Day 10

Give Thanks in Work

from the Give Thanks reading plan

Ecclesiastes 5:18-20, Genesis 2:4-9, Genesis 2:15, Nehemiah 2:11-18, Psalm 90:17, Acts 20:35, Colossians 3:17

BY Elaine Phillips

My dear grandmother lived to be ninety-nine. She was busy until her very last years, and then it grieved her that she could only watch others at work, remembering the decades of her joyful, satisfactory work. She grew up in southern Minnesota as the nineteenth century turned to the twentieth, and she reared four children on a farm in the depression years, harvesting and preserving garden vegetables and wild fruit, keeping tabs on the dairy, poultry, and hog populations, and purchasing additional land to be farmed. She made certain her three sons and one daughter got the best education possible (she had been, after all, a country schoolteacher). 

I had the privilege of staying with my grandparents for a summer when I was a young teenager. At that time, Grandma was well into her eighties, but she was still caring for their house, making quilts for innumerable grandchildren, tending her garden, and engaging in church activities. I have vivid memories of their daily rhythm of kneeling beside their chairs in thankful prayer after the evening meal. One of Grandma’s adages echoes in my memory: “Hard work is never our problem; it’s our attitude about it.” This mantra encapsulates the message of our reading today. 

To be sure, work can be painful toil in a world marred by disobedience (Genesis 3). Frustrating? Yes. Exhausting? Indeed. Sometimes lacking any sense of accomplishment? Undeniably. Often rife with unjust practices? Sadly so. As the author of Ecclesiastes described toilsome labor, his words echo Genesis 3; Adam’s call to stewardship would become wearisome exertion. The author acknowledged that our days on earth are distressingly fleeting, and the results of our Herculean efforts are likewise short-lived. Therefore, it is striking that Ecclesiastes affirms the value of work even as the book repeatedly reflects on the harsh reality of death just around the corner.

But the initial charge to Adam was to tend the garden, and what a privilege! This is our stewardship with God, a sacred mission in His kingdom. As the psalmist prays, “…establish for us the work of our hands—establish the work of our hands!” expressing a longing to contribute something meaningful (Psalm 90:17). The apostle Paul describes it this way, “Whatever you do, in word or in deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him” (Colossians 3:17). Our gratitude for our work is unending because working alongside God gives meaning and purpose to our lives. We can take pleasure in working steadily and well because work is God’s gift to us.

Post Comments (65)

65 thoughts on "Give Thanks in Work"

  1. Linda Fenwick says:

    I haven’t done any kind of work for many years now and I need to figure out what I’m supposed to be doing with my time.

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