What do people gain from all their labors at which they toil under the sun? Generations come and generations go, but the earth remains forever.
I was convinced that they were not your regular, ordinary weeds. They must have been some form of super weeds. At first, it was not that bad. As I saw a weed sprout either in the flower bed or the gravel driveway, I would pull it and be on my way. Over time, it seemed like I was encountering more weeds daily. I would cut, pull, and spray, but it never ended. Even through the mulch, the weeds would appear. I went away for a few days, and I returned to quite a mess. If I did not keep up the constant work, it soon would be undone. I kept thinking that one day I would be long gone from this world but those weeds would still be growing, outliving me and getting the last laugh.
Those who toil in the land know that their work is never done. One can spend enormous amounts of time clearing land in order to plant a crop, but the planting must be done before the land undoes all that work. Even once the field is planted, there is a cycle of labor. One does not prepare the land, plant, then reap harvest after harvest. Each harvest leads to the next round of preparing, planting, and harvesting. And once the harvest comes in, that crop creates more work. Then, one day, the farmer will pass away, and that work will fall to another. Centuries will go by and with them generations, but that land will continue on its predicted course. For those whose lives are defined by or rooted in that labor, there is no gain.
I read this passage, and I see Solomon looking for meaning behind the work. The work itself is not the value. He is looking for something of value that outlasts the labor so that is can be justified as worthwhile. The labor must produce something else, or it is simply a meaningless way to pass the time. That is where the Lord comes in. When we live through him and work through him, we find labor worthy of the work because of its eternal impact. There is a purpose to our toiling when we toil for the Lord. Father, help us to see the eternal value in our labor, and keep us from making an idol out of our work.