Things at the Hoosier Country Homestead have been pretty much the same over the last week. The green beans are producing, the tomatoes are still coming in, and everything else is looking pretty good given its weedy condition. The chickens are cranking out eggs and complaining (bitterly) about being thrown out of the tomato beds. There is, as always, plenty of work to be done and it’s that ‘plenty of work’ that I’ve been pondering this week.
I’ve been reading through the book of Ecclesiastes in my morning ‘quiet’ times and have noticed something of a recurring theme in the first 5 chapters. Ecclesiastes is not a real popular ‘read’, but as you may or may not recall, this is the book that contains the “There is a time for everything, and a time for every activity under heaven:” passage. You remember:
“A time to be born and a time to die,
A time to plant and a time to uproot,…”
This passage, made popular by The Byrds in the 1965 classic “Turn, Turn, Turn”, usually gets the spotlight for this book but it is something else that has captured my attention.
As Solomon, pretty much universally considered to be the writer, is pondering the value of earthly things apart of God he goes through the list of everything generally thought to be of value and worthwhile. The list is pretty much the same today as it was some (almost) 3000 years ago when the book was written. Wealth, pleasures from the sensual to the “good life”, accomplishment of great projects, prestige and position, and a few others. He comes always to the same conclusion: “...everything was meaningless, a chasing after the wind, nothing was gained under the sun.”
Tucked in among the lists of things he’s considered and the ‘everything is meaningless’ verses is the thing that has caught my eye: It appears, in some variation, four times in the first five chambers. It goes like this in the third chapter. (For those who care, this is out of the NIV.) “I know that there is nothing better for men than to be happy and do good while they live. That everyone may eat and drink, and find satisfaction in all his toil – this is the gift from God.” In other places it appears as, “A man can do nothing better than to eat and drink and find satisfaction in his work. This too, I see, is from the hand of God, for without him, who can eat or find enjoyment?”
It is so popular and so easy for us to look at ‘work’ as a four-letter-word. We look forward being “off work” and to “retiring from work”. We complain about work, look for better work, try to avoid work, buy things to reduce our work, and all the while wonder why we ‘just aren’t happy’. Work is more often than not considered something bad and something good to be done with.
The thing I have noticed in this book is that it is not the accomplishments that come from our work that are to be our satisfaction, it is the work itself that is to be our source of earthly fulfillment. I don’t know about the rest of you, but this is a pretty easy thing for me to forget when you’re outside on a very humid day, fighting off mosquitoes while trying get your early potatoes dug, garden weeded, or critters taken care of.
But still it is there in the Bible and, contrary to the popular culture and, too often my own short-sightedness, I believe it to be true. I’ve been trying, over the last couple of weeks, to slow down while I’m working, just for moment, to be "in the moment”. I take these intentional moments to thank God for work he’s given me to do, and to ask for strength and wisdom enough to do it all for His glory. As I look out over the place I can see that there will be plenty of opportunities between now and winter for me practice being thankful, just for the work. We are blessed!