“The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep His commandments, for this is the whole duty of man.” (Ecclesiastes 12:13)
In the book of Ecclesiastes, the author (known to us as “The Preacher”) writes about many different ways in which people spend their lives. Examples include living wisely, living in self-indulgence, and living for wealth and honor. The Preacher himself has tried them all, and they have all come to the same result—dissatisfaction. No matter what the Preacher does, he always feels as if his work has all been for nothing. “All is vanity,” he writes, “and a striving after wind.” (Ecclesiastes 2:17b) Even today, this statement continues to hold true. Much of what we do is, in the long run, as futile as chasing after wind.
“Now, wait a minute,” you might be thinking. “I’ve done a lot of good things in my life. I’ve made good grades in school, I have a successful job, and I’m well on my way to doing something great.” Well, that’s all well and good. But as the Preacher points out, we can’t take the fruits of our labor with us when our time on earth is done. After we die, our work will pass to someone else, someone who may not care about it the way we do. We tend to pour ourselves into our work, often finding our identity in how well we accomplish a task. But while that might make us feel good for a little while, it won’t last forever. One day, that thing we worked so hard to achieve will cease to make us feel proud. There will come a time when no one will even remember it. Looking at it this way, the Preacher’s words make sense—all our work is comparable to chasing after wind.
Now, this sounds a bit depressing. After all, if everything we do is practically useless, what’s the purpose of anything? Fortunately, the Preacher doesn’t leave us wondering about this. After sharing his own experiences with the ways of the world, he goes on to state that true fulfillment comes only from doing what God calls us to do. When we do His will, we will know joy. It is only His work that will last forever, His tasks that will leave a permanent mark on the world. So then, we are not called to spend our lives driving ourselves crazy over how well we’re doing our job or worrying about the future. Instead, God wants us to enjoy today. We are to go cheerfully to the work God gives us to do, taking pleasure in the fact that we get to serve Him. Our goal in life should be to honor Him, living only for His glory. A life lived in this way can never be called a wasted one. “For he will not much remember the days of his life because God keeps him occupied with joy in his heart.” (Ecclesiastes 5:20)