Ashes: Toil // Purpose

March 17

Writer: Casey Fiore

Key Passages: Ecclesiastes 2; Proverbs 3:5-6; Philippians 4; 1 Tim. 6:6-12

Big Idea: As we reflect on Solomon’s life – if it could be built, he built it. If it could be owned, he owned it. If it could be taken, he took it. There was nothing in Solomon’s life he did not have access to and yet at the end he finds himself unhappy. Scripture does not call us as much to a life of happiness as it does to a life of contentment. To live life with wisdom is to recognize seasons in which we have plenty and seasons of need, yet God gives us the ability to be content. Jesus calls us to seek first His Kingdom which grants us an invaluable gift of contentment. What gives our life meaning: Contentment.

Let’s talk about the New England Patriots for a minute. They are a polarizing entity in the sports world. Everyone, however, seems to agree on one thing: Tom Brady is a great quarterback. It seems irrefutable: the man has six Super Bowl rings. As a die-hard Minnesota Vikings fan who can’t comprehend the idea of one title, much less six, I tend to disdain the Patriots, Brady and their dynastic rule over the sport. I usually refer to them as the Yankees of the NFL, but I digress.

In a 2005 interview, before DeflateGate and after winning only a paltry three Super Bowls, Brady sat down for a TV interview. The interviewer asked what he had learned about himself in the process of winning three titles. Brady replied, “Well, it puts an incredible amount of pressure on me. … Why do I have three Super Bowl rings, and still think there’s something greater out there for me? … I reached my goal, my dream, my life. God, it’s gotta be more than this. … I mean, I’ve done it. I’m 27. And what else is there for me?” The interviewer asked what the answer was, and Brady said, “I wish I knew.”

As far as we know, Tom Brady didn’t co-write the book of Ecclesiastes with Solomon, but it seems they would have had plenty to talk about. Solomon was the biblical times equivalent of being a multi-millionaire, world-class athlete who’s married to a supermodel. Yet we see Tom Brady’s moment of existential crisis is not new.

Solomon had conquered every domain a king could – he had endless property, wealth, ability and wisdom. He denied himself nothing and he loved his work, but when he looked over everything at the end of his days, he says, “Nothing was gained” (Eccl. 2:10-11).

Solomon’s reflection on work is interesting when we consider the origins of work are good. Even in Eden before the Fall, God had tasks for Adam and Eve to do. We see there that work is not inherently bad. After the Fall, though, work turned to toil. We, like Solomon, can grow resentful because work seems purposeless against the backdrop of eternity (Eccl. 2:17-18). We can be grieved by work – our pay is too low, our title not prestigious enough, our career not moving fast enough.

Thankfully, Solomon clues us in to how we can find contentment, “A person can do nothing better than eat and drink and find satisfaction in their own work. This too, I see, is from the hand of God, for without Him, who can eat or find enjoyment?” (Eccl. 2:24-25). God gives good gifts to His children, including the ability to be content in all circumstances. Contentment is not complacency, but rather a recognition that we can do nothing better than receive God’s provision with gratitude in our hearts and praise on our lips.

Readings: Ecclesiastes 2

Discussion Questions:

  • Share a recent frustration from work. How did you work through those feelings to continue working well?
  • Philippians 4:4 says, “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!” What ways have you found to rejoice in the Lord, even in the midst of trial? How do you balance this command with being honest with God?
  • Read Proverbs 3:5-6. How does our trust in God play in to the idea of contentment in all circumstances?
  • In 1 Timothy 6, Paul warns against false teachers who believe godliness is a means to financial gain. Read 1 Timothy 6:6-8. How can we balance our desire for advancement with our call to contentment in a hyper-ambitious place like Silicon Valley?

Daily Readings:

3/18 Ecclesiastes 3:1-8

3/19 Ecclesiastes 3:9-15

3/20 Ecclesiastes 3:16-22

3/21 Ecclesiastes 4:1-6

3/22 Ecclesiastes 4:7-12

3/23-24 – Ecclesiastes 3:1-10

Prayer Focus: Let’s pray God would free us from the desire to create contentment for ourselves, but that we would seek first His kingdom for ultimate contentment.