Why Do We Toil?

WorkerEcclesiastes 1:1-3, 2:22-23

Meaningless! Meaningless! Says the Teacher. Utterly meaningless! Everything is meaningless! What does man gain from all his labor at which he toils under the sun?…What does a man get for all the toil and anxious striving with which he labors under the sun? All his days his work is pain and grief; even at night his mind does not rest. This too is meaningless.”

The book of Ecclesiastes helps me to find purpose in my work. I went on a similar self-discovery path that Solomon went on (Ecclesiastes 2:1-11). I was a workaholic. I defined my self based on success in my career, endeavors, and tasks. I shined through my career accomplishments, but I still felt empty. In Ecclesiastes, I learned that the cure to emptiness is to make God the center of my life.

I was vain, believing that my success lay in my abilities, strengths, skills, workercompetitionand education. It is okay to have confidence in the God within me, but back then I gave God no credit for my success. Knowledge and education have their place, but they also have their limits. Neither can supersede Wisdom from God. But to get God’s wisdom, we must spend time with Him, get to know Him, and honor Him.

God blessed Solomon with an abundance of wisdom. He had everything power, wisdom, wealth, honor, God’s favor, and a good reputation; nevertheless, Solomon is the author of Ecclesiastes, which talks a lot about the ultimate emptiness in the World’s goods. Solomon “denied himself nothing his eyes desired,” but still found nothing, had wisdom, but found it to be a burden “for with much wisdom comes much sorrow; the more knowledge, the more grief.” He deemed all that he had meaningless because he realized that after obtaining all that he obtained, he “must leave them to the one who comes after” him. And there was no guarantee that the one who came after him would be wise. He might be a fool and squander everything King Solomon worked for in his life time.

From Ecclesiastes I learned that:

Hard work bears no fruit if I work solely to earn money and to gain possessions. If I am going to hoard and be selfish with my earnings and blessings, then I am doing nothing to uplift, unify, and extend God’s kingdom. The fruit of my hard work produced solely for my edification and comfort, is given to others (Ecclesiastes 2:24-26).

blkmanwithchildIf I have the proper motives for my hard work, such as caring for my family, helping others, and serving God, then my motives are pure and will produce fruit. If I see my work as a way to serve God, then I can experience true achievement. God has a purpose for me, and if I lose that purpose because of my working, then I’ll loose the joy for my work. God is the only thing that can satisfy me. The quality of my life has to do with my response to God.

From my readings in Ecclesiastes, I questioned:

Is my goal in life to search for meaning or to search for God who gives meaning?

Why do I do the activities that I do? What purpose does my activities fulfill?

I examined each of my projects and goals to ascertain my motivation for them.

What do I consider worthwhile in my life?

Where do I place my time, energy, and money?

Will I one day look back and decide that what I considered worthwhile was ‘chasing after wind’?

What do I get for all of the toil and anxious striving with which I labor under the sun?

Do I know the real reason that I work so hard?

Do I see my work as a way to serve God?

Let us learn from Solomon…that work has its place. We must work hard as if we are working for the Lord, but we cannot become obsessed with notoriety, money, or status. We must always keep work in proper perspective to God. Everything we achieve, we do it through God. We must remember to give Him the Glory!

© 2009 KaTrina Love Abram


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