The Worries of Work (Ecc 4:1-16)

Publié le 27 septembre 2020 dans Non classé

Again I saw all the oppressions that are done under the sun. And behold, the tears of the oppressed, and they had no one to comfort them! On the side of their oppressors there was power, and there was no one to comfort them. 

And I thought the dead who are already dead more fortunate than the living who are still alive. 

But better than both is he who has not yet been and has not seen the evil deeds that are done under the sun.

Then I saw that all toil and all skill in work come from a man’s envy of his neighbor. This also is vanity[a] and a striving after wind.

The fool folds his hands and eats his own flesh.

Better is a handful of quietness than two hands full of toil and a striving after wind.

Again, I saw vanity under the sun: 

one person who has no other, either son or brother, yet there is no end to all his toil, and his eyes are never satisfied with riches, so that he never asks, “For whom am I toiling and depriving myself of pleasure?” This also is vanity and an unhappy business.

Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. 

10 For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up! 

11 Again, if two lie together, they keep warm, but how can one keep warm alone? 

12 And though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand him—a threefold cord is not quickly broken.

13 Better was a poor and wise youth than an old and foolish king who no longer knew how to take advice. 

14 For he went from prison to the throne, though in his own kingdom he had been born poor. 

15 I saw all the living who move about under the sun, along with that[b] youth who was to stand in the king’s[c] place. 

16 There was no end of all the people, all of whom he led. Yet those who come later will not rejoice in him. Surely this also is vanity and a striving after wind.


The Bible talks about a lot of different subjects in different literary styles

The Bible in its immense variety also speaks of a particular subject which concerns us all every day: The worries of work.  This is the theme that we will approach from chapter 4 of the book of Ecclesiastes

I want to say that the subject is « The worries of work » and not « There are only difficulties at work »

Because of course at work, it’s not all difficult.

God wants to take care of us, every day in our daily life and in the difficulties at work.

Our God, the creator of all things, is above the sun, he is out of time and at the same time, he takes care of all things that happen in our time, below the sun.

This is also why he left us his Word and particularly this text that we see today.

The first three verses of chapter 4 follow on from chapter 3, they talk about the injustices in life.

And the workplace is unfortunately not deprived of injustice, it is even too often well anchored in it and this creates problems for us.

The types of difficulties which bother us at work, is subjective depending on the trades obviously, but, together, we will go through some broad lines of this theme. I will obviously not address all the types of difficulty related to all the trades, otherwise that would take hours and hours and, since I have a plane to catch right after the service, I will avoid finishing at 8pm.

Work is very important in life. In terms of time, counting the commute, we easily spend 8-9 hours at work.

That is more than half of our time when we are operational and that for more than 42 years.

1 The vanities of work

The first three verses tell us about the oppressed who find no consolation, and twice the Ecclesiaste says « and no one who consoles them ».

He tells us about the oppressed who are in desolation and even goes so far as to say that even death brings more happiness than life

When he says that death brings more happiness than life, it’s hyperbole, it is a figure of speech of exaggerating to bring out an idea.

Theologian Woody Lewis says the lack of justice favors the strong over the weak.

Going to work in the morning with a lump in the stomach is not an exception for some, a lot of people are in this situation. It was the case for me, it is not anymore as you can imagine. Samuel and Vincent are caring and very patient with me!

But it is a reality for many and in all types of jobs. There is constant daily stress because you have to be profitable, always make more profits. Unhealthy pressure is often present and oppressive.

It is the dehumanization of the employee to satisfy vertical figures that we consider virtuous.  We prefer to destroy the life and the physical and psychological health of an employee to earn more money on his back

which gets damaged over the months and years, to the detriment of his person, by devaluing the employee without respecting his working conditions and his own person. 

Even if he is psychologically exhausted, even if he is going through a difficult period in his life.

The dishonor and the unhappiness that one feels because one is taken just for a machine to produce, to bring in money, not always for a comfortable salary, which sometimes makes the last thirty days of the month difficult.

Without the desire to make a Stalinist speech, without wanting a class struggle, fights between rich and less rich people, there are realities that we observe and which are cited in this chapter.

