Solomon, one of the wisest kings ever to live, at the end of his life wrote the book of Ecclesiastes. He wrote not only to his children but to his kingdom and us as well. The book itself consists of Solomon’s learned wisdom. Wisdom he seeks to pass down so that we won’t waste our life chasing after that which doesn’t matter. In doing so, he continues to be a vessel of living water to all who read it.
Fathers when you think about deliberately writing to your children. Whether it be in the margins of your Bible or in a short book like Solomon has written. When you think about it, what advice, what wisdom, what direction would you give your children?
That’s a big question, a deep question, one that requires a lot of thought. In order to help get the juices flowing, we’re going to look at some of the wisdom Solomon passes down. Wisdom that’s lost in our current cultural moment. The topics we are going to explore are pleasure, career, and money.
That’s our roadmap, so let’s dive in.
(2) Career can’t provide ultimate purpose, meaning, or fulfillment in life [either] (vs. 2:18-23)
Recently, I was talking to one of my friends about attending a local church in his area. Prior to our conversation, I had sent over several recommendations, but he hadn’t been to visit any of them. When I asked why, he said he didn’t have time because he was busy concentrating on his career.
In that concentration, in that pursuit, my friend is not unique. A lot of people spend a lot of time and energy focusing on their career. They sacrifice time with family and friends. Even time off, hobbies, and vacations are set aside in pursuit of career.
While there is nothing wrong with having a career, it can’t and shouldn’t be a consuming force in our lives. Solomon tells us why that is in the last part of chapter two.
Starting in verse 18, he says,
“I hated all my toil in which I toil under the sun, seeing that I must leave it to the man who will come after me, and who knows whether he will be wise or a fool? Yet he will be master of all for which I toiled and used my wisdom under the sun. This also is vanity. So I turned about and gave my heart up to despair over all the toil of my labors under the sun, because sometimes a person who has toiled with wisdom and knowledge and skill must leave everything to be enjoyed by someone who did not toil for it. This also is vanity and a great evil.” (Ec 2:18–21)
I know you all have heard the saying,
“You can’t take it with you when you die.”
That’s a true statement, and it’s what Solomon is getting at here. No matter how hard we’ve worked, how much we have done, none of it makes it to the other side of the grave with us. We must leave it all behind for someone else to enjoy and work at. What makes it even worse is that that person we have to leave it to might be a fool. They might squander all that we have worked so hard for.
If that’s the case, if we can’t take it with us and it might just be squandered anyways, we should think twice about how much stock we put in our career.
But that’s not the only reason Solomon gives. He also says starting in verse 22,
“What has a man from all the toil and striving of heart with which he toils beneath the sun? For all his days are full of sorrow, and his work is a vexation. Even in the night his heart does not rest. This also is vanity.” (Ec 2:22–23)
Not only can we not take it with us, but those who pour their life into their career will find that:
There is no rest.
Sleepless nights are common to the workaholic and career minded individual because they are always thinking about their job. What they are going to do. How they are going to fix something. Or how they can make a deal go through, so that they will look good and get the promotion. But that’s no way to live, just ask the insomniac who wishes they could sleep.
But sleepless nights are only part of it. Solomon also tells us that:
Stress is common to those whose sole focus is career.
We all know that being stressed is not only a joy killer, but it produces health problems, which could literally send you to the grave.
Along with stress, those who put career first,
Don’t have time to enjoy life, family, or even the money they’ve amassed because they are constantly working.
I don’t know about you, but career doesn’t seem like a viable candidate for something that is going to provide ultimate meaning, purpose, and fulfillment in life. It sounds miserable. And I think that’s the point. Solomon is trying to keep us from seeking something in our work that it just can’t give us.
Father’s we need to pass that idea down to our kids as well. Sure, we want them to work hard. We want them to be successful. But we have to teach them that they aren’t going to find that for which they ultimately long in a successful career. They must approach it in a balanced way. Working hard, but also enjoying life and seeking meaning and purpose in something other than our work.
Question for Reflection
- Are you hoping your career will provide you meaning and purpose?
Post adapted from my sermon: Fathers, Direct Your Kids Toward that Which Matters