“I also tried to find meaning by building huge homes for myself and by planting beautiful vineyards. I made gardens and parks, filling them with all kinds of fruit trees. I built reservoirs to collect the water to irrigate my many flourishing groves. I bought slaves, both men and women, and others were born into my household. I also owned large herds and flocks, more than any of the kings who had lived in Jerusalem before me. I collected great sums of silver and gold, the treasure of many kings and provinces. I hired wonderful singers, both men and women, and had many beautiful concubines. I had everything a man could desire! So I became greater than all who had lived in Jerusalem before me, and my wisdom never failed me. Anything I wanted, I would take. I denied myself no pleasure. I even found great pleasure in hard work, a reward for all my labors. But as I looked at everything I had worked so hard to accomplish, it was all so meaningless—like chasing the wind. There was nothing really worthwhile anywhere…


I came to hate all my hard work here on earth, for I must leave to others everything I have earned. And who can tell whether my successors will be wise or foolish? Yet they will control everything I have gained by my skill and hard work under the sun. How meaningless! So I gave up in despair, questioning the value of all my hard work in this world. Some people work wisely with knowledge and skill, then must leave the fruit of their efforts to someone who hasn’t worked for it. This, too, is meaningless, a great tragedy. So what do people get in this life for all their hard work and anxiety? Their days of labor are filled with pain and grief; even at night their minds cannot rest. It is all meaningless. 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 from the hand of God.” Ecclesiastes 2:4-11; 18-23 (NLT)


Solomon had an impressive track record. During the course of twenty years, he was able to complete multiple, extravagant building projects. He had the people and the equipment that enabled him to do so. However, in the midst of his building, he put his subordinates to work to accomplish these feats. When the Queen of Sheba came to visit, she was impressed by the extravagance and lavishness of his palace and the Temple of God. Interestingly, Solomon had done the hard work of building, yet Ecclesiastes tells us his perspective on his accomplishments later in life. Solomon came to understand that the greatest accomplishments can’t define an individual’s purpose, because their purpose lies outside of what they do. When he tried to find meaning in his work, he came up empty, because he had been more set on accomplishing than allowing God to complete His work in Solomon.


We can’t take any of our accomplishments, wealth, or accumulation of possessions with us after this life. In examining Solomon’s perspective on work, should we just sit back and do nothing? On the contrary, our work makes a contribution to those around us, our families, and even our own individual lives. However, what we accomplish or achieve can never be the ground for defining our identity. When what we do becomes more important that who we are, we start chasing the elusive dream of achieving more. Finding satisfaction in our work is a gift from God, but our work cannot be the measuring stick by which we find our value. When we allow what we do to define us, we become subject to the emotions of success and failure. Your list of achievements may be short or long; the list is not the most important. What you do with your work is what counts. Don’t let your accomplishments define your destiny. Seasons will change in your life and require you to adapt in your work. Jobs will change, but who you are is the constant variable in all your work. Colossians 3:23 (NLT) says, “Work willingly at whatever you do, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people.” Our motives in regard to our work impacts our outlook on work. When we honor God in our work, we take something that could be perceived as meaningless toil and infuse it with meaningfulness.

Scripture quotations marked (NLT) are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

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About Hona Amer

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