Summary: A sermon on labor, work from Ecclesiastes (Title, Material and outline adapted from Dan Blazer's book, Life Is Worth Living, chapter 5)


Solomon in Ecclesiastes at times has a positive outlook on work, labor.

Ecclesiastes 3:12, 13, NIV.

Ecclesiastes 5:18, NIV.

Ecclesiastes 9:9, NIV.

At other times Solomon is downright negative about work and labor.

“What does man gain from all his labour at which he toils under the sun?” Ecclesiastes 1:3

Ecclesiastes 2:10,11; 2:17-23

Since the time of Adam, when mankind was driven from the Garden of Eden, work has been our lot. “To Adam he said, “Because you listened to your wife and ate from the tree about which I commanded you, ‘You must not eat of it,’ “Cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat of it all the days of your life.” “By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground, since from it you were taken; for dust you are and to dust you will return.”” Genesis 3:17, 19, NIV.

Work has changed drastically over the centuries, especially the past 150 years. Psychologists and sociologists study work. Managers desire to make work as pleasurable as possible, for a satisfied employee is know to be more productive. Nevertheless, even with modern convenience, work continues to be a drudgery for many, if not for most of us.

The goad passages on work from Ecclesiastes show us that worldly wisdom gains no satisfaction from labor. The never ending journey on the treadmill of career advancement, often only to maintain one’s status, leads to burnout. Solomon experienced something like this. His youthful enthusiasm for the kingship had soured.

How many of us wake up in the morning and look forward to our work? Though the standard is the 40 hour work week, almost all spend more than 40 hours when considering the commute, overtime, thinking about work, etc. Over 40 of our best hours are spent at work. We need to be concerned with these 40 hours as Christians

Also as Christians our work is not limited to our jobs, workplace. We are engaged in spiritual work. Some complain about duties at church, about having too much to do, of not being appreciated at church, and so forth, much like a secular job. In fact, our spiritual work may be directed primarily to attaining the “benefits” of that work as opposed to being pleasurable in and of itself. Spiritual work may soften our guilt, “lay up treasures in heaven” (like fringe benefits), be perceived as a type of exchange relationship (you scratch my back and I’ll scratch your back), or just get the church leaders off of our backs.

“For even when we were with you, we gave you this rule: “If a man will not work, he shall not eat.”” 2 Thessalonians 3:10, NIV. Now there are many in our society who are sluggish and lack desire to work. But most of us do not work “so that we may eat.” In Bible times if one did not work he literally did not eat because he had no food. What keeps many people at the grindstone is not food or other basic necessities, but status and pride. Go into a room full of strangers and start talking with them and one of first things talked about is work, career.

The workaholic is common in the work place today. The workaholic is addicted to work, just as the alcoholic is addicted to alcohol. Such a person must continually work in order to prevent the consequences of withdrawal yet many times despises day to day work activities.

Misery loves company. Workaholics often will push those around them to work even harder. Workaholics becomes so preoccupied with their own needs to feed their addictions that they cannot understand the feelings or needs of their co workers. Cannot understand why others do not have such a devotion to their work. Their god is their work and they are in slavery.

We also see workaholics in the Lord’s church. These active “workers” receive much attention and admiration from other Christians. We also feel guilty around them, for our own “works” never measure up to theirs. As with the workaholic in the work place, spiritual workaholics rarely experience peace or satisfaction in their service, never feel that they have done enough, and push themselves to the fate of many workaholics- burnout. The risk for emotional and spiritual burnout among Christians is high. Many times we pay lip service to the concept of grace, and continue in a works relationship with our Father and our fellow Christians.

What is burnout? When a person suffers burnout, he depletes himself and exhausts his physical, emotional, and spiritual resources. He wears himself out by excessive striving, because he imposes unrealistic expectations upon himself. The person suffering from burnout is continually frustrated, for there is no way that he will reach his or her goals.

Don’t know if Solomon suffered from this but he comes close and he recognizes the condition in others. Ecclesiastes 4:4-6:

Trying to get ahead is a symptom of burnout. Envy of one’s neighbor and seeking after that which can never be captured (the wind) well describe the burnout syndrome. The “American dream” of rising above one’s neighbors is not new. Solomon, who rose above all, recognized this as meaningless.

Symptoms of burnout are when we being to question the meaning of life and our own values, and, like Solomon, we come at this not from faith but from doubt. We are trying to find ways to wreck our faith like an affair or ruin our career by embezzlement or some kind of fraud.

Other symptoms of burnout include the inability to get along with friends and family. Our support system no longer measures us to our expectations. We look upon them as being lazy and we have no sympathy for them. Because of the pace we set for ourselves we have limited time for family and friends. A minor and unexpected event at home leads us to panic. We snap at family members and can become tyrants to those around us.

Burnout affects us physically. Trouble sleeping. On vacations (if we take any) we attempt to maintain the same pace we set at work. We begin to overeat and frequently will gain weight, giving us one more thing to feel guilty about and one more challenge to overcome.

Burnout affects our spiritual lives. Prayer and fellowship with other Christians is neglected. We become spiritual washed up and avoid Bible study or fellowship. We might even neglect Sunday worship because it is a good time to get caught up.

Thesis: How can we avoid burnout?

For instances:

Know thyself

When we see the following things taking place, admit that we have a problem. “I just need to focus on my work and work harder.” This makes it worse. Many times are bodies are smarter than our minds. These symptoms should give us pause.

Once we recognize and admit that we have a problem, we must recognize the hope in burnout. Hope in burnout? Yes, for often we must reach a low point in order to regain our security in the Lord as opposed to our own works.

“Be merciful to me, O LORD, for I am in distress; my eyes grow weak with sorrow, my soul and my body with grief. My life is consumed by anguish and my years by groaning; my strength fails because of my affliction, and my bones grow weak.” Psalms 31:9, 10, NIV. So what did David do?

“In my alarm I said, “I am cut off from your sight!” Yet you heard my cry for mercy when I called to you for help. Love the LORD, all his saints! The LORD preserves the faithful, but the proud he pays back in full. Be strong and take heart, all you who hope in the LORD.” Psalms 31:22-24, NIV. Only by recognizing that we cannot do it on our own and we need the Lord can be begin to recover. The Lord is our strength. Burnout leads us to the point of saying, “Help!” Crying “Help! is the gate to the road of recovery.

We must accept our limitations

Ecclesiastes 4:8

“I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God made it grow.” 1 Corinthians 3:6, NIV. Despite Paul’s best efforts the church at Corinth was not going well. Must surrender it to God. There are things that we can do nothing about.

We must rest. ““Six days do your work, but on the seventh day do not work....” Exodus 23:12, NIV. ““Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” Matthew 11:28, NIV.

Reestablish relationships with others

“They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.” “Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts,” Acts 2:42, 46

We need each other. We are just a part of the body of Christ. We must not feel guilty in fellowship with Christians whom we should love and enjoy.

We must develop a new work ethic.

“Let us not become weary in doing good...” Galatians 6:9, NIV.

We need to concentrate on doing God’s will for our lives. We need to say No to certain things. We need healthy boundaries.

We need to realize what is important. “Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment.” Matthew 22:37, 38, NIV.

Larnelle Harris- i miss my time with you those moments together i need to be with you each day and it hurt's me when you say you're too busy busy trying to serve me but how can you serve me when your spirit's empty