A couple weeks ago I had to see my doctor for something (nothing serious, aside from me getting old because apparently time waits for no person) and I had heard from a mutual acquaintance that he was going to retire soon. So I thought it best I see him now before he retires and I go to an empty office without any idea what to do with this growth on my back (this is hypothetical).
Naturally, I questioned my doctor about his retirement so I can plan for the future when something starts growing on my back. My doctor, who is quite the joker, replied with something like, “Retirement? No, I wouldn’t retire from this stressful and underpaid job, not anytime soon at least. But that doesn’t mean I won’t get a stroke tomorrow and can’t be your doctor anymore.”
Now, some other people might have thought his comment would be in poor taste, knowing that my dad died from a stroke. But I actually found it hilarious and knew that is just the kind of joker he is (as in, my kind of joker). He went on and told me that he was underpaid as a doctor, as he could get paid much more should he work somewhere else, but he (a Christian man) told me that he felt called to this area that he serves and so he gladly takes the pay cut.
And that gave me a different respect for the man. And I knew that if he really were to have a stroke in the near future, that he at least had done what he was called to do and made a difference in the way that he could. Good for him.
Every time I read that first passage out of Ecclesiastes, I cringe a little. Why? Because it makes it sound like everything is meaningless and we shouldn’t bother doing anything. And then I get to the gospel reading and it sort of solidifies that notion that hard work and saving up don’t pay off, because you never know when your life will end and it will all be for naught.
The comes the saying, “Eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we die” or “Live each day like your last” or my least favourite “YOLO” (as in, You Only Live Once) and all that kind of stuff. Pretty bleak way of looking at life, as though we only live to die. That makes life and everything in it meaningless, so we might as well (selfishly) enjoy what little time we have.
But then the second reading brings it all to light. It isn’t that our work is meaningless, but it is when we work only for ourselves and our selfish desires that our positive effect on the world diminishes. Instead of being known for the person who made a difference in making the world better, we would be known for being someone who we don’t want our kids to be like.
So it isn’t that work and saving up is for nothing, but our work and saving up should be some how for the good of others. It doesn’t have to be starting multiple charities and living as a philanthropist for the rest of our lives (although it could), but it could mean that we volunteer around our community a bit more, be kind to our direct neighbours in our area more, or even just smiling and greeting people on the street. We might not be called to do some grand act of saving millions of lives, but we are all called to be loving, to stand up against injustice, and to see all people as God’s beloved children full of value and worth.
And that, to me, makes life worth it.
Have a great week, everyone!