What Will Be the Legacy of Our Labors?
I hated all my work at which I labored under the sun because I must leave it to the man who comes after me. And who knows whether he will be a wise man or a fool? Yet he will take over all my work that I labored at skillfully under the sun. This too is futile. So I began to give myself over to despair concerning all my work I had labored at under the sun. For there is a man whose work was done with wisdom, knowledge, and skill, but he must give his portion to a man who has not worked for it. This too is futile and a great wrong. For what does a man get with all his work and all his efforts that he labors with under the sun? For all his days are filled with grief, and his occupation is sorrowful; even at night, his mind does not rest. This too is futile.
There is nothing better for man than to eat, drink, and to enjoy his work. I have seen that even this is from God’s hand. For who can eat and who can enjoy life apart from Him? For to the man who is pleasing in His sight, He gives wisdom, knowledge, and joy, but to the sinner He gives the task of gathering and accumulating in order to give to the one who is pleasing in God’s sight. This too is futile and a pursuit of the wind. Eccl 2:18-26 (HCSB)
In history there have been many well known great kings, emperors, and rulers of vast dynasties, however what happened after each of them passed away? What happened to their grand kingdoms and empires after their reign ended? Most collapsed and many merely faded into history because of the fools that followed in their footsteps. Many of these fools were either sons or grandsons who stumbled, bumbled and fumbled away all that had been passed down to them by the tenacious hard work and grand visions of great men before them.
Solomon was one such ruler. He received his kingdom from his father, King David, and managed to hold onto the greatness of Israel as a great nation until the end of his reign, but then strife and conflict rumbled through his kingdom. By the time he abdicated, his successors fought over the kingdom and the great Nation of Israel split. The downward spiral that followed for the former great Nation resulted in its total devastation and demise. (I wonder what sneak peek into the future did God allow Solomon before he wrote this passage?)
As a result, philosophical questions rise to the surface: Why should we work so hard in this lifetime only to build up something that will likely fall apart after we are gone? How will history treat our legacy because of those who follow behind us? Should we care?
My own father built a great company, but after he finally relented and retired late in life, the business was sold only to be resold again before the company name was swallowed and lost. The legacy of my father’s business success has all but faded, as well. The family still remembers what he accomplished, but none of us inherited the fire or tenacity that matched our father’s dogged determination or bold vision. So to what purpose did the legacy of his labors serve? Are the memories a sufficient legacy?
The good news in this passage from Ecclesiastes is that in the grand scheme of life, God uses others at the right and proper time to pick up the pieces of those who follow us for his purposes. History reveals, God uses our labor of love for greater good in his timing and for his purpose. It doesn’t matter that we may be long gone. We should trust a future generation will benefit from at least the valuable memory of our past efforts by God’s grace.
What is the legacy of your labors in this lifetime? What greater good might those who follow you discover? What greater purpose has your labor in this life served? How will you be remembered? Or, have you chosen to live life that is like the wind – here today, gone tomorrow, leaving no trace, no footprints for others to follow?
If when my days lie in the past, will my children and their children value my memories more than any material inheritance that remains after I am long gone? That is my prayer.
Words of Wisdom #222-6EC