Summary: “For a man may do his work with wisdom, knowledge and skill, and then he must leave all he owns to someone who has not worked for it. What does a man get for all the toil and anxious striving with which he labours under the sun?”
Theme: What does a man gain for his toil
Text: Eccl. 1:2, 2:21-23; Col. 3:1-5, 9-11; Lk. 12:13-21
Read Eccl. 2:21-23 “For a man may do his work with wisdom, knowledge and skill, and then he must leave all he owns to someone who has not worked for it. What does a man get for all the toil and anxious striving with which he labours under the sun?”
There are many sad things happening around us that are now so common that they no longer affect us, as they should. The newspapers recently carried the story about a man who had left Accra for London. According to the story he met his sudden death outside a London hotel when one of the 46 cocaine pellets he had swallowed burst in his stomach. What could have made the man do such a reckless thing without any regard for his life? There was another recently carried story about four men who robbed a woman from a moving vehicle. Two managed to escape, one was lynched and another severely beaten. What could have made these men risk their lives in such a way? In one of his books Leo Tolstoy tells the story of a young Russian who inherits his father’s small farm. He immediately starts dreaming of how to expand his property when one morning a well-dressed stranger visits him and makes him an offer that is too good to be true - he could have free of charge all the property he could walk around in one day. The only condition was that he returns to the same spot from which he started, the grave of his father, before the sun went down. Seeing the rich fields in the distance, he sets out without taking any provisions or saying goodbye to his family. He figured he could cover six square miles in a day. After a short while he decided to make it nine, then twelve and finally fifteen square miles. By noon he makes it to the halfway point. Though hungry with his legs aching he continues. He was near the point of exhaustion but the obsession to own the land drives him on. With only a few minutes left before the sun went down, he gathers all his strength, stumbles across the line, the new owner of fifteen square miles of land, and then collapses on the ground, dead. The stranger smiles and said, “I offered him all the land he could cover. Now you see what that is, six feet long by two feet wide, and I thought he would like to have the land close to his father’s grave, rather than to have it anywhere else.” Having said that, the stranger whose name is Death vanishes saying “I have kept my pledge.” Each one of us will come face-to-face with the same stranger and must begin to ask ourselves “What does a man get for his toil?”
We must toil for what has value. Jesus was one day teaching about those things that have value - about the Kingdom of God, about the care and love of the Father, about the importance of fearing God and confessing Him before others when someone from the crowd interrupted him with a request to resolve a family dispute over an inheritance. The man was counting on Jesus to get him his money. This prompted Jesus to teach about the dangers of covetousness and placing one’s confidence in earthly riches. In our materialistic society, what Jesus had to say is especially relevant today. For most people their main priority in life is to accumulate wealth. Money in itself is not bad; it is the greed for money that is so destructive. Greed simply wants more, it is having a desire that cannot be satisfied.
The destructiveness of greed is seen in the frequently narrated story of a beggar found dead on the streets of New York. His death was not due to crime, nor to disease but due to starvation and freezing in the cold weather. He had lived as a homeless man on the streets in a cardboard box. The curious thing was that the man died holding a copy of the Wall Street Journal, a newspaper usually read by those in the financial and business world. This beggar had been checking his stocks and bonds. He died with a key tightly clenched in his fist, which was later identified as a key to a safety deposit box in a local bank. When the box was opened it was discovered to contain over $10 million worth of stocks and bonds. He had so much money but it was not enough to prevent him starving and freezing to death. Life consists of far more than just obtaining and possessing things. God wants us to enjoy a full, complete and balanced life, and He has made provision through His Word for us to be fulfilled in that way. He has promised to fulfil the desires of our hearts, but He also wants us to toil for the things that have value. We can only do this by putting off the old man with his deeds. Before we can put on a new set of clothes we have to remove the old set. We are to put off the filthy garments associated with the flesh and to put on the clean garments associated with righteousness. We are to set “our affections on things above, not on things on the earth.” Toiling for what are valuable results in a growing relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ. The more we spend time with Him in prayer and the reading of His Word the more we will understand Him, see as He sees, hear as He hears and live out the truths of His word. What we believe should determine the way we behave.