Be Satisfied by Work
“It is God’s gift to man that every one should eat and drink and take pleasure in all his toil.”—Eccl. 3:13, RS.
1. What does Jehovah choose to do, and how does doing it affect him?
JEHOVAH is supreme in all the universe. There is no head over him. He takes orders from no one. He is accountable to no one. He has absolute freedom to do as he pleases, to do either this or that or something else. He chooses the course that makes him happy and he is known as the happy God. The happifying course he chooses is to work. He is not wearied by work: “The everlasting God, Jehovah, the Creator of the ends of the earth, fainteth not, neither is weary.” Hence it could not be in the sense of needing to recuperate that he refreshed himself at the end of the sixth creative day: “In six days Jehovah made the heavens and the earth and on the seventh day he desisted and proceeded to refresh himself.” Jehovah did not desist or rest from all work, but just from this particular creative work, and upon its completion he contemplated it and noted that it was very good, up to his standard of perfection, and he was refreshed and satisfied by the accomplishment of this work of highest quality. To see this fine work completed was a joy and a satisfaction and a refreshment to Jehovah the Creator.—Isa. 40:28, AS; Ex. 31:17, NW, margin.
2. What is Jesus’ choice, and with what results?
2 Proving Jehovah continues working during the sabbath or seventh day of the creative week are Jesus’ words: “My Father has kept working until now, and I keep working.” These words also show Jesus works. He does the work Jehovah assigns to him. He willingly and voluntarily does God’s work, and expressed delight in doing Jehovah’s will. He found it as nourishing and as satisfying and as refreshing as food; more so, in fact, for on one occasion when his disciples urged him to eat he responded: “My food is for me to do the will of him that sent me and to finish his work.” The joy of accomplishment would refresh him at the end of the work, dissipating any tiredness and leaving him satisfied and exhilarated.—John 5:17; 4:34, NW.
3. How was man equipped to work, and what assignment was he given when created?
3 Man was created in the image and likeness of God and Christ, with a measure of their attributes of wisdom, power, justice and love. By his wisdom man could know how to do things, by his power he would be able to do them, by his sense of justice he could use the fruits of his labor fairly, and by his quality of love he could go even beyond justice in dealing generously and unselfishly. He was made with the capacity to do good work and he was given work to do. When man was created, “Jehovah God proceeded to take the man and settle him in the garden of Eden to cultivate it and to take care of it.” Man and his wife were told to “be fruitful and become many and fill the earth and subdue it, and have in subjection the fish of the sea and the flying creatures of the heavens and every living creature that is creeping upon the earth.” What a wonderful privilege of work was given the first human pair when the earth with its plant and animal life was placed under their care and they were to fill it with their offspring, and Jehovah had given them the mental and physical capacities to enable them to accomplish the assignment perfectly!—Gen. 2:15; 1:28, NW.
4. Why did Jehovah give man work to do, and what findings now demonstrate the wisdom of this?
4 Jehovah did not give man this work to do to get out of doing it himself. He did it for man’s good, because man was equipped to work and would find happiness in doing this work that was within his capacities. It was for man’s pleasure and enjoyment and satisfaction that Jehovah assigned him suitable work. The work would fill his life, rout any possibility of boredom or dull monotony, and give him the satisfying feeling of being useful. Rather than the divine attributes’ being repressed or frustrated or stagnated by inactivity, they could find a proper outlet for full expression in the work assigned by Jehovah. Recent scientific studies confirm the Scriptural truth that man was made to work. They have shown that the majority of elderly persons in good health do not want to retire, that retirement more often brings boredom instead of happiness, and that investigators believe it makes bored and idle persons lose the will to live and actually cuts down on their life span. Hobbies do not satisfactorily replace work in the lives of retired persons. Enjoyed a few hours a week as a change and relaxation from regular work, they become tiresome when pursued full time. Also, hobbies usually fall short of this requirement, as stated in one article: “To maintain mental health a man must feel that he is doing work which serves a useful purpose.” To retire from good work is more of a blight than a blessing. So Jehovah acted for man’s good when he gave man an assignment of work.
