A RAY OF HOPE
Lord, help us to keep our accomplishments in the proper perspective.
Read ECCLESIASTES 2:17–26
Toil Is Meaningless
17 So I hated life, because the work that is done under the sun was grievous to me. All of it is meaningless, a chasing after the wind. 18 I hated all the things I had toiled for under the sun, because I must leave them to the one who comes after me. 19 And who knows whether that person will be wise or foolish? Yet they will have control over all the fruit of my toil into which I have poured my effort and skill under the sun. This too is meaningless. 20 So my heart began to despair over all my toilsome labor under the sun. 21 For a person may labor with wisdom, knowledge and skill, and then they must leave all they own to another who has not toiled for it. This too is meaningless and a great misfortune. 22 What do people get for all the toil and anxious striving with which they labor under the sun? 23 All their days their work is grief and pain; even at night their minds do not rest. This too is meaningless.
24 A person can do nothing better than to eat and drink and find satisfaction in their own toil. This too, I see, is from the hand of God, 25 for without him, who can eat or find enjoyment? 26 To the person who pleases him, God gives wisdom, knowledge and happiness, but to the sinner he gives the task of gathering and storing up wealth to hand it over to the one who pleases God. This too is meaningless, a chasing after the wind.
New International Version (NIV)
Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
Riches, accomplishments and acclaim don’t satisfy the Teacher, and they still can’t. Has anything changed during the centuries?
“So I hated life” (17). Here is the Teacher at his most despondent. All his pursuits (as detailed in the reading of December 31, 2019) have turned out to be a dead end, leaving him disappointed, disillusioned, despairing and perhaps even clinically depressed, as he laments the boredom of grueling days and restless nights (23). Not only does the Teacher despair of life, but he begins to resent his toil, being frustrated over his lack of absolute control over the fate of the hard-won fruits of his labor.
Most of us will spend more than half of our lifetime employed or engaged in work of some kind. At some point, haven’t we all asked ourselves the two questions posed at the beginning of this series: “What’s the point?” and “Where’s the proﬁt?” Can you empathize with the Teacher’s sense of despondency?
In verses 24–26, a ray of hope pierces the darkness (cf. Isa. 9:2). For the ﬁrst time in Ecclesiastes, the Teacher shifts his focus from a purely “under the sun” perspective and begins to factor God into the equation. Food and drink that ﬁll us, as well as work that fulﬁlls us, are good gifts, but even more, they are linked to a Giver. A week ago, we celebrated God’s gift of Jesus at Christmas. John 3:16 explains that the reason underlying that gift was love. God’s love is inscrutable—a costly, risky, inexplicable love for a world that would reject him, curse him and spit in his face.
We worship a living God who gives himself in generosity (Jas. 1:17). It’s ﬁtting to rejoice in God’s good gifts (1 Tim. 4:4); it’s even more important to be enthralled by the Giver.
At this, another new year, “Don’t hold back. Throw yourselves into the work of the Master, conﬁdent that nothing you do for him is a waste of time or effort” (1 Cor. 15:58, The Message).
Lord, grant that we may reckon our labor for Your kingdom superior to the labor for our earthly existence.
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