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March 30, 1998

Work Hard While You Can

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Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might, for in the grave, where you are going, there is neither working nor planning nor knowledge nor wisdom. ECCLESIASTES 9:10
Life is short; play hard.” So the saying goes. That is actually not bad advice from Ecclesiastes. But Solomon adds another phrase to complement the first one: “Life is short; work hard.”
Our work lives have their ups and its downs. We enjoy some of what we do, while other tasks are less pleasant. We look forward to Fridays and don’t always relish the coming of Mondays.
Sometimes, work gets a bad rap because of bad theology. Work was designed by God, given to Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden before the Fall. But we sometimes think that work is a bad deal because it is talked about as part of the aftermath of the sin in which Adam and Eve engaged. That is, we think that work is a result of the curse. But although our jobs sometimes reinforce that idea, it’s not biblical.
According to Genesis 3:17-19, the work that God ordained in Genesis 1 and 2 became much more difficult because of the Fall. Just as childbearing—also ordained by God in the opening two chapters—became much more difficult and painful, so work would only be accomplished by the sweat of the brow and lots of hard labor. In other words, what was easy became difficult. But work still was as ordained by God and blessed by God after the Fall as it was before the Fall.
So what perspective does Solomon have on work? “Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might,” he writes, “for in the grave, where you are going, there is neither working nor planning nor knowledge nor wisdom” (Ecclesiastes 9:10). Essentially, he is suggesting that we enjoy the work we’re doing now, while we can still work, because the day will come when we look back with nostalgia on all of that planning, strategizing, and thinking that we were able to engage in during our careers.
Work is not a curse. It is a gift from God, a calling. Work hard while you can, because you don’t know what the future holds.

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