Why do you work? This question was part of a lifestyle survey used to determine the happiness of workers. If you think my answer reflected a grandiose, altruistic perspective on how my labor improves the economic betterment of society, you’ll be sorely disappointed. The answer I gave was that I work for survival—so that I can have food on my family’s table. Whether you’re a CEO or a student working part-time, you essentially work for your next meal. It’s raw, but real. Hunger comes in repeated waves. It doesn’t matter how well you ate today, you’ll be hungry again tomorrow. It’s an empty stomach that drives us on in our labors (Proverbs 16:26).
The wisest man on earth spoke candidly of another reality: “All people spend their lives scratching for food, but they never seem to have enough” (Ecclesiastes 6:7). Or as the NKJV puts it, “All the labor of man is for his mouth, and yet the soul is not satisfied.”
Solomon isn’t simply talking about food, but about the material things that we work so hard for because we believe they’ll bring us happiness and contentment. Work and material things can give us enjoyment (Ecclesiastes 3:22, Ecclesiastes 5:19). For we’re to “enjoy what [we] have rather than desiring what [we] don’t have” (Ecclesiastes 6:9). But material things will never satisfy the hunger of our soul.
If the food we work so hard for doesn’t satisfy, how then can we find satisfaction? Perhaps we need to consider seriously what Jesus said about the food that gave Him purpose and satisfaction. “My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me and to finish His work” (John 4:34 NIV). Doing God’s will is the food that satisfies. Doing God’s work is the work that gratifies.
NLT 365-day reading plan passage for today: Acts 21:18-36
How would you answer Solomon’s question: “What do people get in this life for all their hard work and anxiety?” (Ecclesiastes 2:22).
Besides putting food on the table, what motivates you to work? Does the way we work bring glory to God? Why or why not?