This is the case of a man who is all alone . . . who works hard to gain as much wealth as he can (v.8).
Sorting through some old papers, I found a yellowed pay-stub that showed I had worked 100 hours in the span of 7 days. It’s crazy—I know, since there are only 168 hours in a week. As I fingered the faded document, I tried to recall the project that had required so much of my time many years ago. I looked at the date, but I still couldn’t remember what had been so important at the office.
If I had continued that kind of overtime for the length of my corporate career, I might have ended up like the guy Solomon described—the one who was “all alone, without a child or a brother, yet who work[ed] hard to gain as much wealth as he [could]” (Ecclesiastes 4:8). Although overworking sometimes produces great wealth, Solomon warned that it is “meaningless to think that wealth brings true happiness” (5:10).
True success in life includes serving God, befriending others, and preserving lasting relationships. When work crowds out these aspects of life, we need to “be wise enough to know when to quit” (Proverbs 23:4). Quitting doesn’t necessarily mean leaving a job altogether; it may mean clocking out earlier each day in favor of family time, refusing to obsess over job tasks, or taking time off to go on a missions trip.
So, if your BlackBerry chirps during church, and your iPad chimes all through dinner, ask God to help you manage your work life. Ask for the courage to push away from the desk for needed rest (Mark 6:31), and for the wisdom (James 1:5) to know how to work hard without becoming enslaved to an occupation.
If you don’t, you might just wake up one day and wonder, “Who am I working for? And why am I giving up so much pleasure right now?” (Ecclesiastes 4:8).
—Jennifer Benson Schuldt
Why is overworking sometimes viewed (wrongly) as a good thing? Why is it difficult to conquer an addiction to work?