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No Profit from Toil

No Profit from Toil

Oct 23, 2016

Passage: Ecclesiastes 1:3-11

Preacher: Tom Ascol

Series: Ecclesiastes - Real Life in a Fallen World

Category: Sunday Morning

Keywords: employment, emptiness, labor, vanity, work


Pastor Tom Ascol continues his series on the book of Ecclesiastes with a sermon entitled “No Profit from Toil” explaining Ecclesiastes 1:3 – 11. “All we are is dust in the wind” is the theme to a popular ballad of the 1970’s. That theme echoes the theme of Ecclesiastes which seems to be vanity, all is vanity. Knowingly or not, both reflect the futility of a life without God.

A life without God is described as being “under the sun.” That is, there is no inclusion of things above the sun. It is a life without God, the very God who rules over all, above and under the sun. The preacher, Ecclesiastes’ author, sets out to prove the futility of life without God. First, toil without God is futile. Generations come and go but the fundamental things of earth just continue on. The “War to end all wars” did not. The war on poverty provided no fix. Things continue on basically unchanged as generations come and go. Nature also proves the futility of life without God. The sun continues on just as it always has. The winds come and go, man can only chase it. Even the rivers flowing to the seas never fill it. And all continues as it has. All this points to the futility of life “under the sun,” life without God. The contrast between this perspective and claims that creation is a theater for God’s glory is stark. The constant activity the world sees as being in a rut when seen through the perspective of a believers shows the beauty of God’s handiwork: “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky proclaims his handiwork” (Psalm 19:1).

First toil, then nature, and now human experience demonstrates the futility of life without God. The observations of vv. 9 – 10 bear this out. On a fundamental level nothing seen, felt, heard, tasted or smelled have any lasting merit or benefit without God. These sensory perceptions, like all else in the world, come and go. Without God they are futile, they have no eternal worth. Humans don’t change, we have been broken since the Fall and no effort of our will change that. Verse 11 continues the despair. In a few short generations all memory of us will be gone, just as dust in the wind.

Jesus makes this same point. He asks “What will it profit a man if he gains the whole world but forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul?” (Matthew 16:26). What Jesus and the preacher are both warning against is living a life without regard for God. A life “under the sun” is meaningless and futile. But there is hope. A life lived in relationship with the God of Creation, the God offering salvation, brings meaning to life. The way to this relationship is through the work accomplished on the Cross by the Lord Jesus Christ. He alone has defeated sin, death, hell, and the futility of this world.