Does work ever get you down? You are not alone. The author of Ecclesiastes lamented his work too:
“What has a man from all the toil and striving of heart with which he toils beneath the sun? For all his days are full of sorrow and his work is a vexation. Even in the night his heart does not rest. This also is vanity.” (Eccl. 2:22, 23)
It seems healthy to me to occasionally look at work from this “under the sun” view of Ecclesiastes. It prevents us from making too much of it. Apart from a few classic works of art and music, some cool inventions and buildings, what is gained from the last 100 years of toil? Are we in the brave new world? Who will remember the great contributions of the 20th century a decade from now? Perhaps the likes of Gandhi, Churchill and Mother Teresa will be remembered, but what of the billions of ordinary people who we never heard of in the first place? In my own experience, I like to know the “why” of doing something. However, this can be idealism.
There may not be a point to everything I do except that it needs to be done. Yet, I must believe there is a divine point to all things or I am a practical atheist.
My view of work is changing. I expect less fulfillment from it and that keeps me balanced and encourages me to take some time to “work at” some fun things too.
However, laziness, isn’t an option either, since experience and scripture both indicate that slothfulness generally ends in poverty or dishonor. (click for Proverbs) So, we work, under the sun, but we do not have to submit to its despair. Rather, work can be enjoyed when we find a purpose “above the sun” for what we do.
Above the sun, we work for the coming Kingdom of God that is already here. Working in two kingdoms creates a healthy tension. We may find we are pulled between the futility of striving after the wind and the hopefulness of changing the world through Christ. It is not our politics or our corporations that will create meaningful change; it is the Christian working under the sun with an above the sun vision. So much work today is motivated by envy and competition. A higher, nobler motivation is love for God and for my neighbor. This way we work for something more rewarding than praise of man or financial reward, and work recovers a sense of meaning and joy for us.
“Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men. Remember that the Lord will give you an inheritance as your reward, and that the Master you are serving is Christ.” (Colossians 3:23,24)