Love and the Vanity of Labor

What are you working for? Our lives are a bustling whirl of labor, occupying our hands during the day and often our minds at night. How overwhelming and toilsome this work can become. There are moments when the words of Ecclesiastes resonates poignantly with our harried hearts:

“For what profit comes to a man from all the toil and anxiety of heart with which he has labored under the sun? All his days sorrow and grief are his occupation; even at night his mind is not at rest. This also is vanity” (Eccl. 2:22-23).

Crushed beneath monotonous or burdensome work, our occupations can seem vain and pointless when we don’t have a clear reason for our labor. Why should I break my back farming this troublesome soil or put in 40 hours in the office? Why even bother?

Possessing a clear reason for our labor, a clear end to work for, on the other hand, transforms our work. Jacob labored seven years to win Rachel’s hand, “yet they seemed to him like a few days because of his love for her” (Gen. 29:20). Love transforms labor. Love sees clearly the beloved and judges all the labor done for the beloved well worth the cost.

The saints labored with love. As he lay on his deathbed, St. Bede told his brother monks, “I long to die and be with Christ. My soul yearns to see Christ, my King, in all his glory.” One desire animated Bede’s soul, the desire to see the glory of his beloved God face-to-face. Bede received what he desired “since his labors here on earth were always dedicated to the glory of God.” Here, then, is the profit that comes to a man for his toils. Dedicating our work, even the most mundane or most brutal, to the glory of God, love lifts us out of monotony and directs our gaze to the reason for our work, indeed, for our whole lives: dwelling with God in glory.

Image: Jean-François Millet, Potato Planters

From Dominicana Journal