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Finding Purpose at Work in Every Season: Reflections on Ecclesiastes 3:1

by | Oct 19, 2023

“For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven.” Ecclesiastes 3:1

Behind the Book 

Ecclesiastes was written by Solomon, King of Israel, son of David, toward the end of his life. Throughout the book, we see Solomon reflecting on all the different facets of life and concluding that all is vanity or a mist. It is all pointless. Thankfully, he has a caveat. In his wisdom, he notes that this is only the case when life is lived without God. 

In Jewish tradition, Ecclesiastes is one of five books publicly read throughout the year during Jewish holidays. Ecclesiastes is read during the Feast of Tabernacles. This festival occurs at the end of the harvest year and commemorates the Exodus.  

Faith and Work Application 

I think we would be doing ourselves a disservice if we did not give this verse a bit more context. Take a moment to read the passage that Solomon wrote preceding Ecclesiastes 3:1: 

 I hated all my toil in which I toil under the sun, seeing that I must leave it to the man who will come after me, and who knows whether he will be wise or a fool? Yet he will be master of all for which I toiled and used my wisdom under the sun. This also is vanity. So I turned about and gave my heart up to despair over all the toil of my labors under the sun, because sometimes a person who has toiled with wisdom and knowledge and skill must leave everything to be enjoyed by someone who did not toil for it. This also is vanity and a great evil. What has a man from all the toil and striving of heart with which he toils beneath the sun? For all his days are full of sorrow, and his work is a vexation. Even in the night his heart does not rest. This also is vanity. 

Life is simultaneously beautiful, painful, and monotonous. For me, more often than not, it is easy to view my work as monotonous and, at times, painful. For a long time, I viewed my work as just something that I had to do to pay the bills.  

I am encouraged by the fact that Solomon felt the same way about his work. Solomon hated his toil. He hated the fact that someone would come take over the kingdom after him and that he would no longer have control over it.  

The moral of the story is that Solomon realized that his work was vanity. It was a mist. It was essentially pointless. But thankfully, that was not the end of his reflection. 

There is nothing better for a person than that he should eat and drink and find enjoyment in his toil. This also, I saw, is from the hand of God, for apart from him who can eat or who can have enjoyment? For to the one who pleases him God has given wisdom and knowledge and joy, but to the sinner he has given the business of gathering and collecting, only to give to one who pleases God. This also is vanity and a striving after wind. 

Without God, our work is toil. It is useless. It is a mist that will come and go. When we do not allow God into our work, it is easy to fall into the mindset that it is useless. The excel spreadsheet you spent hours creating? The likelihood of it being used until the end of time is slim to none.  

The good news, though, is that when we allow God into something as monotonous as inputting data or restocking items on shelves, He brings joy and satisfaction into those moments. He pulls back the curtain and allows us to see that he delights in us and our work when we are doing it with Him.  

When we work for God, we can recognize that there is a season and a time for us to toil and work, and with that, there is also a time for rest and enjoyment of the fruit of our toil.  

There is a time to sit back, recognize what you have done, take a deep breath, and enjoy resting and reflecting. There is a time to go out to dinner with your friends or family after a long day or week and enjoy being able to eat good food and enjoy good company with the money that you made from the work you did.

Let’s finish with this from Ecclesiastes 3:9-13: 

 What gain has the worker from his toil? I have seen the business that God has given to the children of man to be busy with. He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also, he has put eternity into man’s heart, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end. I perceived that there is nothing better for them than to be joyful and to do good as long as they live; also that everyone should eat and drink and take pleasure in all his toil—this is God’s gift to man. 

Reflect 

  • What does it look like to work with God in your day-to-day? 
  • What parts of your role do you have trouble finding purpose in? How can you invite God into those moments? 
  • Do you allow yourself to look back at your work and see that it is good? How can you rejoice in your work? 

Focused Prayer 

Lord, you make everything beautiful in its time. Remind me to allow you into my work and to work alongside you. You created work to be good. Bring me out of the monotony and help me to see that it is not all for nothing. Thank you for allowing me to partake in your kingdom work each day in my job. I ask you to reveal yourself and your goodness even in the mundane. Amen. 

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Jayni Mitchael

Jayni joined Workmatters in August of 2022 as the Operations and Development Manager. She is a John Brown University alumna and proud mom of a baby girl, Marlowe.