So many times, we allow ourselves to become frustrated and overwhelmed by life’ “requirments.” As the Teacher of Ecclesiastes reminds us, enjoying life is a gift from God!
Ecclesiastes, chapters. 4-6; Psalm 18; Ephesians, chapter 3
Ecclesiastes 5:10-20 (NLT):
Those who love money will never have enough. How meaningless to think that wealth brings true happiness! The more you have, the more people come to help you spend it. So what good is wealth – except perhaps to watch it slip through your fingers! People who work hard sleep well, whether they eat little or much. But the rich seldom get a good night’s sleep.
There is another serious problem I have seen under the sun. Hoarding riches harms the saver. Money is put into risky investments that turn sour, and everything is lost. In the end, there is nothing left to pass on to one’s children. We all come to the end of our lives as naked and empty-handed as on the day we were born. We can’t take our riches with us. And this, too, is a serious problem. People leave this world no better off than when they came. All their hard work is for nothing – like working for the wind. Throughout their lives, they live under a cloud – frustrated, discouraged, and angry.
Even so, I have noticed one thing, at least, that is good. It is good for people to eat, drink, and enjoy their work under the sun during the short life God has given them, and to accept their lot in life. And it is a good thing to receive wealth from God and the good health to enjoy it. To enjoy your work and accept your lot in life – this is indeed a gift from God. God keeps such people so busy enjoying life that they take no time to brood over the past.
Several phrases in this passage catch my attention today. First, those who love money will never have enough. There is an old story that someone once asked John D. Rockefeller, “How much money is enough?” Rockefeller’s answer: “Just one more dollar.” I don’t know whether Mr. Rockefeller was speaking for himself, or for those who love money. But the Teacher of Ecclesiastes is clearly right that those who love money will never have enough.
The second phrase is this: People leave this world no better off than when they came. You can interpret this statement in two ways. First, the more apparent meaning is that there is no point to life; you work all through life, and in the end, you die – no better off than when you were born. That certainly fits in with the “everything is meaningless” refrain that we hear throughout Ecclesiastes!
But there is another way to interpret that phrase, and it really changes our focus. People come and pass through this world, and the world is no better off than when they came. If we spend our lives focusing on ourselves, in the end we find that “everything is meaningless.” But when we focus on others, and seek first God’s kingdom, the world is better off for our having been here. Not because of us, but because of Christ in us.
Enjoying Life: A Gift from God
That brings me to the third phrase: God keeps such people so busy enjoying life that they take no time to brood over the past. If we focus on ourselves, chasing all the things that the Teacher talks about in Ecclesiastes, we indeed find that “everything is meaningless.” He tried wealth, pleasure, fame, power, wisdom – and his verdict was the same: “everything is meaningless.” But when we find our place in God’s kingdom, we learn to truly enjoy life!
It is good for people to eat, drink, and enjoy their work under the sun during the short life God has given them, and to accept their lot in life. To accept our lot in life means that we recognize that God is ultimately in control. If he has something planned for us, there is nothing and no one who can prevent it.
Except for us. If we refuse to follow God’s way, and seek to do it our way, we will eventually learn that everything is meaningless. If we strive to have the world recognize us and applaud us, any approval we get will be fleeting. But there’s another way we can hinder God’s work: when we fail to embrace the work that he has given us. To enjoy our work means that we remember that everything we do reflects God’s work in us. “And whatever you do or say, do it as a representative of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through him to God the Father” (Colossians 3:17). “Work willingly at whatever you do, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people” (Colossians 3:23).
When we live that way – enjoying life each day, and not brooding over the past – we will leave the world better off than it was when we came. After all, that’s what Jesus did – and we’re called to follow his example!
Father, thank you for reminding us that the pleasures of wealth are fleeting. We see people striving for wealth, but it is “meaningless to think that wealth brings true happiness.” Thank you for the work that you have set for each of us to do. Whether that is employment or service in your Kingdom (or both), help us to remember that we do it all for your glory, not for our own.
Challenge us each day to make this world a better place than it was before. The enemy fights to drag this world down into his destruction; you have a better way for us. Help us to reflect the presence and work of Jesus in our lives, so others can see that there is a better way.
And remind us each day to thank you for the blessings you provide. “To enjoy your work and accept your lot in life – this is indeed a gift from God.” Amen.