Focus Scripture: Ecclesiastes 2:11, 24-26
Work your fingers to the bone. Whadda ya get? Bony fingers. Bony fingers.
So goes the old country song.
And so goes Ecclesiates, well, maybe not in so many words. But that is the gist of today's scripture. You can work and work and work. You can achieve great things. But in the end, what do you have? Nothing. It is all meaningless, says the scripture.
The best we can hope for is to find contentment, even pleasure, in the work itself. To live life and to receive contentment from God.
Wisdom literature can be hard. Wisdom literature is full of lots of pithy sayings, like: "There is nothing new under the sun." Ecc 1:9 It also speaks to a certain despair: "Meaningless. Meaningless, says the Teacher. Utterly meaningless. Everything is meaningless. Ecc 1:2. Wisdom is better than folly, but in the end they both share the same fate. Wisdom literature, like Ecclesiastes, comes from a place of realizing that easy answers do not actually work and that life is not a simple equation of "do good, receive good; do evil, receive evil."
Despite this apparent lack of justice and rightness in the world, Ecclesiastes also teaches that happiness and contentment are gifts of God. They are not necessarily the automatic result of hard work or right living, but rather they are gifts freely given. And that this is better than being on the treadmill of having to constantly gather more, more wealth, more property, more power in an effort to feel fulfilled, all of which we give up in the end no matter who we are.
One of the most comforting features of wisdom literature is the realization that other people have felt what I feel. Other people, godly people, people of faith, have felt lost and confused and buffeted by life. And still they found faith. Still they found hope in God. And their testimony, even the testimony of their doubts, is part of the faith story that is the Bible.