Bible Studies for Life

with Don Hicks

Sunday,  March 24

The Problem with Work

The Problem with Work • Ecclesiastes 2:18-23; 3:9-13

A key word in this week’s lesson is “work.”  Is it a four-letter dirty word?  The lesson title tries to identify “The Problem with Work.”  What does “WORK” mean?  Just to be totally honest with you, the reader, I don’t intend to define the word work.  I do want, in various parts of the discussion, to try to paint a word picture of work.  Solomon is going to hint at several negatives he associated with work. I will try to show how work gains new meaning when it’s done to honor Christ.

Solomon 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 (CSB).  We have a tremendous advantage over Solomon in understanding God’s purpose for work.  We have the teaching of Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount to help explain the purpose of work this way: “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven” Matthew 5:16 (KJV).

The works which glorify God now are not left to the future but serve God right now and clearly show others around us God’s love and care.  This answers King Solomon’s concern from verse 18 that we must leave the results of our work to a possible fool in the future.

I want to ask you this question. When you prepare and teach a Sunday School lesson, is that work?  Could it be a way to let your light shine before your class?  Claiming the truth of Romans 10:13 is usually the result of the work of shining the light in your testimony or teaching.  Romans 10:13 (CSB) says, “For everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved,”  but Paul explains the work that leads to this great result in the verses that follow:

“How, then, can they call on him they have not believed in?  And how can they believe without hearing about him? And how can they hear without a preacher?  And how can they preach unless they are sent? As it is written: How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news,” Romans 10:14-15 (CSB).

This saving faith is “Not of works, lest any man should boast” Ephesians 2: 9 (KJV).  It is not our work that saves us.  As Solomon so often states in Ecclesiastes, this work is futile when it comes to saving ourselves.  Paul in his letter to Ephesus tells us about a work that is not futile.  “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:  Not of works, lest any man should boast.  For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them,” Ephesians 2:8-10 (KJV).

Work is good when in God’s will.  King Solomon explains it this way: “And also that every man should eat and drink, and enjoy the good of all his labour, it is the gift of God,” Ecclesiastes 3:13 (KJV).  During the creation account in Genesis 1 and 2 before sin entered the world and even before the creation of Eve, “The Lord God took the man (Adam) and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it,” Genesis 2:15.  This is one of the word pictures I told you to expect in this lesson about work.  I watched my grandfathers hoe weeds for hours as they worked and cared for their large vegetable gardens.  Then, I sat at their dinner tables and as explained by Ecclesiastes 3:13 enjoyed the goods of all their labor — it was a gift of God.

Another word picture of work that I have been privileged to see many many times in my family that is a beautiful example of God-ordained work (and it really is work).  Late in the day when a baby or small child is tired and uncomfortably fussy.  A mother, my mother, my wife, or my daughters or daughter-in-law holds the baby lovingly close and rocks and feeds their child, soothingly singing or telling a Bible story until the child finds restful peace and sleep.  This is also the work God himself is willing to do for me when I need his love in tangible ways.

Hicks is associational missions director for Jasper Association in Bay Springs.