Bible Study for Mar. 25: The problem with work

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Eccl. 2:18-23
Gregg Potts, lay minister

If you ask someone if they like their job, you are normally going to get one of two responses: “Oh, it’s a job… you know… you got to pay the bills.”  Or you’ll hear, “I love my job! I have a great job!”

Now, let’s be honest, which category do you fall in? 

Our work is somewhat of a reflection of us. When you meet someone for the first time, one of the first things you might ask or one of the first things the person may say is, “I’m a truck-driver,” or “I’m a teacher,” or “I own my own business.” 

Most of the time, we are proud of what we do. After all, we spend our lives working to provide food, shelter, etc. for our families. So, our work is important. We should take pride in it. 

Thus far, in Ecclesiastes, Solomon has tried to find meaning in pleasure and wisdom, but he has done so to no avail. Now, Solomon reflects on work.  Regarding work, we can approach it with an eternal perspective or a secular perspective, and that perspective will determine how we view our work. First, let’s think about a secular perspective. 

You can’t take it with you

Solomon says, “Thus I hated all the fruit of my labor for which I had labored under the sun, for I must leave it to the man who will come after me” (Eccl. 2:18). Why did Solomon hate his work so much? He says, “..for I must leave it all to the man who will come after me.”

As Solomon reflected, he concluded, “You can’t take it with you,” so this discouraged him in his work. He says, “… I must leave it to a man who will come after me” (Eccl. 2:18). 

I have observed something over the years that I refer to as the “second generation syndrome.” Let’s say a man builds a business. He works hard and puts lots of time into his business and it grows and does well. During the time he was building the business, he and his wife made sacrifices to see their business prosper. But their children don’t remember those years.  All they remember are the years when their family’s business prospered.  So, dad hands the business to his children, and the business struggles because his children don’t have the work ethic he had. This is what Solomon was dealing with. 

On the other hand, if we approach our work from an eternal perspective, we will want to help those who follow us. If we have that perspective, we will do our work as unto the Lord. Paul said in Col. 3:17, “Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father.”

What do we profit from work?

Then in Ecclesiastes 3:9, Solomon asks, “What profit is there to the worker from that in which he toils?” In other words, Solomon asks, “What difference does work make?” This is the same search for significance that is found throughout the book of Ecclesiastes. But this time, instead of approaching it negatively, Solomon approaches it positively. Solomon focuses on the potential benefits of the work, and he is able to do that by seeing the work through the lens of God. 

Solomon refers to work as “struggles.” While hard work is a struggle, when the work is done for the Lord, it changes our attitude. Solomon even hinted that an honest day’s work can be a blessing. 

We have experienced this. For example, let’s say we begin our day with a project we need to get done. It may be office work, some clients you need to contact, it may be lawn-work at home, or maybe you are moving. Whatever the project may be, you get up in the morning prepared to tackle your project. You work hard all day. 

When the day is done, you come home, you take a shower, you sit down, and you and eat a meal. You may watch a little television and then, you go to bed. It’s been a long day. You put your head on your pillow and briefly, you go back over the day. You got a lot done and feel good. You are tired so you should sleep well. You feel good because you have done a day’s work.  That is one of the blessings of work. 

A kingdom perspective

Solomon says, “He hath made everything appropriate in its time.” This means that work is from God. 

Solomon adds, “He has set eternity in their heart.” God has given us a longing for something meaningful. Have you ever asked yourself, “Is there more to life than this?” God made us that way. So, we have to see life from an eternal perspective.

Let me use a personal illustration. A few months ago, I started working part-time in a men’s clothing store. When I took the job, I anticipated greeting customers and selling clothes, both of which I would enjoy.  Instead, I was assigned the task of folding shirts and putting shirts up. I was assigned the task of folding jeans and putting those up. And, every night, we had to do “recovery” which means making sure the store is clean and neat.  I wasn’t expecting to do those things and initially, it frustrated me. Then, I began to realize that those tasks were necessary for the store to look appealing and make customers more inclined to make a purchase. I had to back away and get a different perspective on what I was doing. You may need to do the same in your job. 

Many jokes are made about man’s work and his attitude toward it. A father and son were talking one day. 

Said the father, “Son, why don’t you get a job?” 

“Why?” asked the son. 

“So you can earn some money.” 

“Why?” asked the boy again. 

“So you could put some money in the bank account and earn interest.”

“Why?” asked the boy a third time. 

“So that when you’re old, you can use the money in your bank account, and you would never have to work again.” 

“I’m not working now,” returned the son.

Contrary to the mindset of this young man, we should strive to do our best with our work. Work is good. We should have a strong work ethic and be proud of our work. 

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