1:17)
Presidents and kings have proved their ignorance in understanding the coronavirus. There's no shame in that; it is an enemy which their armies cannot destroy. Medical authorities have confessed that they are still learning, so they can perform effectively. Learning continues for a lifetime.
If the aim of individuals seeking knowledge is to boast, or to gain the reputation of being experts, they are likely to face embarrassment over and over. They will meet others who know more than they do in several areas of learning.
A better habit than seeking to know everything is to learn all one can, with the intention of sharing information and cooperating in team efforts to produce results for the common good. We can learn from each other.
2. Working Hard Without Gaining Satisfaction
"But as I looked at everything I had worked so hard to accomplish, it was all so meaningless—like chasing the wind. . . So I came to hate life because everything . . . is meaningless—like chasing the wind." (2:11, 17)
Working hard is honorable, but working hard without gaining satisfaction is one of the most common ways of chasing the wind. Dissatisfaction may be caused by insufficient pay, humiliation from the employer or rewards which are meaningless. Solomon was self-employed, and for all his troubles, his trophies meant nothing.
To avoid this dilemma, pray for God's guidance in setting goals according to one's God-given purpose. If desirable paid assignments are temporarily unavailable, invest free time on weekends or after hours, in the vocation of choice. This will provide some satisfaction, and later, there may be openings which require that experience.
3. Gaining Wealth but Not Divine Favor
"God gives wisdom, knowledge, and joy to those who please him. But if a sinner becomes wealthy, God takes the wealth away and gives it to those who please him. This, too, is meaningless—like chasing the wind." (2:26)
King Solomon appears on the list of Richest People of All Times, with a personal fortune which could have surpassed $2 trillion (£1.42trn) in today's money. There's nothing wrong in owning wealth; but without peace of mind, joy, love of life and family, wealth does not bring satisfaction. It only seems to cynics like Solomon that God gives their wealth to His loyal followers. The rich would be surprised at how little money some of these happy people have. It is their connectedness with God which gives them joy and peace. Such a connection will bring the satisfaction which the wealthy are seeking. Solomon's appeal at the end of the book (12:13) is to fear God.
People and Animals
beautiful vineyards and flourishing groves
male and female singers and slaves, concubines
treasure from many kings and provinces
gardens and parks
herds and flocks
great sums of silver and gold
4. Achieving Success Powered by Envy
"Then I observed that most people are motivated to success because they envy their neighbors. But this, too, is meaningless—like chasing the wind. . . And yet, 'Better to have one handful with quietness than two handfuls with hard work and chasing the wind.'” (4:4, 6)
This habit is pathetic because it is not motivated by a personal need, but by a destructive desire to want what the other person has. The desire intensifies the longer it is harbored, and is often followed by the temptation to obtain the object (or status, or reputation) by illegal or criminal action. To self-destruct in the effort to gain someone else's possession is the ultimate in chasing the wind.
Rather than try doubly hard to get what the other person has, evaluate one's real needs and learn productive measures to fill them.
5. Thriving Temporarily on Popularity
"Endless crowds stand around him, but then another generation grows up and rejects him, too. So it is all meaningless—like chasing the wind." (4:16)
This temporary popularity is most obvious in the life of politicians. Solomon, his father David, and his son Jeroboam all experienced fickle popularity during their reigns. The comment from the Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges is as true for our generation as it was for theirs.
"The reign which begins so brightly shares the inevitable doom, and ends in darkness, and murmuring and failure… The glory of the most popular and successful king shares the common doom and is but as a feeding upon wind.”
Kings as well as commoners who decide to thrive on popularity have the lifelong job of finding new people who will root for them. It takes very little for folks to shift their loyalty. Better to deserve selection based on qualities and track records of noble performance, than seek election based on popularity with a fickle crowd.
6. Nurturing Discontent Instead of Gratitude
"Enjoy what you have rather than desiring what you don’t have. Just dreaming about nice things is meaningless—like chasing the wind." (6:9)
We're back where we started. During the pandemic, we are experiencing the futility of wishing for the privileges we have lost. Life is too precious to be spent nurturing despair. Instead, let us express gratitude for the blessings we still enjoy. Let us appreciate our breathing and the space which allows us to stand six feet apart.
Hopefully, our new found gratitude will be become a way of life. Instead of chasing the wind, may we search for and find rainbows. May we notice the spark in each other's eyes—the spark from our smiles, which no mask can completely hide.
© 2020 Dora Weithers