But when the sadness is at its height, no one consoles them …

The Ecclesiaste says in v4 I saw that all the trouble that we give ourselves and all the success that we seek in a company are only motivated by the jealousy of our neighbor

Our jealousy (in addition to the demands of companies) can divide employees into several clans and plunge employees into solitude.  The expectations of businesses.

When the demands on the employees are too stringent, the employees plunge into a dissatisfaction and this is the character of the individualistic society which makes us individualistic.

It creates gaps between colleagues because everyone will concentrate to succeed in their tasks even if it means crushing others.

And yes, personal success is considered more important than living in harmony with others.

But it is not only the difficulties that are experienced on site at work as I just mentioned, there is also the difficulty of young people entering the professional world.

Many young people who are barely old enough to start working are afraid of entering the workforce when they see their families endure extreme working conditions, which I did.

This is the principle of the elastic, when you pull it in one direction, and let go, it goes in the other direction.

This means that one can quickly find oneself too incompetent for a job, and with the various pressures that are made, one can quickly lose self-confidence when starting a job.

In many companies, the bar is set very high from the start, a young person who starts up has to do the work of three people, he has to endure the taunts of the older employees and quickly ends up disgusted with the work.

And no one consoles them!

By reading verses v6-8, Ecclesiastes warns us

Laziness is a temptation to which one can succumb. The fact of wanting to live only in order to « enjoy » life by remaining inactive as if the fact of being lazy would remove the difficulties of life. When we do not work, we  develop other types of difficulties, even unconsciously because the human being is made to be useful while working!

The Ecclesiastes tells us that Better is one hand full with rest, than two hands full with work and pursuit of the wind.

Another advantage that work offers us is to enjoy the rest. When we are not working, we do not benefit from a good fatigue and a good rest because laziness is not restful in itself.

We need to find the balance between rest and work; working too much, killing ourselves on the job for lack of rest is bad for our health and even for our colleagues.

There are even studies that show that working seven days a week is no more profitable than working six days a week.  In Japan, employees regularly take naps during their working hours in order to do more productive work and gain profitability.

According to an article by FranceMutuelle, when employees are well rested, they are more creative, in a better mood and their productivity increases by 35%.

A rested hand produces more precise, more thoughtful work, while two exhausted hands work with stress, lack of concentration and general fatigue. One rested hand does a better job than two tired hands.

The importance is not the quantity of working hands but it is working with rested hands to produce quality work.

Unlike laziness, for which we are not made, we can also fall into the quest of wanting to work too much, for example to earn more money, which will push us to work too much and destroy our life: family, lack of presence for our wife / husband, for our children and the family in general, which will have disastrous consequences in the long term.

We no longer clear our mind by doing various and varied activities based on our centers of interest.

We can destroy our social life to run after the infinity of work, to meet the demands of wealth that will never be satisfied or sometimes even for more noble reasons because our family is in need. This is called hyper-work.  This makes one alone as the Ecclesiaste says.

Unfortunately, all of these are the consequences of our disobedience that we inherit from Adam that we see in:  Genesis 3: 17-19

God said to Adam

Since you listened to your wife and ate the fruit of the tree that I had forbidden you to eat, the ground is cursed because of you. It is with difficulty that you will get your food from it throughout your life. It will bring forth thorns and thistles to you; and you will eat the produce of the ground.

With the sweat of your brow you will draw your bread out of it until you return to the earth, since you were taken from it. For you, you are dust, and you will return to dust.

The work in itself is not a consequence of Adam’s sin since God commanded men to work before sin entered the world as seen in Genesis 1:26.

In general, we know the vanities of work, the worries, the anxiety because we are sinners and according to Romans 8:20, the universe was subjected to vanity.

We can ask ourselves the same question as in Ecclesiastes 1: 3

What benefit does man get from all the trouble he takes under the sun?

But despite the sin of Adam and Eve and its consequences, work has its advantages, and this is the second point of this message.

2 The benefits of work

Ecclesiastes in verses 9 to 12 tells us

That work allows us to pull ourselves up among colleagues, that we each have our strengths and weaknesses and there is a complementarity, a dependence between us that is created.

God created the human being as a social being and it is a gift that he has given us.

