I hated all my toil in which I toil under the sun, seeing that I must leave it to the man who will come after me, and who knows whether he will be wise or a fool? Yet he will be master of all for which I toiled and used my wisdom under the sun. This also is vanity. So I turned about and gave my heart up to despair over all the toil of my labors under the sun, because sometimes a person who has toiled with wisdom and knowledge and skill must leave everything to be enjoyed by someone who did not toil for it. This also is vanity and a great evil. 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.
There is nothing better for a person than that he should eat and drink and find enjoyment in his toil. This also, I saw, is from the hand of God, for apart from him who can eat or who can have enjoyment? For to the one who pleases him God has given wisdom and knowledge and joy, but to the sinner he has given the business of gathering and collecting, only to give to one who pleases God. This also is vanity and a striving after wind. Ecclesiastes 2:18-26 ESV
And he told them a parable, saying, “The land of a rich man produced plentifully, and he thought to himself, ‘What shall I do, for I have nowhere to store my crops?’ And he said, ‘I will do this: I will tear down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. And I will say to my soul, “Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.”’ But God said to him, ‘Fool! This night your soul is required of you, and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?’ So is the one who lays up treasure for himself and is not rich toward God.” Luke 12:16-21 ESV
There’s a bumper sticker that you might see sometimes. It says, “He who dies with the most toys wins.” The kinds of toys this is talking about aren’t only kid toys, but also things adults like to have. They might include fast cars, nice houses, computer equipment, vacation homes, stylish clothes, jewelry, sports equipment, and many other things. Some people work very hard so they can afford to buy the best of everything. They might work so many hours that they don’t actually have much time to enjoy their toys. They might lose sleep worrying about making enough money to keep on buying more and better toys. Sometimes they don’t enjoy their work at all, either, and they have a lot of stress that makes it hard to relax. And there’s another bumper sticker that says, “He who dies with the most toys still dies.”
The book of Ecclesiastes talks about working very hard without really enjoying the work and getting all kinds of things, but then dying and having to leave everything to the people who come after you. What’s the point? It’s foolish to spend so much energy working to buy the best things that you don’t have much time to enjoy, and then when you die somebody else gets to have them. It’s foolish to get really stressed about work and about getting more and better things. The most foolish thing of all is to leave God out of the picture. God is the one who can give the gift of enjoying your work, and also of enjoying the things he gives. God is the one who can give rest and help people not feel anxious and worried all the time about their work and about their things.
The best gift God gives is the gift of Jesus. Jesus took all our sins of worry and greediness and selfishness to the cross with him, and he paid for them there. Because of Jesus, we have forgiveness for all our sins, and life with him forever. When we have Jesus, even little things in life have meaning. We can enjoy our work because we know that it’s God’s plan to give us work to do, and we’re happy that we can help and serve others through our work. We can enjoy having things that God gives us, because we know they are a blessing from him, but we also know that our things aren’t really what matters. We can go to God for help when we feel stressed or worried about things, and know that he will help us keep our lives in order and calm our fears and worries. In the end, for God’s people, life doesn’t end with death, but goes on in God’s heavenly kingdom forever.
Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for work, and the blessings you give us, and most of all for peace with you through Jesus. In His Name, Amen.