Yesterday, I mentioned the work that Jim performed, transforming a 110-year-old dairy barn into a wonderful home. About a week back, I spoke about the ramp that I was building to allow handicapped access to the deck and therefore the interior of that home. Yesterday, I completed that ramp, applying two sets of boards between the railing and the floor to keep particularly careless scooter drivers from plunging to their deaths off the side.
So, aside from the momentary praise of my wife–which isn’t a bad thing–what do I get out of all the work that I put in on that ramp. For one thing, my bank account is several hundred dollars lighter. For another, and more lasting outcome, I’ll probably see a procession of people with blue handicapped placards in their cars parking at the foot of the ramp and rolling up to bless my home with their presence. Already, my mother-in-law has used the ramp to come over for lunch. What other travails await me?
My biggest chore yesterday was not the installation of those last 12 boards. They went in with little challenge. No, the biggest chore was getting all of the leftover wood and the vast array of tools and screws picked up and taken back to their dwelling place in the basement. As I did all of that, I had some time to think on my ramp.
What does our work give us other than a few dollars that buy transitory things and illusory security?
It will never look better than it does right now. It will never be stronger than it is right now. It will never be more plumb and level than it is right now. If I’m lucky, I won’t have to perform any adjustments, repairs, or reinforcements to the ramp for five years, but those tasks will come. The moment you put wood, even pressure-treated wood, out into the elements, it begins changing, and not for the better. I don’t know if that’s what Solomon had in mind, but it’s what pops into my mind when I read Ecclesiastes 2:22-23:
For what does a person get with all his work and all his efforts that he labors at under the sun? For all his days are filled with grief, and his occupation is sorrowful; even at night, his mind does not rest. This too is futile.
Part of me wants to accuse Solomon of being melodramatic. “You were the king, man! Snap out of this gloomy routine!” I want to shout. I understand what he is saying, but I feel as if he overplays his point. On the other hand, I’ve never been a king.
An old country song might describe the perils of being a king, whose mind does not rest:
How many times have
You heard someone say
If I had his money
I could do things my way.
But little they know
That it’s so hard to find
One rich man in ten
With a satisfied mind.
It seems that most people work at either mind-numbing or back-breaking jobs, or if their work is more in the head, then they can’t lay it down when the end of the shift comes along. And what does our work give us other than a few dollars that buy transitory things and illusory security?
Perhaps the real glory of the Sabbath is that it allows us to take a time out from this pointless work “under the sun” so that we can focus on the One who is beyond the sun.