Ho, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and you that have no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price.
Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labor for that which does not satisfy? Listen carefully to me, and eat what is good, and delight yourselves in rich food. Isaiah 55:1-2 (NRSV)
Whatever my eyes desired I did not keep from them; I kept my heart from no pleasure, for my heart found pleasure in all my toil, and this was my reward for all my toil. Then I considered all that my hands had done and the toil I had spent in doing it, and again, all was vanity and a chasing after wind, and there was nothing to be gained under the sun. Ecclesiastes 2:10-12 (NRSV)
(Jesus said): Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear?’ For it is the Gentiles who strive for all these things; and indeed your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Matthew 6:31-33 (NRSV)
Vanity has a similar meaning to futility. When we appeal to our vanity we are looking at either instant gratification or outward appearances. Both are temporary. Often we do things that don’t make a lot of sense in the grand scheme of it all just for appearance sake. We think less about what we really need and more about keeping up with the Joneses. We put a lot of time and effort and money into things and activities that don’t do much to edify ourselves or build anyone else up.
In Ecclesiastes Solomon warns about things done in excess and/or things done for the wrong reasons. That doesn’t mean that we should not strive to achieve, or that we should take up hair shirts and austerity as a lifestyle. God’s gifts are good. There is nothing evil about achievement, gaining wealth, or material things in and of themselves. Our stewardship and use of those resources is what matters.
Jesus tells us to strive first for the kingdom of God. That is where our fulfillment and joy and purpose originate. Is that where our priorities in life lie? Do our vocation and our leisure time activities glorify God?
God knows better than we do what we need. This shouldn’t be taken to say that we should just sit back and let provision fall from the sky, but that our first priority should be going after the things that God wants in our lives. We run into trouble when we become obsessed with work or the pursuit of money or the pursuit of stuff instead of seeking a balanced life focused on God first.
There is no cost for us to come to God. We don’t have to put on a show either. We are invited to come to Him exactly as we are. We can trust that as we reach out to Him He will provide us what we need.
Isn’t it a relief knowing that we can stop chasing after the wind?