The Sleeping Man–Ecclesiastes 2:24-26

A few minutes ago, Bo the Poodle and I took our daily drive to QuikTrip. Bo stands in the back seat, his head out the window, making strange noises at squirrels, while I use the trip to refill my soda cup with Diet Dr. Pepper.

This morning, as I parked at the end of the store, I saw someone whose trip was not progressing quick–or quickly. In years past, many people placed little racially insensitive “decorations” in their yards: a sleeping Mexican, seated with his sombrero covering his head and knees. The guy at QuikTrip, minus the sombrero, looked very much like this figure as he apparently slept on the sidewalk, his back leaning on the building.

So now, a few minutes later, I wonder if this sleeping guy, who I’m going to assume doesn’t have an air-conditioned home and pillow-top bed, is really the smart one. Let’s look at what Ecclesiastes has to say about the work that people do.

There is nothing better for a person than to eat, drink, and enjoy his work. I have seen that even this is from God’s hand, because who can eat and who can enjoy life apart from him? For to the person 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.

–Ecclesiastes 2:24-26

Here I am writing this. Later, I’ll write an adult lesson for church. Then I really need to get started on a month of curriculum for children, due in a few weeks. And somewhere along the line, I’ll have to start grading my summer school students’ work. Around the house, I have a wheelbarrow of dirt that needs to find a home and some ivy, ripped off an old tree, that should be cleaned up.

Without God, everything is a vanity, a futility, a vapor.

What will the sleeping man at QT have done at the end of the day? Unless I miss my guess, he’ll have shuffled aimlessly around town and picked up handouts and leftovers wherever he can. He’ll probably have to sleep somewhere else tonight to avoid a run-in with the authorities. This might prove his hardest task for the day.

So is today’s passage telling me that God is better pleased with this man who is eating what others gather and accumulate? I don’t think so, unless he is also given “wisdom, knowledge, and joy.” But it does tell us that if our activities do not bring us those things, then we’re doing something wrong. It does tell us that if we cannot enjoy our work, then perhaps we’re in the wrong line.

Ecclesiastes does not call us to sleepwalk through our lives, but there is more than one way to sleep through life. You can waste your life sleeping on a convenience store porch or you can waste it slaving away at work that no one will care about six months hence.

Finally Koheleth has brought God into the picture. Without Him, everything is a vanity, a futility, a vapor. Only when we center our lives humbly around what comes from God’s hand can we truly wake up and transcend the futility.