February 05, 2016

When Work Appears Meaningless

Ecclesiastes 2:18-25

What do people get for all the toil and anxious striving with which they labor under the sun?

—  Ecclesiastes 2:22

In a favorite movie of mine, the lead character counts down the final minutes of the workday on the last day of his career. As soon as the minute hand ticks five o’clock p.m., he gathers up his briefcase and turns out the light in his office for the last time. After forty years as an insurance actuary, he has finally retired. But rather than enjoy the new freedom he has, he begins to wonder if his decades of labor had any meaning.

The writer of Ecclesiastes confronts us with a similar question: What meaning does our work have? In a fallen world, sin distorts our work so that it often lacks the purpose God intends for it. You may punch a clock each morning, do the same task hour after hour, and begin to feel like you are just a cog in a machine. You may be a parent, washing dishes and doing laundry again and again, all with few words of gratitude. Or, as Ecclesiastes observes, you may acquire great success and wealth but eventually realize that you can’t take it with you.

The writer of Ecclesiastes reveals the secret to meaningful work when he asks, “Without [God], who can . . . find enjoyment?” God wants us to see our work as a calling from him, and he assures us that our work has true meaning when we labor in service to him.

How will you serve God in your work today?

Jesus, you invite us to find meaning in our work as service to you. Help us to approach the work you have given us as doing it all for you. Amen.

About the author — Rob Toornstra

Rob Toornstra has served as pastor of Sunnyslope Christian Reformed Church in Salem, Oregon, since 2006. When not busy with pastoral duties, he enjoys spending time with his wife, Amy, and their three children.

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