If you see the oppression of the poor, and the violent perversion of justice and righteousness in a province, do not marvel at the matter; for high official watches over high official, and higher officials are over them (Ecclesiastes 5:8, NKJV).
It grieves us when we witness oppression and violence, but it should not surprise and astonish us. Justice and righteousness continue to be perverted in this country and around the world. Indeed, there is nothing new under the sun (Eccl. 1:9). While acknowledging these wrongs, Solomon instructs us to remember that those in authority are also under higher power. This reality ought to be a check against harassment and injustice, but even that is not always the case. “When the righteous are in authority, the people rejoice; But when a wicked man rules, the people groan” (Prov. 29:2). What are we to do? (1) Remember that God is sovereign and holds the unrighteous accountable for their sins (2 Cor. 5:10). Jesus called out the hypocritical scribes and Pharisees who “devour widows’ houses” while pretending to be pious with long prayers (Matt. 23:14). God will bring justice to bear on His day of judgment (Acts 17:30-31; Rom. 2:4-11). (2) Keep our faith in God instead of putting it in human beings (Jer. 17:5). God will not fail the righteous (Heb. 13:5-6). (3) We can go about our daily business (Eccl. 5:18-20). Honest labor is God’s gift that prevents us from being overburdened with anxiety over life’s troubles (Eccl. 5:20). Daily labor to provide for ourselves and our families brings joy and contentment in the face of life’s injustices. (4) Remember to pray (1 Thess. 4:11-12; 1 Tim. 2:1-2). (5) We can aid those harmed by others (Luke 10:29-37). Be neighborly and help one another instead of being suspicious and divisive.
18 Here is what I have seen: It is good and fitting for one to eat and drink, and to enjoy the good of all his labor in which he toils under the sun all the days of his life which God gives him; for it is his heritage. 19 As for every man to whom God has given riches and wealth, and given him power to eat of it, to receive his heritage and rejoice in his labor—this is the gift of God. 20 For he will not dwell unduly on the days of his life, because God keeps him busy with the joy of his heart. (Ecclesiastes 5:18–20, NKJV)
The human lot in life is labor. Solomon sees work as a blessing from God, not a burdensome punishment. “It is good and fitting” to work and to enjoy the fruit of one’s labor (v. 18). Solomon sees the increased fruit of labor (“riches and wealth”) as a heritage in which a person can rejoice (v. 19). God designed work to keep us busy as we produce the wherewithal to provide for ourselves and others (v. 20; Eph. 4:28; 1 Thess. 4:11-12; 1 Tim. 5:8). But beware. The temptation to love money is strong – Loving money leads to ruin (1 Tim. 6:9-10). Do not turn labor’s increase into the covetous endeavor and purpose of your life. Wealth does not define your life’s value and purpose (Lk. 12:15). To make that mistake (and to leave God’s will out of your life) is tragically foolish (Lk. 12:16-21). Keep a contented outlook on labor and its reward. Work diligently. Trust God (not riches), be “rich in good works, ready to give, willing to share” (1 Tim. 6:6-8, 17-19).
Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord. (1 Corinthians 15:58, NKJV)
The Corinthian church had problems. Every church does. That’s because every church is composed of sinners, redeemed by the blood of the Lamb. We struggle with temptations and sins, with our faith and our failings. Christians in every congregation must address weakness and weariness, responsibilities and relationships, and much more (Rom. 12:3-21). Paul exhorted the Corinthian brethren to remain true to the Lord as they faced spiritual challenges from within themselves and from the world without. Like them, we must be “steadfast” (settled, firmly situated) in our faith. The roots of our faith must run deep within us, anchored by the word of God, in order for spiritual growth to flourish. By building our personal faith we become stabilized, standing firmly in the faith, and able to resist the enticements of sin (Col. 2:7; Jas. 1:14). By such steadfastness we become “immovable” (unmoved) against the external forces of error and evil (Col. 2:8; Eph. 4:14-16; 1 Pet. 4:1-3). (Remember, the devil is always probing for our vulnerabilities, 1 Pet. 5:8.) Spiritual stability enlivens our duty (“work”) in the Lord with purpose, devotion, endurance, and fullness. Our incentive to fulfill our duty to the Lord is clear – our labor is not useless in the Lord. A full, everlasting harvest awaits the faithful (Gal. 6:7-8).
36 But when He saw the multitudes, He was moved with compassion for them, because they were weary and scattered, like sheep having no shepherd. 37 Then He said to His disciples, “The harvest truly is plentiful, but the laborers are few. 38 Therefore pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest.” (Matthew 9:36–38, NKJV)
“I want to be a worker for the Lord” is a sentiment we put in our hearts in song and by the instruction of God’s word. Today’s passage teaches at least three things we must possess to be workers for the Lord. First, we must be conscious of the lost (v. 36). We must see the souls around us as God sees them. We are in contact with lost souls every day who need rescuing from sin. Second, we must be moved with compassion toward the lost. We must be driven to help them find the Good Shepherd who can lead them to green pastures of spiritual rest and fulfillment. Third, we must have commitment to be a worker. Commitment toward doing God’s work drives us to pray for laborers and prompts us to be laborers. We must labor when we are hopeful, and we must labor when we grow weary (Galatians 6:9-10). The Lord’s harvest is ready. Souls are lost, and salvation is available. The gospel is God’s power to save. Let us labor every day to take the gospel to the lost and to bring in the Lord’s harvest.
