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Tuesday, July 09, 2013

Life is Meaningless? Part 5


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 he will be a wise man or a fool? Yet he will have control over all the work 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 man may do his work with wisdom, knowledge and skill, and then he must leave all he owns to someone who has not worked for it. This too is meaningless and a great misfortune. 22 What does a man get for all the toil and anxious striving with which he labors under the sun? 23 All his days his work is pain and grief; even at night his mind does not rest. This too is meaningless. 24 A man can do nothing better than to eat and drink and find satisfaction in his work. This too, I see, is from the hand of God, 25 for without him, who can eat or find enjoyment? 26 To the man 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.
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Solomon is finally starting to turn a corner.

As he's going off the handle and losing his marbles, he is stabbed with a realization: Things only become meaningful as you recognize them as gifts from the hand of God and engage them with the purpose of pleasing God.  He recognizes a cycle...they are from God and they are for God...His gifts to be enjoyed and employed for His glory.  The author is finally catching on.

But before we rush to the cozy conclusion, I want to appreciate the tension that Solomon is sharing under the inspiration of God.  He is addressing a very common feeling in the human soul...the seeming difficulty and futility of working hard.  He talked about hating life as he described how work had become to grievous to him.  Pain and grief accompanied every waking moment of work, but it wasn't so much what he was doing that drove him nuts, but the thought that all that he had worked for might be given to someone that wouldn't appreciate it because they didn't have to "work for it" themselves.  

It's possible that he looked at his children and was pained to know that they would be the benefactors of his life of labor.  Would they blow his money?  Would they have a work ethic like him and invest his investments?  Would they honor all the entrepreneurship, stewardship and leadership he poured into his earthly empire?  But here again, we see his phobia surfacing.  The thought that after he died that his legacy would not last.  His name would be forgotten.  His riches squandered.  His hard work flushed down the drain.  Real feelings that I think anyone can relate to.

I especially identify with him when he said "even at night his mind does not rest".  I have had many sleepless nights stewing and stirring over yesterday or tomorrow.  You're in your bed, but you're not sleeping.  You're tired, but you can't relax enough to rest.  You chest is tight, you head is crowded, and your blood is hot with dread.  Restlessness and Lessrestness.  The night's are long as you lie awake pre-playing and re-playing work scenarios in your mind.  I remember someone saying: "You know you're a leader when you're sleeping with decisions and results."  I remember working for someone else and I would just go home and chill 'cause someone else had to sleep with the decisions and results.  I was just a hired hand, they were the ones vexed with the weight of it all.  I never appreciated what it was to "sleep with the responsibility" until i was at the top.  Probably a more accurate way of saying it is "not sleeping with it" cause sleep was illusive.

But something shifts in Solomon's mindset.  it was like a reset of mindset.  He started boiling things down to the simple joys of life, "Eating, drinking, and finding satisfaction in work."  He starting realizing that pleasures in their rawest and simplest form, when accepted as gifts from God and glory for God, brought satisfaction.  His "I can't get no satisfaction" changed to "God alone gives satisfaction".  This reboot began to wake him up to the enjoyment of employment.  He came to realize that when you participate in the pleasures of life with the mindset of pleasing God and lose the lust for controlling what happens with your memory and money after you die...this brings true joy.  

It's the first indication that Solomon was beginning to put two an two together.  After getting some unedited emotions off his chest, he was coming to terms with the x-factor of all satisfaction, meaning and significance.  Accepting everything as God's gift and doing everything for God's glory.  This is the core of a quality life.

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