Day 3

The Emptiness of Work

from the Ecclesiastes reading plan


Ecclesiastes 2:1-26, Genesis 1:26-28, John 15:9-11

BY Ellen L. Taylor

I turned sixteen the summer before my junior year of high school. Along with the new excitement of being able to drive came the responsibility of having my first “real” job. I worked as a cashier at a neighborhood pharmacy and gift shop in a suburb of Birmingham, Alabama, taking phone calls for prescription refills and stocking the shelves with face lotion and hand soap. But the best part of this summer job was something we lovingly referred to as “Christmas in July”—receiving all of the seasonal products for Christmas at the pharmacy, pricing them accordingly, and keeping track of inventory until they put out the Christmas items in late fall.

I was constantly confused by the juxtaposition of the stifling Alabama summer heat with the Santa Claus figurines and snowflake ornaments. Even so, I loved that job. The fragile ornaments and figurines needed special care while unpacking, and even though it meant I left covered in glitter every day, I paid special attention to them, lifting them gingerly out of their boxes and placing them on the storage shelves where they would sit until they made their debut in the pharmacy. It might not have been the most important job, but I found purpose in it.

King Solomon had one of the most important jobs in the Old Testament. God called him to build the temple where God’s presence would dwell among the Israelites (1Chronicles 22:6–10). This was an incredible honor, one that God didn’t even entrust to King David, who was considered a “man after [God’s] own heart” (1Samuel 13:14).

Despite all this, Ecclesiastes 2 tells us that King Solomon struggled with the purpose of work. He writes, “I hated all my work that I labored at under the sun because I must leave it to the one who comes after me. And who knows whether he will be wise or a fool? Yet he will take over all my work that I labored at skillfully under the sun. This too is futile” (Ecclesiastes 2:18–19). To the author of Ecclesiastes, leaving his work behind after death made it meaningless, a pursuit of the wind. But he goes on to explain that while he felt as though his work was meaningless, there is “nothing better for a person than to eat, drink, and enjoy his work” (v.24).

In Genesis 1, after the creation of humankind, God instructed Adam and Eve to work, telling them, “Be fruitful, multiply, fill the earth, and subdue it. Rule the fish of the sea, the birds of the sky, and every creature that crawls on the earth” (Genesis 1:28). God’s design for humanity always included work—it preceded the fall! Our work is not meaningless; we are called to it. And when we do our work for the glory of the one who worked first to create us, it has eternal meaning and significance.

Post Comments (91)

91 thoughts on "The Emptiness of Work"

  1. Halmen Eszter says:

    I’m still confused sometimes when it comes about work places. I’m a teacher, I really like to educate people, but teaching piano for children didn’t fill me with joy. After 4 year of child raising I have to go back to school. I’m pretty nervous and it’s still a big question how to select a job, how to find joy but not looking for perfectness. I’d really like to serve God and enjoy what I’m doing at the same time.

  2. Ashley Reid says:

    Find the purpose of your job and be joyful ❤️

  3. Andry Marte says:

    I love this! Sometime we struggle to much with our job that missed the big picture but in my case I truly love my job so I can definitely see how Jesus is using my job to change my life and the people in my team. He is so thoughtful

  4. Jessica Hargett says:

    ❤️

  5. Brooke says:

    Wow! Thank you to everyone who responded to me! I am now filled with excitement to keeping learning about the things God has left for us to discover through education. God has blessed me with this amazing community. You truly “encourage one another and build each other up” as Paul says in 1 Thessalonians 5:11.

    To all my fellow students, let’s enjoy gaining wisdom about the incredible creation God has handcrafted for us, and give Him praise!

  6. Elizabeth Dawson says:

    The first job I’ve landed after I graduated, is one I didn’t enjoy at first. I was so excited when I got it, I thought of all the things I could do with it (my job is as a mentor for YP’s in high school, who come from a deprived area) and then when I started it, I didn’t enjoy it so much! I felt restricted, worn out, left to deal with behaviour problems that I wasn’t qualified for, without any support from other members of staff. Its been a hard first year, coupled with having to work and support YP from home. However, my role is changing and this time away from my workplace has made me realise; I was never meant to look to other people for the ultimate help (granted I shouldn’t have been left alone without supervision or support) but the job I’m doing was given to me by God for God. Just believing and trusting that as the phase return starts for schools here in the UK, I can remember whose job it is in the first place: the One from whom comes all blessing!

  7. sarahmnng says:

    Do everything for the audience of One ❤️

    1. Leisa Larson says:

      ❤️

  8. Josie Corona says:

    Proverbs 3:6-7
    6In all your ways acknowledge him,
    and he will make straight your paths.
    7Be not wise in your own eyes;
    fear the Lord, and turn
    away from evil.
    This verse came to mind while completing this study. And it all seems futile, I believe we were designed to only find satisfaction in him.

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