By Alistair Begg
What has a man from all the toil and striving of heart with which he toils beneath the sun?
Over the years, I’ve sat with many parents who were distraught over the potential consequences of their children’s wrongful pursuits. Each of these mothers and fathers have been disappointed in their son’s or daughter’s choices, and as we have talked it has become clear that their disappointment is grounded in their belief that everything would be much better if their child would just be like them. On further probing, it has turned out that by this they have meant that everything would be better if their child would simply give their lives completely to their work.
Scripture’s conclusion about a life devoted to labor for its own sake is clear: it’s all meaningless and a striving after the wind. This is not to say that work is irrelevant or unhelpful. Work comes from God, so it must be good—but only when pursued rightly. But Solomon warns that when work is the totality of your life, all of your “days are full of sorrow,” and “even in the night” your “heart does not rest” (Ecclesiastes 2:23). Workaholics awaken in the night and turn over in their bed. They far too often need pills to get themselves to sleep, pills to wake themselves up, pills to get themselves through the day. And if “pills” is a far-off concept for you, simply replace it with whatever remedy you see people turn to—or find yourself turning to—to help you switch off and to help you switch on.
When life is lived this way, eventually everything will collapse. As time goes on, those who give themselves to their possessions become more and more consumed by them. It’s not worth losing one’s soul for the sake of stuff. Yet as Jesus taught, there is a way to build your house upon the rock (Matthew 7:24-27). The only solid joys and lasting treasures that may be discovered in life’s journey—even in work—are those found in a personal, living faith in God.
So, “choose this day whom you will serve” (Joshua 24:15): the idols of wealth and vain ambition or the God of heaven. Be sure to prepare your heart and make your choice before you sit at your desk or stand in the factory, tempted to give yourself completely to your work. Pray in earnest, “Lord Jesus, I do not want to place my hope in career achievement or wealth accumulation. Lord Jesus, be my Savior and show me how to live today with You as my comfort and my source of contentment.” That is the way to work hard at your labors without worshiping them.