Do you like stuff? Everybody likes stuff, right?
We live in a world that is all about having more stuff. We want more apps, more music, a new phone, a new video game, more friends, and so on. This desire to have more is a common temptation for people; it’s the temptation that we need more in order to be happy. Somehow we have been convinced that we need something it would make us happy. If we had this phone, if we made this much money, or if we had these friends then we would be happy. But the problem is that our stuff might make us temporarily happy, but they will not bring us joy.
In Ecclesiastes, Solomon searches for stuff that will make him happy. Solomon actually denies himself nothing that he wants. He looks for happiness in money. He throws giant parties and quickly finds that once the party is over he just needs to throw another party, with more people and a bigger band. He pursues relationships with women. He builds tons of buildings. And in all of this pursuit he says, “I have seen all the things that are done under the sun; all of them are meaningless, a chasing after the wind.”
Notice the things that Solomon pursues aren’t actually evil things. There’s nothing wrong with making money, having friends, or getting married. But it is the greed, this unquenchable desire for more, that causes Solomon to realize that his greed cannot be satisfied and that the things he is pursuing are all meaningless.
“The new gadget or a new wardrobe or a new house or a new boat or a new car promises a weird relief and excitement, doesn’t it? Have you ever thought about how weird that is? A new cell phone, the cool one, makes you feel better. This kind of consumerism comes with an emotional stroking, like a narcotic high. But then it wears off. New stuff becomes old stuff really quickly, and we need the next new thing. The Scriptures are saying, ‘Give me a break. Trinkets are trinkets.’” - Matt Chandler, The Explicit Gospel
What’s Your Problem?
When you struggle with greed or jealousy or coveting, your problem isn’t with the stuff you have, but it’s actually with God. The struggle with these things, if we are honest, is not because we have a problem that can only be solved by acquiring stuff. The problem is that we are not content with the gifts that God has chosen to give us or not give us.
In Matthew 20, Jesus tells a story about some workers in a vineyard. At the beginning of the day a landowner hires some men to work in his yard. They agree to work for the standard wage. Half-way through the day the owner decides to hire some more workers and agrees to pay them a full days pay. He does this again near the end of the day and agrees to pay them the same. At the end of this story as the owner is paying everybody the same amount, the workers who got hired earlier were upset. They worked longer, shouldn’t they have gotten paid more? The owner answers saying, “Friend, I am not being unfair to you. Didn’t you agree to work for a [day’s wage]? Take your pay and go...Don’t I have the right to do what I want with my own money? Or are you envious because because I am generous?"
God has blessed us in incredible ways. When we are content, we have no problem celebrating the ways that God has blessed those around us. If we struggle with the sin of greed or jealousy, we commonly fail to be content with how God has blessed us and look at other's blessings with envy.