Pleasure in toil as God’s gift to man

Your theme for Labor Day, I mean, Vocation Day:

What gain has the worker from his toil? I have seen the business that God has given to the children of man to be busy with. He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also, he has put eternity into man’s heart, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end. I perceived that there is nothing better for them than to be joyful and to do good as long as they live; also that everyone should eat and drink and take pleasure in all his toil—this is God’s gift to man. (Ecclesiastes 3:9-12)

About Gene Veith

Professor of Literature at Patrick Henry College, the Director of the Cranach Institute at Concordia Theological Seminary, a columnist for World Magazine and TableTalk, and the author of 18 books on different facets of Christianity & Culture.

  • fws

    The interesting thing here is that God changed the Order of Creation from what it was before the fall.

    God placed curses into the Order of Creation everywhere.

    More interestingly, God said that his purpose for placing these curses into the Order of Creation, was to ensure that Goodness and Mercy would be provided for mankind in a fallen Order.

    The curses are…

    Nature will resist man´s efforts to put order into it. (weeds).
    Struggle will be necessary to obtain even basic needs (sweat).
    Our birth will make our parents suffer (pain in child birth),
    Women will now be under the thumb of men (male authority),
    Women will now focus their desire towards their man (??).

    So from this, we can know the following:

    1) All of these facts are facts, like the Law of Gravity, rather than moral directives.
    2) It is not immoral to counter these facts with things like Roundup weedkill, Labor saving devices, etc…
    3) Only in nations with a history of christian influence, have these curses been largely overcome. This is most especially true in that ONLY in those countries has the domination of men over women been largely removed.
    3) These things ARE curses, yet they are all for the good of mankind, and we are obviously meant to ponder how this seeming contradiction can be true.
    4) There are probably many other ramifications of this.

    Here is what Luther has to say about the Order of Creation with regards to the curse of women now being under the thumb of men:

    “Now there is also added to those sorrows of gestation and birth that Eve has been placed under the power of her husband, she who previously was very free and, as the sharer of all the gifts of God, was in no respect inferior to her husband. … If Eve had persisted in the truth, she would not only not have been subjected to the rule of her husband, but she herself would also have been a partner in the rule which is now entirely the concern of males.” Martin Luther, Lectures on Genesis, (Gen 3:16), I Luther’s Works, (Concordia, St. Louis), pp. 202-03.

    So for all you Lutherans here who are in the process of “reevaluating” the Roman Catholic/Scholastic version of Natural Law (are you listening in Paul Mc Cain?) , I would urge a reevalutation in light of our Lutheran Confessions , who point to Luther´s Genesis Commentary as a futher explanation of what the Confessions teach on this topic. It is pretty eye opening I think.

  • fws

    The interesting thing here is that God changed the Order of Creation from what it was before the fall.

    God placed curses into the Order of Creation everywhere.

    More interestingly, God said that his purpose for placing these curses into the Order of Creation, was to ensure that Goodness and Mercy would be provided for mankind in a fallen Order.

    The curses are…

    Nature will resist man´s efforts to put order into it. (weeds).
    Struggle will be necessary to obtain even basic needs (sweat).
    Our birth will make our parents suffer (pain in child birth),
    Women will now be under the thumb of men (male authority),
    Women will now focus their desire towards their man (??).

    So from this, we can know the following:

    1) All of these facts are facts, like the Law of Gravity, rather than moral directives.
    2) It is not immoral to counter these facts with things like Roundup weedkill, Labor saving devices, etc…
    3) Only in nations with a history of christian influence, have these curses been largely overcome. This is most especially true in that ONLY in those countries has the domination of men over women been largely removed.
    3) These things ARE curses, yet they are all for the good of mankind, and we are obviously meant to ponder how this seeming contradiction can be true.
    4) There are probably many other ramifications of this.

    Here is what Luther has to say about the Order of Creation with regards to the curse of women now being under the thumb of men:

    “Now there is also added to those sorrows of gestation and birth that Eve has been placed under the power of her husband, she who previously was very free and, as the sharer of all the gifts of God, was in no respect inferior to her husband. … If Eve had persisted in the truth, she would not only not have been subjected to the rule of her husband, but she herself would also have been a partner in the rule which is now entirely the concern of males.” Martin Luther, Lectures on Genesis, (Gen 3:16), I Luther’s Works, (Concordia, St. Louis), pp. 202-03.

