Evaluating Our Work

Evaluating our Career

“For what does a man get in all his labor and in his striving with which he labors under the sun?”

Ecclesiastes 2:18-23


            In creation, God assigned the responsibility to care for the garden to Adam and Eve.  Part of God's purpose for humanity was to explore, create, and develop the garden He prepared for them.  The responsibility to labor and work is part of the “It was good” of God’s creative plan.  Rather than work being a struggle, it was God’s design for humanity.  Proverbs point out that part of living within the context of God’s moral order  (which is the essence of wisdom) is working diligently with our hands (Provers 12:11, 6:6-11). However, when humanity rebelled against God, one of the effects was that our work became corrupted and distorted. It is plagued by the futility that characterizes all aspects of our life because of sin.  Instead of work being an expression of our worship of God and the enjoyment of his creative work, it will become marred and corrupted.  It became a great distractor from doing God’s will. It became our obsession to the point that it became our idol.

For most of our lives, we are focused on our careers.  We graduate from college excited about the career opportunities set before us.  We start our job with the goal of moving upward and achieving something of significance.  We make our choices regarding our family, our place of residence, and the use of our time based on its effect on our career trajectory.  We have goals and begin to labor strenuously to achieve them, even at the cost of our marriage and family.  We spend countless sleepless nights worrying about our problems at work and the stress we experience in our quest for success.  While focusing on our career trajectory is not necessarily bad, Solomon serves to warn us of the dangers and, ultimately, futility of our labor.  He provides a cautionary tale of making our labor the chief goal in life, for it lacks genuine substance.  He reminds us that at the end of life, no one ever wishes to spend more time on the job and that even our most significant accomplishments become nothing more than an illusion.

            Solomon takes a hard look at all his work.  As the king of one of the more powerful nations of that day, he knew well the demands and costs of success.  Tragically, what he described in verse 19 would be realized in his life.  Even as Solomon had labored to make Israel powerful and prosperous, his son, Rehoboam, would quickly destroy all his achievements by his folly.  It is a story that is repeated generation after generation.  The successes and accomplishments of one generation are wasted and forgotten by the next. We labor to leave a legacy soon forgotten and destroyed by those who follow us.   

            Solomon points out that sin turns what God designs to be good into an idol that we worship.  This includes our careers.  It takes precedence over our family, relationships with others, and even our worship and service to God. Solomon is not saying that work is evil, only that it is corrupted by sin, and so, like all things in life, we need to bring it back under the umbrella of God’s moral purpose.  We must remember that our accomplishments in our labor are ultimately transitory.  The only thing that is lasting and eternal is our relationship with God and our witness to others.  Instead of work becoming our idol, we need to recognize that, ultimately, it does not bring eternal wealth and meaning.  For eternal riches, we need to obey God, which includes serving God through our work and keeping it in balance with all the responsibilities God has given us.  We are to enjoy our work but not allow it to become our obsession.



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