5. What is Jehovah’s will concerning the fruits of man’s labor?
5 Jehovah does not want man deprived of the fruits of his labor. “The hard-working farmer,” wrote the apostle Paul, “must be the first to partake of the fruits.” Previously he had expounded this divine principle at greater length, saying: “Who plants a vineyard and does not eat of its fruit? Or who shepherds a flock and does not eat some of the milk of the flock? Am I speaking these things by human standards? Or does not the Law also say these things? For in the law of Moses it is written: ‘You must not muzzle an ox when it is treading out the grain.’ Is it oxen God is caring for? Or is it altogether for our sakes he says it? Really for our sakes it was written, because the man who plows ought to plow in hope and the man who threshes ought to do so in hope of being a partaker.” Even the oxen were to partake of the fruits of their labor. But are oxen the primary concern? If Jehovah safeguards the interests of the working brute, how much more so will he champion the welfare of working men! Paul is not here nullifying the divine rule of consideration for oxen, but by a forceful rhetorical construction he is showing that in comparison with men oxen are as nothing, and if the humane principle applies to oxen it applies with incomparably greater force to mankind, and especially to those laboring in Jehovah’s service and sowing spiritual things in the interests of others.—2 Tim. 2:6; 1 Cor. 9:7-11, NW.
6 The law concerning oxen that Paul quoted is found at Deuteronomy 25:4, and in that same book Jehovah directly concerns himself with men and their right to enjoy the results of their labors. The setting is important. The nation of Israel had just finished its wilderness sojourn and was poised on the plains of Moab for entry into the Promised Land. This land was occupied by fighting hordes of demon worshipers. The entry of Israel would precipitate war and in battle Israel would find itself outnumbered: “In case you should go out to the battle against your enemies and you have seen horses and war chariots, a people more numerous than you, you must not be afraid of them, for Jehovah your God is with you.” Nevertheless, notwithstanding the urgency of theocratic warfare and the pressing need for every able-bodied man in the fighting ranks, note these exemptions to military duty: “Who is the man that has built a new house and has not inaugurated it? Let him go and return to his house, for fear he may die in the battle and another man should inaugurate it. And who is the man that has planted a vineyard and not begun to use it? Let him go and return to his house, for fear he may die in the battle and another man should begin to use it.”—Deut. 20:1, 5, 6, NW.
7 Jehovah holds that a man should enjoy the fruits of his labor, that his work should not be in vain, without the reward of enjoying its good. This was to hold true even in the emergency of war, when every able man was sorely needed. He was to have the satisfaction of enjoying his work and not go to the battle front wondering whether he would return to enjoy living in his house or not, or whether some other man would live in it. The builder was to be the first to enjoy the results of that labor. Then, later on, he would respond to the call to war when it came and be able to fight with undivided attention, not plagued by thoughts that he would never enjoy the house he built, for then he would already have experienced that joy. The same was true with regard to the man who had planted a vineyard. He was to eat of its fruit before he went to war. This might mean an exemption of several years, since the law stipulated no fruitage was to be used the first three years, the fourth year’s produce was to be an offering to Jehovah, and not until the fifth year was the fruitage permitted for common or general use. Nevertheless, exemption held until the planter had partaken of the harvest.—Lev. 19:23-25.
