A handful of quietness.
It sounds like the title of a novel you found at your local Christian bookstore, doesn’t it? Or maybe just somebody’s desperate cry for peace after a busy day.
It is in fact a Bible verse. The full verse reads like this: “Better is a handful of quietness than two hands full of toil and a striving after wind.” It goes on to talk about the futility of a man who keeps on working harder and harder in order to amass more and more riches, but has no heir to pass them on to.
There's a lots of interesting things in Ecclesiastes, and you really have to study up on the background to understand it properly. But there’s gold in it if you look.
Quietness is a rare commodity in today’s world. Visiting our daughter and son-in-law in London last month, we fled to an adjacent park to find relief from the continuous sirens on their street, which leads to both a hospital and a police station. Our new house in Stratford, Ontario overlooks a beautiful conservation area and creek, but there is a reasonably busy road on the other side to disrupt the tranquility. In India, it seemed to me the noise never ceased day or night.
But that’s not the lack of quietness the writer of Ecclesiastes is talking about. He’s talking about the mental, emotional and physical noise generated by the continuous activity we live in. And that’s us. We are a driven society.
The man with no heir is actually pretty typical of a lot of people today. We work day and night to amass wealth, yet live in a society where the children who will inherit it become fewer and fewer. Not many stop to ask, “What is the point?”
And of course there is an application to church. We devote ceaseless energy to making things bigger and better, but sometimes we seem to do it just for the sake of being the biggest church in town. Pastors see a big church as the crowning glory of their career, but fail to see that the investment in the next generation is the true legacy of any successful man or woman of God. And so we have the tragedy of churches imploding when the great leader dies, retires, or God forbid, has a moral failure.
The churches in Michigan we have been working with (Firm Foundation Centreville/Kalamazoo) just finished a massive building expansion, but with the single-minded focus of investing in people, and especially the teenagers and children. They didn’t want a bigger facility for the sake of having the biggest set of church buildings around, they wanted it because they saw it as critical to passing on the legacy to future generations. And it’s no accident they have a terrific group of teens on fire for God, and boys and girls under ten years of age who openly pray for one another in church, and memorize not dozens or even scores, but hundreds of Bible verses.
And there’s quietness in that house. Not the quietness of the cemetery, because there’s lots of life, but the quietness of the peace of God.
Is there quietness in your house today? How about in your marriage or your family? Or in your personal walk with the Lord? Or are you running around trying to do things, having lost focus on why you’re doing them?
It doesn’t mean you’re a lousy Christian. Jesus had a great and valued friend called Martha who was just like that. But she needed the handful of quietness her sister Mary had found at Jesus’ feet.
Evaluate why you’re doing what you’re doing. And when you’ve done that, see if there’s a handful of quietness in your spirit.
If there is, you’re there.