Working to Be Remembered

Working to Be Remembered

So I turned and gave my heart up to despair concerning all the toil of my labors under the sun, because sometimes one who has toiled with wisdom and knowledge and skill must leave all to be enjoyed by another who did not toil for it. This also is vanity and a great evil. What do mortals get from all the toil and strain with which they toil under the sun? For all their days are full of pain, and their work is a vexation; even at night their minds do not rest. This also is vanity. —Ecclesiastes 2:18-23

In the last post from my latest book, When Christians Clock In, we looked at what Ecclesiastes says about the reasons we work. Today, I want to talk about being remembered as a reason for work.

Because We Want to Be Remembered

In the human heart is the deep fear of being forgotten. Through our work, we are secretly hoping that we too will be remembered and will leave some evidence that we have mattered.

My plan for posterity was to leave behind hand-built bedroom sets for each of my 3 daughters – pencil post beds, drop down desks, 7 drawer chests, and bed stools. I crafted these from the best pine I could afford and patterned them after the Shaker furniture that has stood the test of time. I even had my signature placed on a branding tool and branded each piece: “Made by Dan Boone.”

The plan was that my daughters would someday say to their children (who would say to their children who would then say to their children), “This furniture was made by my father. I used it when I was your age. Look, Granddaddy Boone’s name is branded into the wood right here.”

Can I tell you the path of that furniture?

It went from their childhood bedrooms (until they became cool teenagers) to the family guest room (until we started having really important guests) to basement storage (until we ran out of space) to a yard sale (when we needed money for them to go to college). I’m guessing somewhere in the world this coming Saturday morning a person is making a 7th hand yard sale purchase and wondering if this was really made by Dan Boone.

Is work the way we live forever? Can it really be done in such a way that they will still be talking about us when we are pushing up daisies?

Is it a Godly thing to think now about what happens to our loved ones after we’re gone? Will we die grudgingly surrendering our wealth to the next generation or expire in peace?

We ask a lot from our work – to feed and clothe us, to secure us, to cause us to be remembered. And Ecclesiastes says it is all hebel – vapor, fog, here today, gone tomorrow.

But maybe there is more going on than we see in Ecclesiastes. It says one more thing about work in 5:18-20.

This is what I have seen to be good:
it is fitting to eat and drink and find enjoyment
in all the toil with which one toils under the sun
the few days of the life God gives us;
for this is our lot.

Likewise all to whom God gives wealth and possessions
and whom he enables to enjoy them,
and to accept their lot and find enjoyment in their toil—
this is the gift of God.

For they will scarcely brood over the days of their lives,
because God keeps them occupied with the joy of their hearts.”

At the core of Ecclesiastes’ sarcasm and pessimism about work, there is wisdom. The writer seems to say that if we draw our life and identity from our work, if it tells us who and whose we are, if it is all we live for, we will end up holding fog someday.

But if it is a gift from God that occupies us all our days with good things to do, and if we experience our work as given by God, and if know we are blessed, then our life is rich.

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