Continued …if you missed yesterday’s start on this thought please go back and visit here.
To get the picture of what Solomon’s suggesting in Ecclesiastes 2 and 3 we have to imagine the dinner table during his time. In my mind it looks something like this: lots of people around the table lingering while eating various foods. No one is in a hurry, after all eating at the table is about being with those whom you love and their is no America Idol episodes on the DVR. The evening drags on as one plate of food is passed at a time and wine is poured and sipped. I hear laughter and stories about the day and then some very serious topics come up; all indicate those around the table are intimately connected. It’s not a complete picture but a start. (Here’s a blog I wrote on ancient near eastern table practices.)
I suspect the cultural context of eating at the table is what Solomon had in mind when he said, “So I decided there is nothing better than to enjoy food and drink and to find satisfaction in work. Then I realized that these pleasures are form the hand of God. For who can eat or enjoy anything apart from him?” (Eccl. 2:24-25) Our happiness perhaps even meaning in life is tied to relationships. Deep, intimate, known relationships.
Anyone who has seen the movie Notting Hill gets the vision I have .
Did you notice that Solomon through work into this beautiful picture? Food, wine, community and then WORK?
I love that he didn’t list what kind of work. He could have listed his important positions as qualifiers but he didn’t. He leaves it open for a purpose. The purpose is it doesn’t matter what work you’re doing (ok so doing evil or sin isn’t what I’m talking about) it’s choosing to be grateful that we work. Fundamentally we were made to work, to produce, create, discover, provide, perhaps because it’s an expression of our image bearing. Work is a way humans image the Triune God. (Genesis 1:26-28)
I know not having work is demeaning, demoralizing, and dehumanizing. Steve has a friend in Kampala that can’t find work. After several years of knocking on doors for a job he finds himself deflated and destitute. When Steve flies through Kampala he fills his refrigerator with food. Steve’s friend isn’t alone.
As one report states, “The world enters the year 2012 facing a serious jobs challenge and widespread decent work deficits. After three years of continuous crisis conditions in global labour markets and against the prospect of a further deterioration of economic activity, there is a backlog of global unemployment of 200 million – an increase of 27 million since the start of the crisis. In addition, more than 400 million new jobs will be needed over the next decade to avoid a further increase in unemployment. Hence, to generate sustainable growth while maintaining social cohesion, the world must rise to the urgent challenge of creating 600 million productive jobs over the next decade, which would still leave 900 million workers living with their families below the US$2 a day poverty line, largely in developing countries.” Read more
I grew up being taught to do meaningful work. I learned I could choose what I want to be and do. That’s the privilege of being wealthy isn’t it? This isn’t something the 900 million workers living on US$2 a day get to ask do they? So what if work can be meaningful but doesn’t have to be in order to bring joy to the soul? What if work, the act of work in and of its self has intrinsic value? Society may classify what’s considered important work and what’s not but perhaps God thinks working in and of itself is the meaning. Working images him. Solomon said to be satisfied with our work because work is a gift from God. All work is a gift.
So what do you think about work? Why did God give us work in the garden? Why did Solomon instruct us to find satisfaction in our work? Do you? Would love to hear your thoughts. I’m processing and could use some other minds to process with.