    So for all you Lutherans here who are in the process of “reevaluating” the Roman Catholic/Scholastic version of Natural Law (are you listening in Paul Mc Cain?) , I would urge a reevalutation in light of our Lutheran Confessions , who point to Luther´s Genesis Commentary as a futher explanation of what the Confessions teach on this topic. It is pretty eye opening I think.

  • fws

    I would suggest that that quote from Ecclesiastes homes in on precisely the riddle that the Order of Creation has been cursed and has been curse to provide Goodness and Mercy…

    What gain has the worker from his toil? I have seen the business that God has given to the children of man to be busy with. He has made everything beautiful in its time.

    Work is work, trouble, toil, sweat. We want vacation from this business. So rest from this is a blessing, and in fact Reason provides for rest as did God in his theocracy. Yet , in it´s place, the fruit of work, what God “makes” happen from it, is beautiful. This “…you give them their food at the proper time…”, is provided, by God,`”in, with and under” vocation.

    Also, he has put eternity into man’s heart, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end.

    What does this have to do with work?

    Consider how the Order of Creation´s curses are blessings is to consider how the Law, even though it ALWAYS accuses us, and intends to kill us, is good. And what might that be? I suggest that it is to inform Reason that there must , of necessity, be something beyond the Order of Creation.

    And that Reason and that Order of Creation (which are both Divine Law and good!) cannot get us from here to that Something.

    The Law will always frustrate that effort of Reason applied to Order and frustrate the plan to fix what is wrong by doing. Progress will be illusory. The culture war will be perpetually lost.

    God´s Law will make this happen with weeds, pain, and the inequity of “might makes right” emblematically in the form of stronger men over weaker women.

    But then this…

    I perceived that there is nothing better for them than to be joyful and to do good as long as they live;

    Jesus broke his own Sabbath. Like the Order of Creation as Divine Law, ALL Law is meant to serve Goodness and Mercy, aka Joyfullness and Doing Good. Jesus says this by saying that the Law was made for man and not man for the Law. And what he meant by that, precisely, is that God intends that the fruit of the Law is for Mercy to be done. God does not intend for the fruit of the Law to be the Sacrifice of Obedience , aka conformity to a list of rules. (that was for you Kerner…)

    and this…

    also that everyone should eat and drink and take pleasure in all his toil—this is God’s gift to man. (Ecclesiastes 3:9-12)

    Pleasure in toil. God Providences inside of a curse that is work what? Pleasure! In, with and under curses, God provides Goodness and Mercy! And Mercy, by definition is ALWAYS undeserved.

    So in the First Article of the Catechism, God provides Goodness and Mercy to whom?

    ” the unworthy” (immoral persons),
    “even without our prayer” (the UNfaithful, pagans, christians, et al),
    “even to all the wicked” (those intent on subverting God´s order)

    And this is not because of the Work of Christ. It happens because God IS Goodness and Mercy.

    And from that Goodness and Mercy, that happens even apart from Christ,God has sent his Son, Who is the full and final Revelation of this Goodness and Mercy.

    And this Person, Whom alone IS the Holy Gospel in his Person, alone could do what the Law cannot. He has restored all , in Holy Baptism , to Original Righteousness and the Image of God.

    The Law is powerless to do this in any of it´s forms:
    Reason(aka natural law),
    The Order of Creation (which is not natural law), and
    the Decalog (which is the SAME Law as the other two).

    The difference between Reason and Order of Creation as God´s Law is that Reason is about moral “ought” (Romans 2:15), while the Order of Creation is about amoral “is”. So the Scholastics perverted the Law by conflating these two ala St Thomas Aquinas and so lost the Holy Gospel by thinking that the Image of God is this Law rather than alone Faith.

  • fws

    I would suggest that that quote from Ecclesiastes homes in on precisely the riddle that the Order of Creation has been cursed and has been curse to provide Goodness and Mercy…

    What gain has the worker from his toil? I have seen the business that God has given to the children of man to be busy with. He has made everything beautiful in its time.

