The Value of Labor – Ecclesiastes 2:24-26

Work Is A Gift From God

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.

Subtle Satisfaction

Labor was never intended to be loathsome.  It was intended by God to be something else.  Work was to be so wonderful that people would want to do it all the time.  Work was originally intended to be so joyful that it was its own reward.  The fall of man changed all of that.

Rather than joy, work became difficult and drudgery.  Thorns and briers would pollute the ground, and weeds would choke the good plants out.  Man would labor in great difficulty for that which he planted.  Moving forward in time, we now have technological advances that set the pace for our work, which is at breakneck speed.  Slow down for a mere second, and management will replace you for someone younger and a little faster, to shave a penny off their costs every hour.

And even if you become an entrepreneur, manufacturing amazing and innovative products, online shopping markets like alibaba dot com will house counterfeits of your work, being advertised with your own website’s photos and descriptions, at a fraction of the price, reaping the benefit of your hard work, sweat, and intellectual capital for pennies on the dollar, putting you out of business.

Gift of God

But work was meant as a gift from God!  For the righteous, work was meant as its own reward.  A person could see the fruit of their labor at the end of the day, and rejoice that God had given them the intellectual ability, resources, and physical skill to do the work that they were doing.

God intended work to be so pleasurable, that He added a commandment in Exodus 20 to remember the Sabbath to keep it holy.  The idea was that people would enjoy work SO much, and the reward that comes with it, that they would forget that the Lord their God gave them the ability, means, and desire to work.

Wonderful Wealth

In yielding to God’s will and laboring with their hands, not working as unto men but as unto the Lord, God grants us knowledge, wisdom, and happiness.  The person laboring will be tired at the end of the day, but knowing that what they did was meaningful, had purpose, and was important.

Loathsome Labor

But for the sinner, labor takes on a different hue.  The sinner, unwilling to acknowledge God as provider and overseer of their work, labors to gain as much as possible so that they can have some measure of “safety”.  The sinner works their fingers to the bone, does whatever they can to get as much as they can to hedge against bad times, and places their trust in the work of the hands rather than the One who gave them hands.

They labor in vain, gathering and storing as much wealth and material possessions as possible, no taking into account that when God demands their very life, that the endless toil of their hands will pass on to someone else, who may squander it or use it in ways that the person who worked so hard to obtain it would find objectionable.   Work then becomes drudgery, misery, and a central focus of all time and energy, for who knows when the bad times will occur?

Meaningless Maneuvering

Work without God at the center of it is meaningless.  It has not real purpose, no real value, and no real reward.  For even if evil people come and steal it away from you, either illegally, or through lawful methods, when God is at the center of it, the person is secure in their knowledge that justice will be done.

When work is undertaken without God at the center, only grief, heartache, and disaster will occur.  Even if the person finds the labor of love, it will only provide happiness for so long, for God has placed in the hearts of men and women the desire to be in relationship with Him.  And no amount of work, success, money, or power will fill that God-placed desire.

It is for this reason that those who are so successful and don’t know God are so prone to depression and suicide.  Culture teaches them that they will find fulfillment in self-actualization.  Fulfillment, however, only comes when a person embraces a relationship with their Creator.  False advertising destroys the hope of people, pushing them to greater heights of intensity at work, only to find that they have no real peace.  And so the cycle continues…

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  Do I view labor in the same way that God does?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, Thank You for the ability to use my mind and body to honor and glorify You.  Help me to adopt the same attitude towards work that Your holy word reveals to me that it should be.  Help me to enjoy the fruit of my labor in that I labor for You and You alone.  Help me to be content in that, even and especially when evil people and difficult circumstances strip me of the fruit of my labor.  Guard my heart against bitterness, and help me to be content in whatever You allow in my life.  Give me strength to overcome the difficulties that I find myself in today.  This I ask in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Want more?  Why not try A. B. Simpson or A. W. Tozer?

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