What do workers gain from their toil? I have seen the burden God has laid on the human race. God has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end. I know that there is nothing better for people than to be happy and to do good while they live. That each of them may eat and drink, and find satisfaction in all their toil—this is the gift of God.
He was baptized Felice Leonardo Buscaglia, but many remember him as Leo Buscaglia, or, “Dr. Hug”. While teaching at USC the suicide of Buscaglia’s prize student led him on a search for the meaning of life. That deep soul searching made him a sought after lecturer, and one of Public Broadcasting’s most popular speakers. His gregarious passion for life was infectious to all who heard him. Strangers would see Dr. Hug on the street and run up to him for a welcoming embrace.
One of my favorite stories was about his immigrant “Mama”. His telling of the story never failed to bring tears and make him cry. One day his father came home and sorrowfully announced that his business partner had embezzled funds and the Buscaglia family had lost all its money. That evening Mama left and did something that angered everyone. Mama sold her most expensive piece of jewelry to get money to buy the necessary food for an extravagant Italian feast for the family. When her family scolded Mama for such prodigal waste, she declared: “The time for joy is now when we need it and not next week!” Buscaglia described how Mama’s feast that night rallied everyone and lifted them through some difficult days.
When my wife Melodee died from cancer in 1986, I also had to do some deep soul searching about the meaning of life. What would I do with my life? How would I go about living? Somehow I knew that I had to work through the Book of Ecclesiastes and follow Solomon as he wrestles with life’s imponderables. In those sometimes dark and confusing days I came to Solomon’s conclusion in Ecclesiastes that time for joy must not be put off.
I do not know another book in the Bible, or in literature, that is so forthright and biting in the way Solomon takes on the mysteries and conundrums of human existence. Solomon looks at life squarely and comes to the God-inspired conclusion that the time for joy is now. You might be encouraged by spending some moments pondering a few verses of Solomon’s verses about the need for hearty celebration in the midst of life’s slings and arrows: see 2:24-26; 5:18; 8:15; 9:7-8.
Today’s Scripture text is one from Ecclesiastes that especially spoke to me in my soul searching. It begins with Solomon asking the burning question “What do workers gain from their toil?” Solomon uses language straight from the world of business, about calculating gains and losses and profit margins. Solomon is essentially asking, “What do all my efforts mean?” “What is the profit in my joys and sorrows? Do I come out a winner or a loser in life?”
After asking what is to be gained from all our toil Solomon then goes for the bottom line: “God has made everything beautiful in its time.” Some day we will see how all our toil and troubles fit. It will all make sense to us, one day. God works on a canvas so large that “no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end.”
So in the mean time “I know that there is nothing better for people than to be happy and to do good while they live. That each of them may eat and drink, and find satisfaction in their toil.”
The time for celebration and joy is today. This is, Solomon says, “the gift of God.” So let’s not try to figure it all out! Let’s just go ahead and enjoy! This is God’s gift to us!
Grace and peace,