    Work is work, trouble, toil, sweat. We want vacation from this business. So rest from this is a blessing, and in fact Reason provides for rest as did God in his theocracy. Yet , in it´s place, the fruit of work, what God “makes” happen from it, is beautiful. This “…you give them their food at the proper time…”, is provided, by God,`”in, with and under” vocation.

    Also, he has put eternity into man’s heart, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end.

    What does this have to do with work?

    Consider how the Order of Creation´s curses are blessings is to consider how the Law, even though it ALWAYS accuses us, and intends to kill us, is good. And what might that be? I suggest that it is to inform Reason that there must , of necessity, be something beyond the Order of Creation.

    And that Reason and that Order of Creation (which are both Divine Law and good!) cannot get us from here to that Something.

    The Law will always frustrate that effort of Reason applied to Order and frustrate the plan to fix what is wrong by doing. Progress will be illusory. The culture war will be perpetually lost.

    God´s Law will make this happen with weeds, pain, and the inequity of “might makes right” emblematically in the form of stronger men over weaker women.

    But then this…

    I perceived that there is nothing better for them than to be joyful and to do good as long as they live;

    Jesus broke his own Sabbath. Like the Order of Creation as Divine Law, ALL Law is meant to serve Goodness and Mercy, aka Joyfullness and Doing Good. Jesus says this by saying that the Law was made for man and not man for the Law. And what he meant by that, precisely, is that God intends that the fruit of the Law is for Mercy to be done. God does not intend for the fruit of the Law to be the Sacrifice of Obedience , aka conformity to a list of rules. (that was for you Kerner…)

    and this…

    also that everyone should eat and drink and take pleasure in all his toil—this is God’s gift to man. (Ecclesiastes 3:9-12)

    Pleasure in toil. God Providences inside of a curse that is work what? Pleasure! In, with and under curses, God provides Goodness and Mercy! And Mercy, by definition is ALWAYS undeserved.

    So in the First Article of the Catechism, God provides Goodness and Mercy to whom?

    ” the unworthy” (immoral persons),
    “even without our prayer” (the UNfaithful, pagans, christians, et al),
    “even to all the wicked” (those intent on subverting God´s order)

    And this is not because of the Work of Christ. It happens because God IS Goodness and Mercy.

    And from that Goodness and Mercy, that happens even apart from Christ,God has sent his Son, Who is the full and final Revelation of this Goodness and Mercy.

    And this Person, Whom alone IS the Holy Gospel in his Person, alone could do what the Law cannot. He has restored all , in Holy Baptism , to Original Righteousness and the Image of God.

    The Law is powerless to do this in any of it´s forms:
    Reason(aka natural law),
    The Order of Creation (which is not natural law), and
    the Decalog (which is the SAME Law as the other two).

    The difference between Reason and Order of Creation as God´s Law is that Reason is about moral “ought” (Romans 2:15), while the Order of Creation is about amoral “is”. So the Scholastics perverted the Law by conflating these two ala St Thomas Aquinas and so lost the Holy Gospel by thinking that the Image of God is this Law rather than alone Faith.

  • fws

    I am saying here, of course, that Vocation is God working his Goodness and Mercy`”in , with and under” a curse that is now the Order of Creation.

    So how is it that Vocation can , at the same time, be a Curse and the Source of Goodness and Mercy?

    It works as the Law always does:

    For US the Law always accuses and kills us to produce it´s fruit.
    For OUR NEIGBOR the fruits of the Law, worked in us, are a blessing to them.

    The fruit the Law produces is always Goodness and Mercy, or else it is not the Law of God that is being done.

    In that case what is being produced is the wicked sacrifice of obedience which is idolatry and is useless to our neighbor.

  • fws

    I am saying here, of course, that Vocation is God working his Goodness and Mercy`”in , with and under” a curse that is now the Order of Creation.

    So how is it that Vocation can , at the same time, be a Curse and the Source of Goodness and Mercy?

