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 named Felice Leonardo Buscaglia, but remembered as ‘Dr. Hug’. He was Leo Buscaglia, professor of special education at University of Southern California and a much loved motivational speaker on the Public Broadcasting System. His enthusiasm and zest for joy were wildly infectious. Strangers would see him on the street and run to Dr. Hug for a squeeze.
Leo Buscaglia delighted in telling stories about his Italian immigrant ‘Mama’. Just starting to talk about Mama would often start him crying. One of his favorite stories was the day his father came home and announced that his business partner had embezzled all of his money. The Buscaglias were broke!
But that evening Mama did something that left the family angry. She sold her most expensive piece of jewelry to buy food for an extravagant Italian feast. When everyone scolded Mama for such waste of money, she answered back: “The time for joy is now when we need it and not next week.” Buscaglia tearfully told how his mother’s ‘waste’ rallied everyone’s spirits and fortified them for what was to come.
Today’s Scripture is the wise Solomon telling us: “The time for joy is now when we need it and not next week!” Go ahead, eat, drink and find satisfaction, for this is God’s gift for you!
In his intricate book of Ecclesiastes Solomon is wrestling with life’s incongruities and mystery, and repeatedly telling us that the time for joy is now: see 2:24-26; 5:18; 8:15; 9:7-8.
He begins today’s Scripture with a stinging question about life’s ultimate meaning: “What do workers gain from their toil?” In asking this question Solomon takes terminology right out the business world, asking about the bottom line, the profit margin of having lived. “What does all the work and effort amount to?” “Will I come out of life a winner or a loser?”
God assures Solomon that life is a big win because, “God has made everything beautiful in its time.” When all is said and done, God takes all of our striving, all of our losing, and makes something beautiful! So celebrate! Solomon reassures: “I know that there is nothing better for people than to be happy and to do good while they live.” Then Solomon joyously adds, “That each of them may eat and drink, and find satisfaction in all their toil—this is the gift of God.”
This is God’s gift to us today! Eat, drink and find satisfaction. The time for joy is now, when we need it!
Remarkably, in the daunting, often discouraging work of rebuilding Jerusalem’s walls, Nehemiah told the people:
Go your way, eat the fat and drink sweet wine and send portions of them to those for whom nothing is prepared, for this day is holy to our LORD; and do not be grieved, for the joy of the LORD is your strength. (Nehemiah 8:10)
Yes! The “joy of the Lord is our strength!”
This is a great truth the apostle Paul held, as from a Roman prison he commanded the Philippian Christians: “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice.” (Philippians 4:4) For Paul to command Christians to rejoice means that rejoicing is an act of the will and more than just a feeling. Rejoicing is making the choice to celebrate the richness and goodness of God’s gifts to us! In rejoicing we glorify God by letting others know that we serve a wondrous and gracious God!
I don’t know how your day is going. But Mama Buscaglia knew of what she spoke! Now is the time for joy! And God knows that we need it!
So do something extra special today to rejoice and to celebrate the goodness of God. It might feel a little bit crazy. It might feel a little bit extravagant. But just know that God is making, literally, “everything beautiful it its time.”
Rejoice in the Lord always!