The book of Ecclesiastes is quickly becoming one of my favorite books of the Bible. The more I teach from it, the more I learn and appreciate its content. I am currently teaching through Ecclesiastes in my LifeGroup and a few weeks ago, we had a lesson that really made an impact on me personally. I'd like to share a simple, but powerful, thought from this lesson and I hope it is as much of a help to you as it has been to me.
To help set the stage for what we will study today, I want to remind you that the book of Ecclesiastes was written by King Solomon toward the end of his life. Solomon has ruled and reigned and is looking back over his life. He is considering the positives and negatives of his life, with the hope of passing along wisdom of how to properly navigate life in this world.
In chapter four, the term "better" is mentioned several times by Solomon. He points out important things that ought to be considered, in contrast to other things that are not as important. Verse six states, "Better is an handful with quietness, than both the hands full with travail and vexation of spirit." Solomon is teaching us about balance in life. It is better to have fewer, more valuable things that we steward well than to have our lives full to the brim with events, objects, activities, etc. If not, we live a frustrated life trying to manage them all.
We need margin (extra space) in our lives where we can manage a smaller number of things well that are very important to us. Margin only comes from intentionality in our decisions of what we allow our time to be spent on; we must purposely deny things in our lives in order to have the space that we need. The key is saying "no" to the unimportant things and saying "yes" to the truly important things.
This illustration helps me understand this concept of not having too much in my hands and focusing on what is truly important. Imagine that you have in your hands a few plates that you are balancing and trying to keep from falling. You start off with a few, but gradually add more and more plates. The more plates that you add, the harder it is to keep them all in balance. Inevitably, at some point, a plate or two will fall. Here is the catch: Some of the plates are made of plastic and don't break when they drop, but some of the plates are made of fine china and shatter into many pieces when they drop.
The plastic plates represent the things that are not the most important in your life. They are the things that you may not want to lose, but can be replaced if necessary. These would be things like hobbies, cars, sports, and even jobs. Plates made of fine china represent the things that should be most important in your life - the things that are truly valuable. These would be your relationships with God and people. These plates would represent your spouse, your children, your church family, your friends, etc. These are the things that truly matter.
The problem is that when we try to juggle too many things, something will fall. The sad part is that many times the area that we let slip is our important relationships - our china plates. Solomon encourages us to live a lighter life by choosing to build space into our lives. If we are too loaded down, we will have "... travail and vexation of spirit." We must make sure we are choosing to keep the important things and let go of the unimportant things. Don't let a china plate fall in order to save a plastic plate.
I pray the Lord blesses you and encourages you in your walk with Him today!
Written by Corey Knopf