Work strengthens unity and mutual aid and it allows us to face adversity, various and varied difficulties in the communion that God has created because together we are always stronger.

If you have a colleague who is going through a painful situation in his family and who has trouble concentrating at work, we can relieve him of some of his work in order to comfort him.

When one is exhausted, the other picks it up and vice versa.

This gift from God is a tool to grow and make a good profit in the field of work.

The Ecclesiast tells us that selfishness and jealousy are counterproductive.

Ecclesiastes says in verse 5 that the stupid man crosses his arms and destroys himself. So, on the contrary, it means that the intelligent man works and builds himself.

Building oneself, edifying oneself, is an advantage that God offers us through work.


3 Let’s work with the gospel!

In verses 13 to 16, Ecclesiastes tells us about the vanity of political power

The question we can ask ourselves is

Who will we turn to for help when we have economic and financial problems?

In our modern times, we hear a lot that it is not worth working because our government would take too many taxes and levies from us and that in the end, we no longer work for ourselves but for the state.

It is not because of the young age of the president, which would demonstrate a lack of experience, that France has dysfunctions as we often hear. The text says that it is stupidity and the fact of no longer letting oneself be warned that causes a country to go adrift.

The president and the authorities in general need to acquire wisdom in order to preside and manage an entire people in the best possible way.

The state is not the savior, in our French culture, we only count on the institution of the state to save our life and to improve it while the reality is different!

The reality is that only Jesus can save life and Jesus gives us power to improve it by the gift of work and to develop its creation.

So, it is certain that it is better to have leaders who lead with wisdom than bad leaders. But, our first hope is not in Man, nor in what he undertakes.

It is in Jesus, the savior who brings help and prosperity in work.

But beware, we cannot use God to prosper economically

God is not our second, nor a teammate, nor a helping hand to improve our influence and our professional progress, as we hear a lot today in the false gospel of prosperity. He is quite the opposite: he is the First and the Last in all our activities.

God can make you prosper economically, a little, a lot or not at all according to his sovereignty and his perfect will.

Work is a good thing created by God and I want to share this verse with you:

1 Corinthians 15:58

So, my beloved brothers and sisters, be firm, unwavering. Work better and better at the Lord’s work, knowing that your work will not be in vain in the Lord.

When no one consoles the afflicted, The Holy Spirit can do it.

Those stricken by loneliness, the oppressed, those who are not comforted by anyone can count on God

God sometimes allows trials to happen so that we can learn to run to him.

The Holy Spirit is the one who reminds us of Jesus’ commandments, how Jesus wants us to overcome the difficulties of work.

It is essential for the youngest to acquire wisdom by asking God, to ask him for discernment to see what to approve and understand what comes from God and what does not come from God. It is better to be a wise child than a king old in years and stupid according to verse 13

You have to be balanced and not follow the movement of the elastic (remember the elastic that you pull and that goes in the other direction when you let it go), but to follow the movement of the Holy Spirit, where he wants to take us.  That is to say, to see life as God sees it, in a balanced vision of the world, looking above the sun.

Conclusion / Applications:

Let us be grateful to God because he gives us work. Let us be thankful when we have no work, because it also allows us to forge ourselves and to realize the grace of having a job to simply live in contentment.

Another problem that is also present is that we look too much at what we don’t have instead of looking at what we have. We look too far below the sun instead of fixing our gaze above the sun and having an attitude of relying on God FIRST for our finances.

We need to look to Christ to get past the sun before everything breaks out in our family and social life.

Let’s not be lazy or overworked, we need to be balanced to give glory to God in our professional life.

Paul says in Romans 12:11 “Be zealous, not laziness. Be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord! « 

We can count on the work of the Holy Spirit who is the comforter, who can comfort those whom no one consoles. So, let’s seek to be constantly filled with his Spirit.

If you want your heart to rest in contrast to Ecclesiastes 2: 22-23, go to Jesus because we can find rest in him, because he is rest.

This text shows us that we must be witnesses of Jesus in our work.

Baptism is taking a stand for Christ in public, not only in the church, but also it is also a witness outside, in the workplace.

I pray that this text of Ecclesiastes 4 will remain attached to our hearts until the end of our days under the sun.