The Futility of Human Toil

Farmer on land

I made great works. I built houses and planted vineyards for myself. I made myself gardens and parks, and planted in them all kinds of fruit trees. I made myself pools from which to water the forest of growing trees. I bought male and female slaves, and had slaves who were born in my house. I had also great possessions of herds and flocks, more than any who had been before me in Jerusalem. I also gathered for myself silver and gold and the treasure of kings and provinces. I got singers, both men and women, and many concubines, the delight of the sons of man.

So I became great and surpassed all who were before me in Jerusalem. Also my wisdom remained with me. And whatever my eyes desired I did not keep from them. I kept my heart from no pleasure, for my heart found pleasure in all my toil, and this was my reward for my toil. Then I considered all that my hands had done and the toil I had expended in doing it, and behold, all was vanity and a striving after the wind, and there was nothing to be gained under the sun.

So I turned to consider wisdom and madness and folly. For what can the man do who comes after the king? Only what has already been done. Then I saw that there is more gain in wisdom than in folly, as there is more gain in light than in darkness. The wise person has his eyes in his head, but the fool walks in darkness. And yet I perceived that the same event happens to all of them.

Then I said in my heart, “What happens to the fool will happen to me also. Why then have I been so very wise?” And I said in my heart that this also is vanity. For of the wise as of the fool there is no enduring remembrance, seeing that in the days to come all will have been long forgotten. How the wise dies just as the fool! So I hated life, because what is done under the sun was grievous to me, for all is vanity and a striving after wind.

From the book of Ecclesiastes in the Bible.


I think I may have shared the above passage on the blog before, but it doesn’t matter. It is timeless in its message and in its beauty. I find it comforting to reflect on the futility, or ‘vanity’ (also sometimes translated ‘meaninglessness’) of everything we do during our lives as human beings.

Consider the matter yourself โ€” in three billion years time, what will be the legacy of everything that you currently strive to achieve? When looked at in its broader context, is anything you do really meaningful?

One message that comes out of the book of Ecclesiastes is that we should take pleasure in our toil, and simply enjoy our food and drink, because in light of the big picture concerning who we are and the ultimate meaninglessness of all things, this is perhaps the best way to approach life.

Perhaps those who celebrate the idea of ‘living in the now’ have caught onto the same kind of truth that Solomon is expressing in the book of Ecclesiastes. Though, having said this, it’s important to place the book of Ecclesiastes in the wider context of the Bible in which it appears; a context which says that the purpose of human life is to serve and glorify God through a relationship with Jesus Christ.

I find it interesting to consider whether any earthly service to Jesus Christ will matter in billions of years. It’s certainly true that the Christian Gospel gives believers the hope of ‘eternal life’, but this is an idea which is difficult for the finite mind to grasp. As I have commented elsewhere, eternity is a very, very, very long time. Jesus apparently walked the Earth two thousand years ago, but isn’t two millennia like a mere blink of an eye in the grand scheme of things? What of all the civilizations and universes that God may have created billions of years in the past, or may create billions of years in the future?

Pascal’s Wager makes a compelling case for accepting the Christian Gospel โ€” perhaps it is too dangerous not to do so. But do we really have any choice in the matter anyway? The New Testament describes how salvation only ever comes due to the electing grace of God, and if this is the case, salvation is entirely within God’s control, and entirely outside of our control.

I hope that anyone who finds these thoughts that I am sharing interesting will consider reading my book entitled The Only Question You Ever Need Ask. The book, which is an essay in book form, focuses on a single question which I believe gets to the heart of the matter of whether or not to embrace Christianity. The book may not provide you with a conclusive answer on the matter, but it will certainly cause you to think through many of the central issues related to the Christian Gospel; including salvation, eternity, predestination, and the afterlife. To pick up a copy of the book, click here. Thank you for reading!

9 Comments on “The Futility of Human Toil

  1. G’day Steven, i hope you are doing good, and things with your family have gotten better dude.

    When you asked if anything we do really meaningful, what came to mind was what Jesus said in the sermon on the mount about not laying up for ourselves treasures on earth where rust and moth destroy and thieves break in and steal. Where our treasure is our heart will be also i think it says elsewhere…

    Thanks for sharing.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Interesting. Where is your book available?

    2021 has begun well for me – just published my first book – 4 Pillars of Abundant Life

    I wish and pray that 2021 is great for you too.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hey friend, itโ€™s available from Amazon, Apple, Barnes and Noble, Rakuten (Kobo) and many other places – I believe I put a link in the article to a page that will connect you to your preferred retailer. You can click here to see the list. Many thanks ๐Ÿ˜Š

      Liked by 1 person

      • Tried both Amazon.com and Amazon India but the book didnโ€™t show up in results ๐Ÿค”

        Like

        • Sorry about that, when I search โ€˜The Only Question Colborneโ€™ on Amazon.com it is the first result. WordPress won’t let me link to my Amazon Author Page but I’m pretty sure if you search my name, at least some of my books will show up, and then you will be able to click on my name to see the full list. Sorry for any inconvenience! ๐Ÿ˜Š

          Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: