There is nothing better for a person than that he should eat and drink and find enjoyment in his toil. This also, I saw, is from the hand of God, for apart from him who can eat or who can have enjoyment? For to the one who pleases him God has given wisdom and knowledge and joy, but to the sinner he has given the business of gathering and collecting, only to give to one who pleases God. This also is vanity and a striving after wind.
I pride myself on being a hard worker...though some days I wonder if this is more pride and less a fair evaluation of my work ethic. Still I try to live up to the standard of my heroes. I try not to give in when things get difficult or give up when something doesn't quite come together. This is good, but there are limits. It is possible for a person to work himself into the ground. It's also possible to work and work and work and never quite get anywhere.
The teacher who wrote Ecclesiastes understands this well. He laments the vanity of life, the cyclical nature of our world that makes it hard for any one man to make a lasting impact.
All is vanity. What does man gain by all the toil at which he toils under the sun? A generation goes, and a generation comes, but the earth remains forever. The sun rises, and the sun goes down, and hastens to the place where it rises. (Ecc. 1:2-5)
You do the laundry, and the clothes get dirty again. You mow the lawn, and the grass keeps growing. No matter how hard you work there will always be something else to do and what you have done will almost invariably undo itself again. So how are we to live in a world this maddening?!
Our passage for the day gives us insight. We should be careful not to get caught up rushing, rushing, rushing all the time... doing things that don't make any lasting change. Ultimately, we can't break completely free of the cycles of life. In some ways we are stuck on this hamster wheel. We can run as fast as we can but all we'll accomplish is making the wheel spin faster. We aren't really getting anywhere.
Instead, the teacher challenges us to pause. To look around us and consider what God has blessed us with and what has come out of all our hard work. Take time to enjoy the gifts God has given you, not selfishly, but expressly as gifts from God. Take time to thank Him for these things. You just may find that taking time to pause and turning to God in gratefulness will foster more spiritual growth than all your activity ever has.