8. How did Jesus show that work is a reward in itself?
8 By an illustration Jesus showed that work gives its own reward in joyfulness. A man was going on a trip, but before leaving he summoned his slaves and left them in charge of his interests, distributing his goods according to the varying abilities of his slaves. After a long absence he returned and called for an accounting. By diligent work the one caring for five talents doubled them, and the one caring for two talents doubled them, but the one left in charge of one talent was sluggish and did nothing with it and so gained nothing. Now, how were the two industrious workers rewarded? Were they told to take a vacation at the seashore or in the mountains? Was that their reward? No, their reward for hard work was, not a vacation, but, of all things, more work! To each of them in turn the master said: “Well done, good and faithful slave! You were faithful over a few things. I will appoint you over many things. Enter into the joy of your master.” The master’s joy was in this work, and by getting more of this work to do the diligent slaves entered more fully into their master’s joy. But what about the lazy slave that would not work? What happened to him? The decision was: “Take away the talent from him and give it to him that has the ten talents.” This should have overjoyed the lazy one. He did not want to work. Now the work was taken from him. He could spend his life loafing. But instead of rejoicing because of no work he went off weeping and gnashing his teeth.—Matt. 25:14-30, NW.
9. What purpose do vacations serve?
9 To be happy we need to work. True, we need some rest, a change for mind and body to mend frayed nerves and recuperate physical strength. The sabbath arrangement of the Mosaic law provided for such a relaxing change after a period of hard work. Vacations of limited duration are invaluable for renewing strength. But when the physical and mental and nervous energies have been restored by an enjoyable vacation we begin to get restless. The vacation has served its purpose. We have been made strong again for activity and we are ready to go to work. To continue the vacation beyond this point is to enter a period of boredom and restlessness and to court the demoralizing dangers of idleness. We want to get back to work. We miss the joy and satisfaction that come from useful employment.
10. What now replaces the love of work, and what results therefrom?
10 Jehovah wants men to take pleasure in work and enjoy its fruits: “I know that there is nothing better for them than to be happy and enjoy themselves as long as they live; also that it is God’s gift to man that every one should eat and drink and take pleasure in all his toil.” (Eccl. 3:12, 13, RS) Many are toiling today, but few are finding deep pleasure in it. Less and less is the satisfaction of accomplishment the reward for men’s labors; more and more the target of their efforts is money. It is the era of materialism, when pride in fine work has been eaten by the corrosion of greed, and zeal for artistic attainment bows before the idol of commercial gain. Replacing love of work by love of money results in deterioration of quality of work and artistic attainments. Money rules, and degraded persons pay for degraded products. They may have more materially, but they have less spiritually. Instead of finding their pleasure in their work they seek it in the accumulation of money, but their anxieties and neuroses and mental disorders cry out the failure of their course. In centuries past men wrote or painted or composed music in dingy quarters and finished their life in obscurity, but they were rewarded with satisfaction in their labors, and this driving zeal of theirs produced the recognized masterpieces in literature and art and music. The money-makers of today get the rewards they seek, like the scribes and Pharisees and Sadducees who did their works to be seen of men; but both miss the deep pleasure and contentment of satisfying accomplishment. Created to work and enjoy it, many today hate it and dodge it and instead court wealth and cater to the desires of the flesh and are soon engulfed in
THE VANITY OF MATERIALISM
11. How does Solomon seemingly contradict himself on the subject of work?
11 While Solomon was still faithful to Jehovah he was used to write many thought-provoking proverbs and meditations, and in the book of Ecclesiastes written by him the vanities in the life of men on earth are repeatedly emphasized. Work comes in for frequent notice and sometimes it seems as though Solomon contradicts himself on the subject, at times saying it is vain and futile and in other instances lauding it as man’s pleasure and a gift from God. For example, at Ecclesiastes 3:13, the theme text of this article, Solomon said that to eat and drink and get pleasure from work was God’s gift to man. Yet at Ecclesiastes 1:2, 3 (RS) he writes: “Vanity of vanities! All is vanity. What does man gain by all the toil at which he toils under the sun?” In the next chapter he recounts much of his work and says: “My heart found pleasure in all my toil, and this was my reward for all my toil.” But immediately he adds that it is all vanity because he will die just like the fool and the results of his toil will be left to others instead of being enjoyed by the toiler: “I hated all my toil in which I had toiled under the sun, seeing that I must leave it to the man who will come after me; and who knows whether he will be a wise man or a fool? Yet he will be master of all for which I toiled and used my wisdom under the sun. This also is vanity.” Nevertheless, he is soon repeating that work is pleasure: “There is nothing better for a man 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?”—Eccl. 2:10, 18, 19, 24, 25, RS.
