Senior Pastor, First Baptist Church, Lexington
Somebody has well said that there are only two kinds of people in the world — there are those who wake up in the morning and say, “Good morning, Lord, it is time to go to work” and there are those who wake up in the morning and say, “Good Lord, it’s morning and time to go to work.”
It seems from our study in Ecclesiastes that Solomon was like the second of these two people. For him, work was a major problem. We have already seen the works of futility he has used in regard to the work he had done.
Solomon admits, “All that my eyes desired, I did not deny them. I did not refuse myself any pleasure, for I took pleasure in all my struggles. This was my reward for all my struggles. When I considered all that I had accomplished and what I had labored to achieve, I found everything to be futile and a pursuit of the wind. There was nothing to be gained under the sun” (Ecclesiastes 2:10-12).
It’s not as if all of his labors were done for personal gain or even personal recognition. He had built vineyards, gardens, parks and palaces. He constructed reservoirs and planted forests. Many of these projects were built for the benefit of the people of Israel for generations to come. That was well and good. The crux of the problem for Solomon was that he did not want to relinquish control to someone else.
There are three key things we learn about work in this passage.
First, we see the motivation for our work (vv. 18-23). Solomon studied, read, wrote, built, acquired, and he indulged all to pursue excellence and meaning in life. He was most assuredly not slothful or lazy. Repeatedly in Scripture, especially in the book of Proverbs, a strong work ethic is something to be admired whereas a sluggard is someone to be reviled. And yet, towards the end of his life, Solomon was repulsed by his achievements. Why? He realized that no matter how grand his labors, his motives for laboring had been wrong. And he surmised that if one’s motives are wrong, then one’s labors are meaningless.
This should cause us to examine our own motives for our work. Are we working for the right reasons? Are we working only to provide ourselves with more possessions, more entertainment, or more pleasure? Are we working only to gain power, prestige, or position? If these are the reasons for our work, we too will find our work meaningless and unfruitful just like Solomon.
Second, we see the meaning of our work (ch. 3:9-11). When we come to chapter 3, Solomon has learned some lessons about work. His view of work has changed from laborious and long to something else. What we discover in these verses is that Solomon had a change of perspective toward work. He realized that God was the one in control of our work and that it was actually one of God’s gifts to us. We read this in Colossians 3:23-24, “Whatever you do, do it from the heart, as something done for the Lord and not for people, knowing that you will receive the reward of an inheritance from the Lord. You serve the Lord Christ.” This should be our change of perspective as well.
Finally, we see the message about our work (vv. 12-13). While God gives us the ability and the blessing to work and to do our work for Christ, we must realize that work is not an end it itself. We were not made for this world or the material things of this world. Satisfaction is found in working and serving for the Lord and not for man. God has allowed us to work so that we might be good stewards of what we have for our good, the good of others and for His glory. These things provided by work are direct gifts of God and He alone should receive all thanks.