In 1965 the future looked extraordinarily bright. Man was only four years from walking on the moon. The world was on the brink of a technological explosion — computer, microwave, laser, and communication advances were certain to revolutionize every facet of the way we lived. So a U.S. Senate Subcommittee in 1965 predicted that by 1985 the average full-time American worker would work 22 hours per week and would be able to retire by age 38. Instead, since 1973 leisure time for the average American has decreased 37% and the average work week increased from 41 to 47 hours, and 40% of workers report that they work more than 50 hours! Some have called the United States, “The most overworked developed nation in the world.” So much for the government’s ability to read the tea leaves of the future.
But poor prognostication is the least of the problems with that report from another generation. As a result of increased demands at work, our culture has increasingly lost satisfaction in work and increasingly grumbled about work, and work has become a four-letter word. We have become like Solomon on his most pessimistic day. “This also is a grievous evil — exactly as a man is born, thus will he die. So, what is the advantage to him who toils for the wind? Throughout his life he also eats in darkness with great vexation, sickness and anger” (Eccl. 5:16-17).
A contemporary “prophet” has said it this way: “Business rapes relations. It substitutes shallow frenzy for deep friendship. It promises satisfying dreams, but delivers hollow nightmares. It fills the calendar, but fractures the family. It cultivates a program, but plows under priorities.” Work is hollow, tiresome, and angering. “Why bother?” we ask. Man has always wrestled with work. Frankly, that’s what God intended when He cursed man’s work because of Adam’s sin in the Garden (Gen. 3:19).
“By the sweat of your face You shall eat bread, till you return to the ground, because from it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you shall return” (Gen. 3:19; NASB)
Are we condemned then to constant dissatisfaction with work? Will there never be any joy? Never any fulfillment? Not unless we change our perspective of work. Again, Solomon helps us: “Here is what I have seen to be good and fitting: to eat, to drink and enjoy oneself in all one’s labor in which he toils under the sun during the few years of his life which God has given him; for this is his reward. Furthermore, as for every man to whom God has given riches and wealth, He has also empowered him to eat from them and to receive his reward and rejoice in his labor; this is the gift of God. For he will not often consider the years of his life, because God keeps him occupied with the gladness of his heart.” (Eccl. 5:18-20)
What is he saying?
- Work is good and can be satisfying;
- God (not my job) is the one who gives every material possession;
- God gives man the ability to enjoy his possessions;
- God gives man the ability to enjoy his work — read it again, it’s a gift;
- The one who accepts his work as a gift of God doesn’t get distracted by the pressures and futility of life because he is too occupied being glad with God.
To be fulfilled at the office I don’t need to find another job. I don’t need to change my hours. I don’t need a new job description. I don’t need another or longer vacation. I don’t need a raise, a secretary, the corner suite, or the executive restroom key. I need to align my mind with the mind of God and seek satisfaction in Him more than my job.
MEDITATION: “There is nothing better for a man than to eat and drink and tell himself that his labor is good. This also I have seen, that it is from the hand of God” (Eccl. 2:24).