Today’s reading: Ecclesiastes 5-8.
“I think the foremost quality – there’s no success without it – is really loving what you do. If you love it, you do it well, and there’s no success if you don’t do well what you’re working at.” Malcolm Forbes
I read quotes about finding joy in work, and must admit that I still wonder if that is always possible or even the ultimate goal. Work is work after all. It takes effort. It continues even when we are tired. It has its hurdles as well as its rewards. If, as we read in Ecclesiastes 1-3, it’s only pursued in a worldly way, “under the sun,” without regard to God, it is bound to end in disappointment. But that isn’t the last word on work. Not according to Solomon.
Then I realized that it is good and proper for a man to eat and drink, and to find satisfaction in his toilsome labor under the sun during the few days of life God has given him–for this is his lot. Moreover, when God gives any man wealth and possessions, and enables him to enjoy them, to accept his lot and be happy in his work–this is a gift of God. He seldom reflects on the days of his life, because God keeps him occupied with gladness of heart. Ecclesiastes 5:18-20
Happiness in work – a gift of God. That’s what I want, and I’m glad to see that we’ve been given instructions on how to find it. Let’s dig a little deeper into this promise.
Don’t leave God out of the workplace. It’s easy to be so busy with getting the job done that you forget you are doing it to glorify God. You can focus so much on the client, customer, boss, or paycheck that you forget you are really working for God. “Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men.” Colossians 3:23
Enjoy the simple pleasures. Work gives us the means to buy and enjoy the basics of life: food, shelter, clothing, leisure time. These simple pleasures are the best, especially when taken with the ones we love. “But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that.” I Timothy 6:8
Expect work to be hard. Solomon calls it toilsome labor. God told Adam he would gain his food by the sweat of his brow. Work takes effort, but realizing that, we can still rejoice knowing our sweat produces earthly and eternal rewards. “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” Galatians 6:9
Accept your lot. Some meaning has been lost in the translation of this word, “lot.” We hear it and think – what I’m stuck with, what I’m left with. It’s more akin to portion, share or reward. This is the portion of land you have been given. This is your share of the prize or reward. I don’t think we should look at where we are and say our lot can never change (Jabez nobly prayed for God to expand his influence and territory), but it’s good to remember God providentially provided us with the portion we have today.
Let an attitude of gratitude fill your heart and mind. To be so busy with happy thoughts that you don’t have time to worry about the difficulties of life. Now that’s the kind of work I could get into. Solomon says this kind of busyness is a gift from God. God gives grace to the humble, so if we humble ourselves, and keep giving him thanks for the portion he has given us, we can expect him to bless us with his gifts, including satisfaction in our work. “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” Ephesians 2:10
There is always the danger that we may just do the work for the sake of the work. This is where the respect and the love and the devotion come in – that we do it to God, to Christ, and that’s why we try to do it as beautifully as possible. Mother Theresa
Image by tec_estromberg on Flickr, CC by 2.0