“Then I saw that all toil and all skill in work come from a man’s envy of this neighbor” (Eccl 4:4).
I am beginning to see more clearly the genre of this book. It is Wisdom Literature and closely resembles the Proverbs. This is helpful for seeing that some of the challenges of understanding Proverbs apply here. There are times, like in this verse, that we see a generally true observation stated as an absolute maxim. I really don’t think that he means every single person who ever worked did so out of envy. However, it is basically true that humans strive and struggle to find success in this life on earth. They want to be the best at what they do. They want to make enough money to have the best material possessions. They want to be in charge of others. They want the honor of men. And so, the writer concludes, “This also is vanity and striving after the wind.”
I am free from this vain striving in Christ. I am able to serve someone besides myself. I serve the Lord of all creation and I serve the people he created. I work for the benefit of others. And I work for eternal things. I will lay up treasures in heaven, where it will never be destroyed.