John Piper: Wealth, work, and reflection

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Whoever loves money never has enough; whoever loves wealth is never satisfied with their income. This too is meaningless. As goods increase, so do those who consume them. And what benefit are they to the owners except to feast their eyes on them? The sleep of a laborer is sweet, whether they eat little or much, but as for the rich, their abundance permits them no sleep.

I have seen a grievous evil under the sun: wealth hoarded to the harm of its owners, or wealth lost through some misfortune, so that when they have children there is nothing left for them to inherit. Everyone comes naked from their mother’s womb, and as everyone comes, so they depart. They take nothing from their toil that they can carry in their hands.

This too is a grievous evil: As everyone comes, so they depart, and what do they gain, since they toil for the wind? All their days they eat in darkness, with great frustration, affliction and anger.

This is what I have observed to be good: that it is appropriate for a person to eat, to drink and to find satisfaction in their toilsome labor under the sun during the few days of life God has given them—for this is their lot. Moreover, when God gives someone wealth and possessions, and the ability to enjoy them, to accept their lot and be happy in their toil—this is a gift of God. They seldom reflect on the days of their life, because God keeps them occupied with gladness of heart. Ecclesiastes 5:10-20

“From a biblical perspective our work involves much more than our paid job as it includes such things as caring for others and caring for creation. Although we can bring an attitude of leisure to all these work activities, when we build non-work time into our schedule we need to remember that we need leisure time away from all these types of work and not just our job, and we also need to be open to leisure moments throughout the day. Furthermore, it is important not to overvalue our job activities, as these other work activities and our leisure activities are also important components of our life as Christians.”

John Piper in “Rethinking Our Relaxing” in Desiring God blog post 24 January 2016.

On my day of rest yesterday, I took time to reflect on work.

It may sound odd but I am realizing that I need to resist the temptation to which I have succumbed too many times. Namely, to work too much and to make work an idol, so I become a slave to it rather than experience the gift of playing my part in God’s greater work. Making this mistake leads to darkness, frustration, and affliction.

Solomon adds that workers seldom reflect on the days of their life.

Piper inspired me then to think about the important work that has nothing to do with my job, that is, caring for others and caring for creation. For some, generosity is earning income to have resources to give. But we can become consumed by work and wealth in the process, especially if we hoard it.

So what should we do as we start another week of work?

The lesson today for generosity is to ceasing toiling for the wind. Stop making work an idol as it can never satisfy. Stop hoarding wealth as there will never be enough. Instead, reflect and work in a holistic sense by doing our job and also demonstrating care for people and all of creation.

When we do this we will experience happiness and others will be blessed by our generosity.