Ecclesiastes 4:6


"Better is a handful of quietness than two hands full of toil and a striving after wind" (Ecclesiastes 4:6 RSV).


The book of Hebrew scripture known as Ecclesiastes, or The Preacher, is from the third century B.C.E. Its inclusion is unusual in that it is a work of philosophy rather than religion. In fact, many of the author's conclusions are very much at odds with Jewish teaching. Its basic theme is that human life is neither more nor less than all other expressions of life in the world. It is what it is, and trying to change things achieves nothing. "What has been is what will be, and what has been done is what will be done; and there is nothing new under the sun" (1:9). And yet, he explains, life is still worth living so long as we focus on acceptance of what is, rather than toiling for the illusion of change.

In Chapter 4, The Preacher (a more accurate translation of the Hebrew would be 'The Teacher') defines greed and envy as the prime motivators that keep people exhausting themselves with frenzied efforts that are ultimately pointless. The statement in 4:6 is that it is better to quietly accept what is, rather than struggling to achieve something more.

One doesn't have to accept The Preacher's philosophy to find a spark of spiritual Truth here. It is certainly true that we can exhaust ourselves trying to manipulate life with our limited human abilities; all true creation begins with an acceptance of, and gratitude for, the present moment. It is in "a handful of quietness" that we remember and experience our true Oneness with infinite Spirit.


Rev. Ed