The Teacher of Ecclesiastes has repeatedly stated, “Everyone can do nothing better than to eat and drink and find satisfaction in his work (toilsome labor) under the sun during the few days of life God has given him. This is from the hand of God, a gift. Then joy will accompany him in his work. Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man.” (2:24, 3:12-13, 5:18-20, 8:15, 9:7, 12:13-14).
The approach to life under heaven, in the Teacher’s view, is to find satisfaction in work. Yet he also states that work is toilsome. Toilsome labor can bring frustration, disgruntlement, anger, and even hate. So how to have satisfaction in toilsome labor?
The first direction to enabling the best that life can be made into is to have endurance (8). “The end of a matter is better than its beginning…” When either I set my will to do something or when something is thrust on me I need to keep the goal and prize at the end of the task in mind. Surely life under the sun since Adam and Eve were forced out of the garden setbacks and disappointments will come. The greater the task, the more toil is needed. By keeping my eye on the goal I will be able to continue and in even start the task over.
The second direction is related to the first. I need to be patient (8). When setting a goal and keeping my will set on the goal impatience creeps into my heart. I want the goal now. So I am tempted to take shortcuts and accept mediocre results as the labor continues. This brings setbacks and diminishes to gift of satisfaction of a work well done when the job is finished. “By standing firm, you will gain life.” (Luke 21:11)
The third direction to the approach to a task and a job is to be slow to anger (9). “Do not be quickly provoked in your spirit to anger…” Often, if not always when in the middle of the strive to reach a goal there will be people and events that will cause even the calmest to be provoked into anger. The ability to control anger is gained and matured through continual execution of it. One of the unrecognized gifts of toilsome labor is that it presents times to improve the resistance to be quickly moved to an angry reaction.
When Jesus was teaching in the temple he saw the evil conducting of business in the temple courts that interfered with praying and his teaching. At that time he was not quick to anger. He surveyed the religious crime and left the temple in the evening. He prayed and returned the next day. This is when he upset the exchange tables and chasted out the business activities in the temple. (Mark 10:11-20)
So then, three important tools for gaining satisfaction in work are to have patience and endurance, to be patient, and to not be quickly provoked in my spirit to anger.