The sleep of a laboring man is sweet, whether he eats little or much; But the abundance of the rich will not permit him to sleep. (Ecclesiastes 5:12, NKJV)
There is nothing better than a good night’s sleep after a long day of hard work. Rest for the weary that refreshes the body and the mind, is among the blessings gained through labor. God has ordained labor to be a blessing, and we ought to be thankful that we can work with our hands. Work that is well done gives you a sense of accomplishment in providing for yourself and your family (1 Tim. 5:8). Additionally, working keeps your mind and body occupied with honorable things. Idleness easily leads to temptation and sin (2 Thess. 3:10-11). Work also helps us keep life in perspective. We work to provide for ourselves and our families, and also to help others who are in need (1 Thess. 4:11-12). Work becomes a taskmaster when we make increasing material wealth the reason for our labor. One day we will die, and the work of our hands will be left to another (Eccl. 2:17-23). So, we must keep life in perspective as we labor day by day. Enjoy good from your labor. Be thankful you can work, but do not be enslaved by it. Enjoy the blessings of labor; they are from the hand of God (Eccl. 2:24).
“In the sweat of your face you shall eat bread till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; For dust you are, and to dust you shall return.” (Genesis 3:19, NKJV)
From creation, God gave mankind authority to subdue the earth. But, with the introduction of sin, that task became must more laborious and demanding, until finally, this body wears out and dies. By physical exertion we must meet the tasks of the day, while unavoidably moving toward the time when we will work no more. Our mortality teaches us to use our time wisely. It draws our attention to a crucial decision: Shall we only live for what is decaying (this physical life), or shall we live so as to prepare ourselves for immortality? We are not only dust; our spirit will return to God who gave it (Eccl. 12:7). Will you have access to the tree of life in the heavenly garden of God? Or, will you reap the corruption of sin that you have sown on this earth? This choice belongs to each of us. Choose your priority wisely Jesus said, “Do not labor for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to everlasting life, which the Son of Man will give you” (Jno. 6:27). The food of this world perishes. A life that follows Jesus reaps everlasting life.
10 For even when we were with you, we commanded you this: If anyone will not work, neither shall he eat. 11 For we hear that there are some who walk among you in a disorderly manner, not working at all, but are busybodies. (2 Thessalonians 3:10–11, NKJV)
God has given us clear commands to work (1 Thess. 4:11). Labor has been central to mankind’s existence from creation (Gen. 2:15; 3:17-19; Eccl. 5:18). By it, one provides life’s necessities for himself and his family (1 Tim. 5:8). Labor gives us the ability to “have something to give him who has need” (Eph. 4:28). And, being engaged in labor helps keep us from sinful pursuits, such as becoming a gossiping busybody like some of the Thessalonian Christians. Their refusal to work was disorderly, and meddling in the affairs of others compounded their sin. God’s commands are for our good, offering us temporal advantages here on earth as they live for heaven.
8 All things are full of labor; Man cannot express it. The eye is not satisfied with seeing, Nor the ear filled with hearing. 9 That which has been is what will be, That which is done is what will be done, And there is nothing new under the sun. 10 Is there anything of which it may be said, “See, this is new”? It has already been in ancient times before us. (Ecclesiastes 1:8-10)
The old adage rings true, “The more things change, the more they stay the same.” Life “under the sun” brings nothing that is truly new. Human beings have benefited from labor since the beginning of the creation, yet it is obvious that labor does not satisfy every longing of the heart. This is not said to discount labor, but to emphasize that expecting to meet all of one’s desires through labor is unrealistic. There remains a yearning for something more – to know more, to be more – that labor does not fill. The purpose of your life and the satisfaction for which you yearn will be found when you fear God and keep His commandments (Ecclesiastes 12:13).
Let him who stole steal no longer, but rather let him labor, working with his hands what is good, that he may have something to give him who has need. (Ephesians 4:28)
Have you noticed how often people steal from others? For example, employees steal from their employers by not giving a full day’s work for a full day’s wages. Many people steal in order to support other harmful activities like drug abuse. Many people believe it is not really stealing if what they take from another person will never be missed. That is so wrong. Stealing, regardless of the amount or the reason, is a sin against God. Theft violates the principle of brotherly kindness by failing to treat others as we wish to be treated. It also shows disrespect for God and His will that we be honest and work to support ourselves and to assist those in need. Labor, not looting, is a hallmark of the converted. Be a person who is defined by the integrity of honest labor and not the shame of dishonest thievery.