Lessons on Contentment from Ecclesiastes and Monopoly

Daily Reflection / Produced by The High Calling
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Better to have one handful with quietness than two handfuls with hard work and chasing the wind.

Ecclesiastes 4:0

Last week, my son destroyed me in a game of Monopoly. I couldn't decide whether to be proud or horrified as his shrewd decisions eliminated each of us one by one. As always happens, the game ended with wailing from the losers and apologies from the winner.

"I'm sorry," he said as I mortgaged another property to pay his rent.

I love Monopoly because every game reminds us of the limitations of success. The end of the game is never fun. It is a zero-sum competition that forces the victor to build success on the destruction of his or her playmates. When the game is over, the victor has a handful of brightly colored slips of paper that are meaningless, a chasing after the wind.

Sadly, too often we approach our daily lives as if we are playing a game of Monopoly. We define success by comparing ourselves to others and working hard to have more than they do. According to Ecclesiastes, this is old-fashioned envy, and it never leads to contentment. Someone, somewhere will always have more. The neighbor's grass will always seem greener.

Instead, like Paul, I must learn to be content no matter the circumstances (Phil. 4:12). Contentment is at the root of my yearning for work-life balance. A sense of victory doesn't come from frenzied work. It comes from rest and repentance. And strength comes from quietness and trust (Isa. 30:15). I don't just want more time off. I want a sense of peace and satisfaction and margin. I want to slow down. I want to be quiet and focused no matter what I am doing—working, playing, resting, spending time with my family and friends.

In truth, my best self knows I need less. Your best self knows this too: One handful with quietness rather than two handfuls with hard work and meaninglessness.


Thinking over the last week, have you felt frenzied or peaceful in your daily activities? Are you content with the results of your efforts, or are you motivated by envy?


God, my life has so many material blessings. Forgive me when I take on too much because I want more. It is good for me to work hard, but help my motivations to be pure. Let me not envy the people around me, but teach me to be content no matter what the circumstances.

And, Lord, teach me to work with a spirit of quiet focus. Help me see the connections between my actions and your will for the world. What a great and glorious gift it is to serve you in all that I do! Amen.

P.S. from Mark Roberts: The Daily Reflections for this week have been written by my friend and colleague, Marcus Goodyear. He has penned this five-day series as part of our focus on the topic of work-life balance. I know you'll find these to be engaging and encouraging. In his "day job," Marcus oversees The High Calling website and digital community in his role as Senior Editor at Foundations for Laity Renewal. He is a teacher, poet, writer, speaker, and top-notch editor, not to mention husband, father, and valued friend. Enjoy Marcus' thoughtful reflections this week, and I'll be back with you on Saturday.