12. What is frustrating about toil, and why is the work of some vain?
12 So a frustrating thing about toil was that its fruits could not always be enjoyed by the toiler because of the intervention of death. Then there were some whose work was vanity because even while living they did not enjoy its fruits but were misers, denying themselves pleasure in order to hoard their wealth: “Again, I saw vanity under the sun: a person who has no one, either son or brother, yet there is no end to all his toil, and his eyes are never satisfied with riches, so that he never asks, ‘For whom am I toiling and depriving myself of pleasure?’ This also is vanity and an unhappy business.” “A stranger enjoys them; this is vanity; it is a sore affliction.” Do you remember the Scriptural incidents previously noted showing that Jehovah wants each one to enjoy the fruits of his own labor? If this does not take place the labor is a futility and a vanity to the laborer.—Eccl. 4:7, 8; 6:2, RS.
13. What spirit mars much work today, and what is the balanced view?
13 “Again, I considered all labour and all excelling in work, that it is a man’s rivalry with his neighbour. This also is vanity and a striving after wind. The fool foldeth his hands together, and eateth his own flesh. Better is a handful of quietness, than both the hands full of labour and striving after wind.” (Eccl. 4:4-6, Jew. Pub.) With many the incentive to work is not the accomplishment of something worth doing but is an envious rivalry to outdo their fellow man. It is the pressure of competition and greed that drives them to work harder and better than their neighbor, and in a spirit of jealousy they try to equal or surpass the materialism of their neighbor. Modernly expressed, they are intent on “keeping up with the Joneses.” This is selfish and agitating, vexatious and vain. The other extreme is the fool that folds his hands in idleness, is overwhelmed by poverty, and consumes his own flesh in starvation. Better to follow a middle course, work calmly and peacefully, without agitation and envy of others’ possessions, and enjoy one sufficient handful in quiet contentment, than jealously to grasp two handfuls gained by bitter competition or to sit in want with two hands left empty by foolish laziness. Neither too much nor too little is good—the former makes men feel independent of God and the latter tempts them to thievery: “Give me neither poverty nor riches; feed me with the food that is needful for me: lest I be full, and deny thee, and say, Who is Jehovah? or lest I be poor, and steal, and use profanely the name of my God.”—Prov. 30:8, 9, AS.
14. How did Solomon show the vanity of heaping up riches, and how does the Midrash illustrate his words?
14 Of what lasting profit are the riches heaped up by troublesome and angry competition? As moderns say, “You can’t take it with you.” Solomon expressed it more eloquently: “Just as he emerged from his mother’s womb, naked does he return, going even as he came; and he carries away nothing of his toil which he can carry in his hand. This, indeed, is a sore evil: just as he came, so will he go; and what profit has he in that he toiled for the wind, and spent all his days in darkness and mourning, and in much trouble, sickness, and anger?” The Jewish Midrash illustrates this with a parable. A fox found a vineyard fenced in, but located one hole through which he might enter. He was a little too big, so he fasted for three days and became thin, then squirmed through the opening. Inside, he feasted on the grapes until he became fat again, so that when he tried to leave the vineyard he could not squeeze out the hole. He fasted another three days to get lean enough to wriggle out. When outside he gazed back at the vineyard and exclaimed: “All that is inside is indeed beautiful, but what advantage has one from you? As he enters so he leaves.” So it is with this world, ends the parable. We enter with nothing and leave the same way.—Eccl. 5:15-17, AT.
15. According to Solomon, and in removal of the seeming contradiction of observations on work, what work is vain and what work is not?
