Summary: Boredom is a constant complaint of many workers, but Solomon points to the one thing that can turn the emptiness of the workplace into a powerful tool for our faith. What is this "one thing" that can makes such a big difference for us?
Back in 2009, a 16-year-old British girl was fired from her office job because her manager saw - on Facebook - that she had said her job was “boring”. She was called into her manager's office and given the following letter:
“Following your comments made on Facebook... we feel it is better that, as you are not happy and do not enjoy your work we end your employment with (our company).”
She was fired because she was bored with her job? Well, it a good thing Solomon was King… because he said pretty much the same thing about his “job”. He not only found his job boring, he wrote:
“I hated life, because the work that is done under the sun was grievous to me. All of it is meaningless, a chasing after the wind.” Ecclesiastes 2:17
Solomon found his job not only boring... but empty?
But he’s the King. He’s got everything a man could want.
How could he possibly be bored?
ILLUS: Lee Atwater, former Republican Party chairman, said this before he died:
“The eighties were about acquiring: wealth, power, and prestige. I know. I acquired more wealth and power and prestige than most. But you can acquire all you want and still feel empty.”
Whoa! – you can have all the wealth, power and prestige - and STILL feel empty?
That’s bad news for the younger generation. Back in 2007 Pew Research poll surveyed 579 young people between the ages of 18 & 25, and one of their findings was this:
81% of the young people said getting rich is their generation’s most important life goal.
These kids want to be rich. They want to have money!
Why? Because money can buy things.
They think that the richer they are... the more possessions they can have.
And thus they can be happy!
But both Solomon and Lee Atwater are telling these young folks: that’s a pipe dream.
Solomon and Atwater are telling us that EVEN if you had all kinds of wealth (power/prestige) it wouldn’t guarantee happiness and fulfillment in life.
ILLUS: One of the most extreme examples of this is the story of Howard Hughes. In 1966, he was named the richest person in the world. His fortune is estimated to have been worth more than $40 billion in today's dollars.
On a trip to Las Vegas, Hughes had a disagreement with the owner of one casino. So, he bought the casino and several around it. Money was his answer for everything.
Hughes was also nicknamed the world's greatest womanizer. He dated various beautiful Hollywood actresses, including Ginger Rogers, Olivia de Havilland, and Katherine Hepburn.
In his prime, Hughes was a daring aviator and tireless tinkerer who spurred science to new heights. He was an industrialist, entrepreneur, and world record setter.
He built the largest airplane ever to fly. Do you know what it was called?
That’s right: The Spruce Goose.
Howard Hughes had it all. The power, the prestige, the possessions.
But despite all of that, for the last 20 years of his life Hughes lived as alone. He refused to appear in public or to be photographed. He became a hypochondriac, with an unnatural fear of germs. He refused to cut his hair, his beard or his nails. And the only people he saw were his doctors & his personal servants.
And when he died... he died alone.
And nobody cared.
And so Solomon says: “Work that is done under the sun was grievous to me. All of it is meaningless, a chasing after the wind.” Ecclesiastes 2:17
So, what is it about a job that would make it boring?
• It’s repetitious/tedious – same thing day after day
• It’s dead-end. You’re never going to get anything else.
• No life outside of work.
Now, I maintain that boredom is all a matter of perception.
ILLUS: Just to prove my point, I want to share a popular set of rules for the office that in vogue back in the 1800’s. Rules like this were common in most offices, and they all looked a little bit like these:
1. Office employees will daily sweep the floors, dust the furniture, and showcases.
Each day they must fill lamps, clean chimneys, & turn wicks
2. Windows must be washed once a week.
3. Each clerk will bring in a bucket of water and a scuttle of coal for the day's business.
4. Make your pens carefully. You may whittle your nibs to your individual taste.
5. This office will open at 7:00 am and close at 9:00 p.m. daily, except on Sunday, on which day it will remain closed. Each employee is expected to spend Sunday by attending church and contributing liberally to the cause of the Lord.
6. Men employees will be given an evening off each week for courting purposes, or 2 evening a week if they go regularly to church.