    It works as the Law always does:

    For US the Law always accuses and kills us to produce it´s fruit.
    For OUR NEIGBOR the fruits of the Law, worked in us, are a blessing to them.

    The fruit the Law produces is always Goodness and Mercy, or else it is not the Law of God that is being done.

    In that case what is being produced is the wicked sacrifice of obedience which is idolatry and is useless to our neighbor.

  • http://www.utah-lutheran.blogspot.com Bror Erickson

    I love Ecclesiastes, In away it out Nietzches Neitzche, and yet in the midst of this vain life, it says enjoy yourself. Some people complain about it as being depressing. For me, when I want to get out of a funk, I read Ecclesiastes, then I take its advice, I find a little work to do around the house, I go to the store buy some good food, and a bottle of wine, and when my wife gets home I chase her all over the place. There isn’t anything more to life, why should there be?

  • http://www.utah-lutheran.blogspot.com Bror Erickson

    I love Ecclesiastes, In away it out Nietzches Neitzche, and yet in the midst of this vain life, it says enjoy yourself. Some people complain about it as being depressing. For me, when I want to get out of a funk, I read Ecclesiastes, then I take its advice, I find a little work to do around the house, I go to the store buy some good food, and a bottle of wine, and when my wife gets home I chase her all over the place. There isn’t anything more to life, why should there be?

  • Tom Hering

    “There isn’t anything more to life …”

    How about a hobby or pastime you enjoy for its own sake, i.e., it serves no useful purpose, and needs no pragmatic justification. Neither is it something you ruin by turning it into a business. On the contrary, it’s a money pit. You just enjoy it as a form of play.

  • Tom Hering

    “There isn’t anything more to life …”

    How about a hobby or pastime you enjoy for its own sake, i.e., it serves no useful purpose, and needs no pragmatic justification. Neither is it something you ruin by turning it into a business. On the contrary, it’s a money pit. You just enjoy it as a form of play.

  • fws

    Bror & Tom

    I would suggest that this is exactly what Mercy looks like as opposed to the Sacrifice of a Purpose Driven Life.

    And so I would suggest that if we make the lives of others look like this with our words and actions, we can then know that we are keeping the Law of God as he intends it to be kept.

    This is how OUR keeping the Law is to make the lives of OTHERS look.

    For us keeping the Law is to look like the discipline and focus of an athlete training for the olympics.

    I suggest that this is the picture Ecclesiates paints along with what our Lutheran faith teaches us, that looks like contradiction to evangelicals, mormons etc etc etc.

  • fws

    Bror & Tom

    I would suggest that this is exactly what Mercy looks like as opposed to the Sacrifice of a Purpose Driven Life.

    And so I would suggest that if we make the lives of others look like this with our words and actions, we can then know that we are keeping the Law of God as he intends it to be kept.

    This is how OUR keeping the Law is to make the lives of OTHERS look.

    For us keeping the Law is to look like the discipline and focus of an athlete training for the olympics.

    I suggest that this is the picture Ecclesiates paints along with what our Lutheran faith teaches us, that looks like contradiction to evangelicals, mormons etc etc etc.

  • Tom Hering

    Frank, buddy, you kind of lost me with that last one (though I appreciated your comment @ 1). Clarify please?

  • Tom Hering

    Frank, buddy, you kind of lost me with that last one (though I appreciated your comment @ 1). Clarify please?

  • Bryan Lindemood

    Was reading this text at the hospital bed of a dear brother recently. Yes, as Bror says, very refreshing! I just mowed the yard, I better go out and get some good wine soon!

  • Bryan Lindemood

    Was reading this text at the hospital bed of a dear brother recently. Yes, as Bror says, very refreshing! I just mowed the yard, I better go out and get some good wine soon!

  • http://www.oldsolar.com/currentblog.php Rick Ritchie

    “[E]veryone should eat and drink and take pleasure in all his toil” is reminiscent of “You shall not muzzle the ox while he is threshing” (Deuteronomy 25:4). If they are parallel, there may be applications to employers. There seems to be a moral law against making work more onerous than it need be.

