Daily Update #253

Ecclesiastes 2:18-26

I hated all the things I had toiled for under the sun, because I must leave them to the one who comes after me. 19 And who knows whether that person will be wise or foolish? Yet they will have control over all the fruit of my toil into which I have poured my effort and skill under the sun. This too is meaningless. 20 So my heart began to despair over all my toilsome labour under the sun. 21 For a person may labour with wisdom, knowledge and skill, and then they must leave all they own to another who has not toiled for it. This too is meaningless and a great misfortune. 22 What do people get for all the toil and anxious striving with which they labour under the sun? 23 All their days their work is grief and pain; even at night their minds do not rest. This too is meaningless.
24 A person can do nothing better than to eat and drink and find satisfaction in their own toil. This too, I see, is from the hand of God, 25 for without him, who can eat or find enjoyment? 26 To the person who pleases him, God gives wisdom, knowledge and happiness, but to the sinner he gives the task of gathering and storing up wealth to hand it over to the one who pleases God. This too is meaningless, a chasing after the wind.

Perhaps, like me, you are finding these thoughts from Ecclesiastes quite challenging and sobering.  So it is with trepidation, I looked at the passage for today. For those of you who have known me well over the last 20 or so years, you know that I have a great capacity for work and am particularly bad at pausing to rest and enjoy. So I thought I would bring the wisdom of Ecclesiastes to my younger self.

Everybody is looking for a purpose to exist. Many are content to drift along with whatever happens in their lives and assume that is their purpose. Others are looking for a reason for living that will plumb the depths of their passions and sustain them throughout their whole life. You were searching for a purpose – one profound enough, big enough, consuming enough, that it grabbed you by the collar and demanded your attention.  When you encountered Jesus, you discovered that purpose.

However, as you get older, other things so easily crowd out Jesus. It is so easy to let the urgent overtake the important. Hours of work turn into days. Days into week, weeks into months. Hard work, responding to every demand will become a habit, until you won’t know how to stop. You will forget why you are working so hard. Working incessantly defines you.
It’s not that work is bad. In fact, God wants us to do our best in our work lives, as well as every other part of our life. But you need to remember to stop. Ask yourself why are you working so hard? Are you trying to earn money, stuff respect, approval, friends?  God made you for so much more than just to work.

Take a look at Ecclesiastes. Solomon realised that incessant work, building up fortunes, acquiring stuff was futile.  Perhaps a modern take on this is “Whoever dies with the most toys, dies!” You will leave everything behind. But your attitude to work will affect your family.
Your children will either sit back and enjoy everything you have worked for with no thought for your hard work, or they too will become workaholics, never switching off, never stopping to enjoy the fruits of their labour.

Don’t waste your life, striving for things that won’t satisfy. Matthew 6:24 tells us we can’t serve two masters – choose between God and money. So, choose between God and your work idol.  Make sure you always keep Jesus first in your heart. Remember, he is your reason, your purpose for being. Without Jesus your soul will never find rest.  St Augustine put it very well: “My soul is restless until it rests in you”.

Let us pray: Lord God, we find it so easy to get distracted by the cares of this world, forgetting that you made us for so much more. Lord, we want to always remember you, to put you first, so that everything else in our lives finds its proper place. Today, as we are praying and reading these words, Lord help us to be still, to listen for your voice. Let us appreciate all that you have given us, remembering that we don’t need to strive for your love or approval or anything else. But that we can rest in you alone. Amen
Monday’s reading is: Ecclesiastes 3:1-18