Meditations in Ecclesiastes : 17 : More than just work
Eccles 2:24,25 A man can do nothing better than to eat and drink and find satisfaction in his work. This too, I see, is from the hand of God, for without him, who can eat or find enjoyment?
It’s taken two chapters of pondering before Solomon comes up with this conclusion. But isn’t that how it is with us foolish, sinful human beings. We have to rumble through all the possibilities until we see that most of them are futile and there is only one answer worth holding onto. The trouble is today that most people will not work their way through these things like Solomon did. One of the enemy’s strategies is to say, “It’s all right, you don’t want to think about such things, only religious people do that. You’re all right as you are!” This is true about the futility of the sin of mankind and it is true of the wonderful good news that the Gospel brings us: most people just don’t want to bother to think about it.
Somebody once wrote: “Cannon J.B.Phillips recalls in The Ring of Truth, ‘hundreds of conversations with people, many of them of higher intellectual calibre than myself, who quite obviously had no idea what Christianity is about.’ He concluded that ‘they knew virtually nothing’ about the New Testament. The Resurrection ‘the most important even event in human history is politely and quietly by-passed. For it is not as though the evidence had been examined and found unconvincing; it had simply never been examined.’” This is the horrifying truth, that millions of people will go to hell because they could not be bothered to think about the truth about life and the truth about the Gospel.
Solomon has been thinking, admittedly from a jaded perspective where his relationship with the Lord has lost its power, but even from there he comes to this wise conclusion. Remember, he has just been going through a number of reasons why struggling and striving to achieve through work or a career can be a thankless task, and so his conclusion is as a result of all of that thinking. You can struggle and strive and achieve great things, he had said, but at the end of it all, you hand it over to others to enjoy, you die and have to leave it all behind. If you think your work is going to have eternal impact, don’t waste your time; it won’t and it can’t!
So what does that leave you with? It leaves you with the only conclusion possible: you must learn to enjoy each day as it comes, and get fulfilment from what you do, because that is all God has allowed of you. Now that is interesting because it is only the second time in two chapters that he has mentioned God. The first one was in chapter one when he said what a burden God has put on mankind giving them so much to learn. These references to God, seem a grudging acknowledgement of the Lord, the One who at one time had been the all-important person in Solomon’s life. Sadly now, that is no longer so, and all he is left with is the grudging acknowledgment of how God has designed things to be.
So is this truth, this statement of Solomon’s? A man can do nothing better than to eat and drink and find satisfaction in his work. Is it true that all we can do is get on with life on a daily basis, enjoy our food, enjoy our drink, and find some satisfaction in our work? Well from the standpoint of a person who does not know the Lord – or who has lost contact with the Lord – yes, it is true. What else is there? But there is, as it keeps on coming up in these meditations, the crux of the matter. It is all about knowing the Lord or not knowing the Lord?
Notorious atheist Richard Dawkins, making waves in the early part of the twenty-first century with his writings and TV programmes inadvertently reveals the truth. He complains that atheists are not having impact and it’s been the Christians who have made all the running. Well yes, it is the Christians who have made the running! Christians who have been motivated by the love of God to start schools, build hospitals and orphanages, start Unions and so on. It hasn’t just been ‘work’ it’s been the God-given vision of meeting the needs of the poor and of blessing others. The energy and life of God in them has taken them outside themselves.
Yesterday I wrote about the balance of “the Lord, family, work, recreation, and giving out.” Many people omit the first and the last of those five things, and their lives are meaningless. It is when you add the first and the last that meaning and purpose and fulfillment truly come. It is that last one that Christians have been known for – giving out – and that has resulted in the world being blessed and God being glorified. If we do the ‘giving out’ without God, it just becomes a self-centred, godless thing, and it is seen as something just to build our egos. When it comes with God’s motivation, out of a relationship with Him, then it comes with a selflessness that is good to behold. This is the dimension that takes us beyond merely eating and drinking and getting satisfaction from our work. Tragically so many miss out and have never seen it. See it, live it, be blessed and be a blessing!