What does a man get for all the toil . . . with which he labors under the sun? (2:22, niv)
We work to live, but can living to work make life meaningful? Work brings purpose, right? A good job is the key to satisfaction, right? Especially if we beat the competition, right? Wrong, wrong, wrong, says the Teacher. “I hated life because the work that is done . . . was grievous to me. All of it is meaningless, a chasing after the wind” (2:17).
Q: What will be your work’s benefit after you die?
A: Nothing. “Naked a man comes from his mother’s womb, and as he comes, so he departs. He takes nothing from his labor that he can carry in his hand” (5:15).
Q: Who else will benefit from your work when you’re gone?
A: You don’t want to think about it. “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” (2:21).
It’s a gift to be happy in our work (5:19), but death ends all enjoyment, and the “fruits” of our labor go to others who forget where they came from. You don’t hear people say on their death bed, “I wish I worked more.” Work has meaning, but work alone cannot give meaning to life.
Father, thank you for my work, but help me find a better reason to live. Amen.