I love Disney Pixar’s Toy Story movies. Over the years, those dolls have surprisingly taught me a lot about my own idolatry. Take Toy Story 2, when Sheriff Woody loses sight of his purpose in life. When he’s tempted by an opportunity to become “immortal” by joining an exhibition at a toy museum in Tokyo, Buzz Lightyear steps in to remind Woody of what’s true about him: “Somewhere in that pad of stuffing is a toy who taught me that life’s only worth living if you’re being loved by a kid.”
Buzz knows Woody is meant for more than watching kids from a self-protective shield of glass. And in today’s reading, the Teacher sees the futility of worldly draws like power, wealth, and advancement. He has come to see that fame and fortune don’t last.
Those who seek power often oppress the poor, making their lives so difficult, reasons the Teacher, that it would’ve been better to have never been born at all (Ecclesiastes 4:2–3). Those who seek wealth spend their time working for monetary achievement, but may lose their souls in the process (Luke 12:13–21). After all, what is money worth if there’s no one to share what it can buy with a friend, family, or community? (Ecclesiastes 4:8–10). Those who seek advancement attempt to leverage their influence to gain position and prestige (v.4). But no earthly king can stay in power forever; the people will grow tired of him, and he’ll eventually be replaced (vv.15–16).
Power, wealth, and worldly advancement never keep their promises for satisfaction. A better life is found with true friends who aren’t jealously competing with one another for power, resources, and admiration. Instead, they see the way their gifts complement each other. C.S. Lewis once described it this way: “Sometimes [a friend] wonders what he’s doing there among his betters. He is lucky beyond desert to be in such company. Especially when the whole group is together, each bringing out all that is best, wisest, or funniest in all the others.”
The truth is that we all need friends like Buzz Lightyear—the kind who will call us out when our priorities are out of whack (Proverbs 27:17). We need friends who will help us see that the jealousy and discontent we feel are indicators of disordered desires. We need friends who will point beyond themselves to the truest of friends (John 15:13–15), and help us value Him more than the fleeting promises of this life.
Written by Jared Kennedy