15 So of what good is it to devote oneself to materialism? Of what lasting advantage is it? To toil with that in view is vain. To work to accumulate wealth for hoarding is folly. To compete in jealous rivalry is a vexatious striving for the wind. To labor to heap up material treasure is as vain as idleness is foolish. We should work for our necessary food and drink and for the sheer enjoyment of work: “So, the good which I see to be worth while is that one should eat and drink and get enjoyment out of all his toil at which he toils under the sun during the course of his life which God grants him; for that is his lot.” Solomon called such work good, saw it, not as vanity, but worthwhile, and said it was his lot in the life Jehovah gives man. In the final analysis, Solomon did not ignore Jehovah nor recommend a life given over to fleshly indulgence without thought of God or the future: “The conclusion of the matter, all having been heard: Fear God and keep his commands; for this concerns all mankind, that God brings every work into judgment with regard to everything concealed, whether it be good or evil.” There is to be an accounting. We are to work in fear of Jehovah because he will finally judge our works, even the hidden ones, even the motives within our heart. Our work is to do good, in harmony with his commands. Such work is not a vanity. It does not perish with us, but continues in God’s remembrance and will gain us a favorable judgment. But more on this later.—Eccl. 5:18; 12:13, AT.
16. As a result of the inroads of materialism, what sickness and danger now confront the world?
16 Right now consider some closing observations on materialism. We hear much about it today. Communism is railed against as materialistic and is rightly condemned for it. But is not the whole world materialistic? Even those who claim to speak for God work for materialism, consider it practical, put their trust in it, and actually view as foolishly impractical the comparatively few that exercise faith in Jehovah and his Word and his new world. Concentrating on materialistic science, they are spiritually sick and the morality and integrity and championing of right principles by men of the world are dying out as expediency arguments and materialistic outlooks are becoming more alive and active in human affairs. The advance in materialism has been as great as the retreat in spirituality, and even a depraved world blinded by the superficial glitter of its material wealth is beginning to worry about the gloomy consequences of its spiritual poverty. Newsweek for March 29, 1954, said: “The magnificent scientific mind of man had devised the means of man’s total destruction. The laggard political mind of man would now struggle with the problem of saving man from his own ingenuity.” Malenkov said atomic war “means the death of world civilization.” Eisenhower admitted atomic war would mean “civilization destroyed.”
17. What does Toynbee point to as necessities if human life is to continue on earth?
17 Writing in the New York Times Magazine of December 26, 1954, the famed British historian Arnold J. Toynbee began: “What are our emotions as we approach this new year 1955? Are we feeling that the world needs a spiritual reawakening?” He says the world is under the spell of the West, but that the secular philosophy under which the West has been living is proving an inadequate guide. Because of the fanaticism and wars of false religions our forefathers before the close of the seventeenth century “took their treasure out of religion and reinvested it in natural science” and that this faith in science “has been the guiding inspiration of the West down to our own day, until at last its limitations and its weaknesses have been exposed as an ironical consequence of its dazzling success. . . . In our time, science has placed in human hands the power to destroy life on earth.” This hardened old world has not considered love feasible, but Toynbee next declares it to be the vital, practical need: “‘See, I have set before thee this day Life and Good and Death and Evil.’ Yahweh’s winged words to Israel ought to be ringing in our ears today. Now that the peoples of the world find themselves standing within point-blank range of one another with deadly weapons in their hands, the virtues of prudence, self-control, tolerance, wisdom and—far above all these—love have become necessities of life in the literal sense. Human life on earth cannot continue unless we ordinary men and women can manage to practice these virtues up to a far higher standard than we have thought it feasible, so far, to require of ourselves.”
