For Whom the Man Toils

A seasoned minister hired a coach to help him prepare for retirement. When his coach asked what he would like to do for the rest of his life, he began to list all his previous ministry accomplishments. After several minutes, he stopped and declared, “I’ve just realized that very little of what I’ve done has brought me true fulfillment. I served in those positions either because it impressed others or it satisfied my growing ego. I don’t want to spend the rest of my life doing that. I need to find God’s purpose and learn how He wants me to spend my remaining years.”

With his coach’s encouragement, the man developed a vision statement for retirement. His first priority was to do what God wanted, not what others expected. Second, he wanted to become more intentional about investing in people, not in his own self-worth. This man’s valuable discovery could cause the retirement years to become his most productive.

In his later years, Solomon spent time taking inventory of life. At one point, he observed, “There was a man all alone; he had neither son nor brother. There was no end to his toil, yet his eyes were not content with his wealth. ‘For whom am I toiling . . . And why am I depriving myself of enjoyment?’” Eccles. 4:8.

We can learn some valuable lessons from Solomon’s statement:

  1. People need purpose. Whatever we do is in vain if it doesn’t positively affect other people. The man to whom Solomon referred was “all alone, he had neither son nor brother.” Yet his work was unending as his wealth amassed. But, for whom and to what end?
  2. People need enjoyment. There is a misnomer that doing God’s will includes large doses of difficulty, drudgery, and pain. Not so. Why would the Lord lead His people to live joy-depleting lives? Lack of contentment comes when our will struggles against His. Quick surrender brings peace and purpose.
  3. People need people. Everyone should have someone who speaks truth into their lives—a person who creates a safe place for honest self-evaluation and who honors vulnerability.

Solomon continues his observation, “Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their work: If one falls down, his friend can help him up. But pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up!” Eccles. 4:9-10.

Someone once said that everyone should be a Barnabas (an encouraging friend or peer), pursue a Paul (a mentor or coach), and train a Timothy (someone younger or inexperienced). If we will make this a goal, we never need worry about toiling without purpose. Our lives will be filled with enjoyment, people will be touched, and God will be pleased.

  • For whom are you toiling? What needs to change so you find joy in what you do?
  • Who is your Paul? Your Timothy? How are you becoming a Barnabas? If you don’t have these people in your life, what can you do to make that happen?
[previously published in Christian Coaching Magazine]