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Dealing with Work as Fruitless and Pointless

We continued our study of the way God desires our faith to interact and affect our chosen profession. For this we are using Timothy Keller’s book Every Good Endeavor (2012).  Tonight’s session covered how work can sometimes become fruitless or pointless.

For the last two months we have discussed what was God’s original design for our work. Work was to be an endeavor of dignity designed to bear fruit at all times and would serve to cultivate the world we were placed in. Work’s purpose was to serve God and our fellow man.  But as was mentioned several times during our previous discussions, in our world, work is usually not like that at all. Work is often looked upon as a drudgery and it can be exhausting, boring, and filled with frustrations. So the obvious question is why is our work not like what God designed it to be. The brief answer is sin – we live in a broken world.

We read Gen 3:1-19 which describes the fall of man and the consequences laid out by God. In this passage we discussed the numerous sinful characteristics that Adam and Eve display immediately upon having tried to make themselves god-like and choosing to disobey.  We see them displaying shame (vs.7), mistrust and fear (Vs10), and selfishness and willingness to blame others for their actions(Vs12-13). We discussed how each of these sins creep into our work day and affect how we deal with situations we face in our career.  In Vs16 we see how sin has damaged the intended relationship between men and women. This lead to to a discussion of work relations between men and women and what types of tensions we see played out at work. Lastly the passage clearly states in Vs 17-19 that because of sin, our work will forever be a toil by the sweat of our brow and that we will often only gain thorns and thistles instead of the fruit we were expecting. Members of the group shared how work has been less fruitful than they hoped and what thorns they were presently facing.

Then we briefly turned to a discussion of work as sometimes feeling pointless. This can occur even when a person does achieve great success and wealth in their chosen profession. It is the story of the unhappy rich man who finds himself asking what next. This is the topic of the entire Book of Ecclesiastes in which is described an attempt to gain meaning, satisfaction and fulfillment from increased wealth, education, pleasure, work or advancement. None of which works. Ecc 2:17 states that all work “done under the sun” is pointless. We discussed the key phrase in the passage is “under the sun” which alludes to work (or for that matter any of the other endeavors mentioned) done simply for this world without the perspective of the eternal. Some of the members of the group shared instances in which their work sometimes felt pointless. We discussed how maintaining a perspective of serving God in our work and how remembering for whom we are truly working can help avoid the feeling of pointlessness.

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