18. How does U.S. News & World Report lament mushrooming materialism?
18 In U.S. News & World Report, December 31, 1954, David Lawrence wrote editorially: “A crass materialism has emerged to influence the mood of the age. Europe is thriving in a new-found prosperity stimulated by American dollars. ‘Neutralism’ and abandonment of principle are commonplace. In this country—where high standards of living, wages unprecedented in weekly amounts, creature comforts, gadgets and luxuries of an ‘abundant life’ are not only fostered as a social objective but underwritten as the paramount obligation of political government—there is less and less emphasis on morals and more and more subservience to the gods of expediency. Indeed, the ruling philosophy of the modern ‘intellectual’ is that ‘in the public interest’ Peter must be robbed to pay Paul and that, no matter what the words of the Constitution may say, the end justifies the means. This insidious germ permeates the bloodstream of government.”
19. According to a report in Science News Letter, what disease is most threatening today, what are its symptoms, and what is the remedy?
19 The Science News Letter for December 11, 1954, reported that according to Dr. Julian P. Price of the American Medical Association’s board of trustees “the disease threatening the nation today is spiritual, not physical or mental,” and the symptoms of the disease include “laxness of morals in our national government in recent years, the hold which organized vice has upon legislative and social life, increase in crime in our teen-age population, bribery and unethical conduct in amateur athletics, the mad search for pleasure which causes our people to spend four times as much for beverages as they do for religious and welfare activities.” His prescription? “The only remedy which is of any avail—and to this history bears testimony—lies in a change of heart. It is my sincere belief that the greatest need of our country today—and of our profession—is a spiritual rebirth, a return to God and to His eternal principles. And the rebirth must come in the heart of the average citizen.”
20. What ails this world?
20 Men are beginning to recognize that materialism is what ails them, that there needs to be a change of heart and a return to spiritual values. Otherwise life is stripped of its deeper joys. The joy of work is gone, with all effort measured by money. Recall the words of Solomon previously quoted, that when he said to eat and drink and enjoy work because it was given by God, he added: “For apart from him who can eat or who can have enjoyment?” (Eccl. 2:24, 25, RS) The work must be good work, done with right motives, in harmony with Jehovah’s purpose, a work given by his hand, and done according to principles of integrity and morality. But inasmuch as modern men have not considered this feasible and look upon it as hampering them in their mad scramble of competitively heaping up money and material goods, they have cast it off like shackles, only to find themselves imprisoned and frustrated by their own greed and their world cringing in terror because of a morally decadent materialism of atomic power.
21. Of what value will material wealth be at Armageddon?
21 Their quest for material wealth now harms them spiritually, and at Armageddon will do them no good physically. In these last days it testifies against them: “Come, now, you rich men, weep, howling over your calamities which are coming upon you. Your riches have rotted, and your outer garments have become moth-eaten. Your gold and silver are corroded, and their rust will be as a witness against you and will eat your fleshy parts. Something like fire is what you have stored up in the last days. You have lived in luxury upon the earth and have gone in for sensual pleasure.” Their materialism cannot deliver them from divine wrath: “Neither their silver nor their gold shall be able to deliver them in the day of Jehovah’s wrath; but the whole land shall be devoured by the fire of his jealousy: for he will make an end, yea, a terrible end, of all them that dwell in the land.” So useless will their money be that it will be thrown aside: “They shall cast their silver in the streets, and their gold shall be as an unclean thing; their silver and their gold shall not be able to deliver them in the day of the wrath of Jehovah.” Setting aside right principles to be unimpeded in accumulating wealth, they cast off what could deliver: “Riches profit not in the day of wrath; but righteousness delivereth from death.”—Jas. 5:1-3, 5, NW; Zeph. 1:18; Ezek. 7:19; Prov. 11:4, AS.
22. Why is much work today vain, but what work is not?
22 So many today no longer enjoy their work, competitive greed robs them of peaceful enjoyment of life, scientific materialism is a terrifying threat to their existence, and when they die they can carry none of the fruits of their toil with them. Truly such work is vanity. But with an appreciation of spiritual values man can enjoy his work, eat and sleep in peace of mind, have no fear of materialism, and even when he dies the beneficial fruits of his labor will not be lost to him. This work is not vanity, but yields deep satisfaction. The following article gives details.