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The Vanity of Toil, The Enjoyment of Toil

April 24, 2016 Preacher: Series: How We Are Designed to Live: The Work - Sabbath Balance

Scripture: Ecclesiastes 2:18– 3:15

Key Truth: Selfish work leads to despair while work done to the glory of God according to His sovereign timing and purpose brings enjoyment, pleasure, and maturity.




Q: How impact did the Fall have uniquely on work?

“One of the reasons work is both fruitless and pointless is the powerful inclination of the human heart to make work, and its attendant benefits, the main basis of one’s meaning and identity. When this happens, work is no longer a way to create and bring out the wonders of the created order, as Calvin would say, or to be an instrument of God’s providence, serving the basic needs of our neighbor, as Luther would say. Instead it becomes a way to distinguish myself from my neighbor, to show the world and prove to myself that I’m special.”

Timothy Keller with Katherine Leary Alsdorf, Every Good Endeavor: Connecting Your Work to God's Work


The Vanity of Toil:

Ecclesiastes 2:18-23

“Futile and senseless it is, the Preacher complained, to pay the demanding price to acquire goods and wealth. We cannot take them with us – the wise man knew that. But what pained him even more was that an entirely unworthy heir might gain the comfort and the glory. No biblical passage paints a grimmer picture of what it costs to succeed on human terms and how fragile that success is.”

David Allan Hubbard, Beyond Futility: The Message of Hope From the Book of Ecclesiastes

Q: Have you experienced vanity and despair in your work? What was the primary cause?



The Enjoyment of Toil:

Ecclesiastes 2:24-26

“Eating and drinking and enjoying one’s work are an expression of shalom that God intended for his creation and humankind in particular. It is the vision evoked with Eden in Genesis 2 and in the promises to the Israelites about the good land of Israel….”

Craig G. Bartholomew, Ecclesiastes

Q: Have you experienced enjoyment in your work? What was the primary cause?



For Everything There is a Season:

Ecclesiastes 3:1-15

“In other words, the best good in the madness under the sun is found when we recover some small resemblance to what we were made for in Eden. We remember that God’s gift to humanity has not quit, even though we have and the world now groans. We remember Adam and Eve’s season prior to the fall, and we learn again to long for that recovery while we are migrants here, worn out among the shanties.”

Zack Eswine, Recovering Eden: The Gospel According to Ecclesiastes

Q: How has God gifted you to display His glory through your work? How has God used a challenging season to grow you?


Ecclesiastes 2:18-3:15 teaches us that:

- selfish work leads to despair

- work for the glory of God is gift and brings enjoyment

- God’s purposes for how He gifts us and where He places us are for our greatest good


“Why would a loving, generous Creator curse his own creation? Is he cruel? Sadistic? Psychopathic? Just plain mean?...the curse is a blessing in camouflage. It’s God’s love in disguise. His mercy incognito. Because the curse drives us to God.”

John Mark Comer, Garden City: Work, Rest, and the Art of Being Human



More in How We Are Designed to Live: The Work - Sabbath Balance

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Do Everything in the Name of the Lord Jesus

May 15, 2016

The Creation Mandate in Exile

May 8, 2016

Call the Sabbath a Delight