Again I saw something meaningless under the sun: There was a man all alone; he had neither son nor brother. There was no end to his toil, yet his eyes were not content with his wealth. ‘‘For whom am I toiling,” he asked, ‘‘and why am I depriving myself of enjoyment?” This too is meaningless—a miserable business! Ecclesiastes 4:7-8
Before you read any further, go back and read those two verses again. Out loud. Now think for a moment. Who do you know that fits this profile? I think we all know at least one person like the man Solomon describes in verses 7-8.
Now that you have a name in mind, I’d like to describe this person. I think I know him well. I’ve met him many times. More than anything else, this man believes in the value of hard work and the inherent dignity of a job well done. He’s probably married and has at least three children whose pictures he carries in his wallet. He loves his wife and thinks about her more than she knows. It’s true he works long hours—often he’s gone by six in the morning and doesn’t come home until after seven at night. The pressures at work are so enormous that it takes him an hour or two to unwind so he doesn’t spend much time talking in the evening. He’s so tired that it’s all he can do to read the paper, watch a little television and then go wearily to bed. His blood pressure is too high, he knows he needs to exercise, his diet isn’t the best, and sometimes he’s irritable and snaps at his family—and regrets it later.
It’s true that he works 80 hours a week, but he doesn’t think of himself as a workaholic. He simply loves his job and he’s good at it. And thankfully, he’s able to bring home a nice paycheck so he can provide good things for his family. One of these days he plans to slow down and smell the coffee. But not today. He gulps his coffee and heads for the door before his family knows he’s gone.
One evening he comes home and his family is gone. While he was at work, the kids grew up, his wife went back to college and found a career of her own, his children moved out, and now the house is empty. He can’t believe it. The Board of Directors just named him CEO. Now there’s no one to share the good news with. He made it to the top—alone. This too is meaningless.
Slow me down, Lord, lest I jump the tracks and ruin my life. Amen.
Ray Pritchard pastored in Los Angeles, Dallas and Chicago. Married to Marlene for 38 years, he enjoys being a husband, a father and a grandfather, riding his bike, and playing with Dudley and Gary, beloved basset hounds.