  • http://www.oldsolar.com/currentblog.php Rick Ritchie

    “[E]veryone should eat and drink and take pleasure in all his toil” is reminiscent of “You shall not muzzle the ox while he is threshing” (Deuteronomy 25:4). If they are parallel, there may be applications to employers. There seems to be a moral law against making work more onerous than it need be.

  • http://www.utah-lutheran.blogspot.com bror erickson

    When I say I find something around the house to do, it’s normally a hobby of some sort, and yes the house is a money pit.

  • http://www.utah-lutheran.blogspot.com bror erickson

    When I say I find something around the house to do, it’s normally a hobby of some sort, and yes the house is a money pit.

  • fws

    Tom @ 7

    If we want to kn0w if we are keeping the Law as God intends, we look to see if we are making our neighbor have joy in what we are saying or doing. This is the fruit that the Law works in us for our neighbor.

    At the same time, that Law is always accusing us and makes us seek to be more disciplined and ordered in what we do.

    So the same acts that are driven by the same Law look like Goodness and Mercy to our neighbor and look like alot of effort to us at the same time. To us they look like “vanity, vanity” and yet faith trusts that God is working his Goodness and Mercy in our vocations “in, with and under” the sin that is all we can see.

    And so we get to be joyful too! But only In Christ can we be terrified looking at our finest most virtuous works, and at the same time have a conscience that is at rest in our dear Lord Jesus. We know that our virtue and works are safely hidden away in Him.

  • fws

    Tom @ 7

    If we want to kn0w if we are keeping the Law as God intends, we look to see if we are making our neighbor have joy in what we are saying or doing. This is the fruit that the Law works in us for our neighbor.

    At the same time, that Law is always accusing us and makes us seek to be more disciplined and ordered in what we do.

    So the same acts that are driven by the same Law look like Goodness and Mercy to our neighbor and look like alot of effort to us at the same time. To us they look like “vanity, vanity” and yet faith trusts that God is working his Goodness and Mercy in our vocations “in, with and under” the sin that is all we can see.

    And so we get to be joyful too! But only In Christ can we be terrified looking at our finest most virtuous works, and at the same time have a conscience that is at rest in our dear Lord Jesus. We know that our virtue and works are safely hidden away in Him.

  • fws

    Tom @ 7

    And so we learn too to be forgiving our our own selves and to receive mercy by learning daily to give that gifts to others.

    Mercy is always underserved by definition. We are to do Mercy for others as we would desire to have it done unto us.

  • fws

    Tom @ 7

    And so we learn too to be forgiving our our own selves and to receive mercy by learning daily to give that gifts to others.

    Mercy is always underserved by definition. We are to do Mercy for others as we would desire to have it done unto us.

  • fws

    Lord have Mercy!

  • fws

    Lord have Mercy!

  • helen

    All this and Rick Perry blathering on the TV about the fires all over Texas.
    Do you suppose he’ll give a can of beans to the food bank?

  • helen

    All this and Rick Perry blathering on the TV about the fires all over Texas.
    Do you suppose he’ll give a can of beans to the food bank?

  • helen

    “We need FEMA tomorrow, if not today!”

    [The rich side of Austin is burning. Rick Perry's $10,000/mo rent house may even be over there.]

    ["Not so rich" parts of Texas are burning, too....]

  • helen

    “We need FEMA tomorrow, if not today!”

    [The rich side of Austin is burning. Rick Perry's $10,000/mo rent house may even be over there.]

    ["Not so rich" parts of Texas are burning, too....]

  • steve

    I guess I missed something again.

  • steve

    I guess I missed something again.

  • –helen

    Maybe I did, too, steve.

    I was just watching fire footage on TV (also the necessary drop in by politico) and contemplating just how little the “vocation” of ambitious politician is worth to the rest of us.

    Perry’s gone to CA today. More of Texas is burning.
    One could almost wonder if this is the answer to his self-serving little “prayer meeting”!

  • –helen

    Maybe I did, too, steve.

    I was just watching fire footage on TV (also the necessary drop in by politico) and contemplating just how little the “vocation” of ambitious politician is worth to the rest of us.

    Perry’s gone to CA today. More of Texas is burning.
    One could almost wonder if this is the answer to his self-serving little “prayer meeting”!


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