Recently I was reading John Hammett’s article entitled “Human Nature” in the book, A Theology for the Church edited by Daniel Akin, and one particular statement about the purpose of work caught my eye. He says, “We do not need all the things we see around us to satisfy; we do need to do God-honoring work to be satisfied.” Living in this all-too-materialistic culture, that is a message of which I need to be reminded on a regular basis, and just this week I had the opportunity to see a demonstration of this principle by two of my children.
My oldest son and daughter have been taking piano lessons as a part of the piano pedagogy program at Maranatha Baptist University in Watertown, Wisconsin for the past few months. In total, they have each taken less than a dozen lessons, yet their diligence and hard work were rewarded this week when they performed in the end-of-semester recital on Monday night. Each of them played a song that they had memorized in front of a packed audience, most of whom they did not know. Although they must have been nervous, they did not appear so, and it is likely that their mother and I were more than nervous enough for both of them! When it was their turn to play, they both did an excellent job, making their parents proud, but what I kept thinking about was how they had accomplished something that can never be taken away from them. By their own hard work and exercise of their God-given talents, they had achieved a level of dignity and satisfaction that can only come by fulfilling the design of their Creator.
Interestingly enough, the book of Ecclesiastes, which is usually associated with the phrase, “Vanity of vanities! All is vanity,” stresses that work, far from being a drudgery which we must simply endure in this sin-cursed world, is truly a gift from God.
“There is nothing better for a person than that he should eat and drink and find enjoyment in his toil. This also, I saw, is from the hand of God, for apart from him who can eat or can have enjoyment?” (2:24-25)
“…that everyone should eat and drink and take pleasure in all his toil – this is God’s gift to man.” (3:13)
“So I saw that there is nothing better than that a man should rejoice in his work, for that is his lot. Who can bring him to see what will be after him?” (3:22)
“Behold, what I have seen to be good and fitting is to eat and drink and find enjoyment in all the toil with which one toils under the sun the few days of his life that God has given him, for that is his lot. Everyone also to whom God has given wealth and possessions and power to enjoy them, and to accept his lot and to rejoice in his toil – this is the gift of God. For he will not much remember the days of his life because God keeps him occupied with joy in his heart.” (5:18-20)
There is no doubt that it takes effort, labor, even toil to accomplish anything of value, but there is something dignifying about fulfilling that which we were created to do. Rather than work as a necessary evil or as a means to achieve financial independence, we should embrace it as God’s will for all human beings. Though no one would mistake my children for Sergei Rachmaninov on the piano just yet, I hope that they can learn to be satisfied with the God-honoring work of developing their artistic talents and that I can follow their example in my own work, which is God’s gift to me.