In Ecclesiastes, Solomon says that all man's labor is in vain since it
will not ultimately profit him anything, for he will die and leave it behind. This truth
is emphasized and extended farther in the New Testament, but is also set in contrast with
labor which is not in vain. If one is investing in this world with his labors, his labors
are in vain not only because he will die and take nothing with him (I Timothy 6:7), but
also because all that he builds will one day be burned up with the earth itself (II
Peter3:10-11). Solomon saw the earth as forever. The New Testament says it too will pass
away. Thus, it is futile and foolish to put our energy into building anything earthly, for
the earth and its lusts are passing (I John 2:17).
Then is all labor in vain on the earth? No. The key is whether
these labors are our labors according to our own purposes for our own gain on earth, or if
they are "in the Lord" according to His purposes looking to fulfill His will on
earth. Paul says to the saints that, since there is a future when we will be resurrected
to be with the Lord, then what we do here is not futility if it is done in the Lord.
"Always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as you know that your labor is
not in vain in the Lord." (I Cor. 15:58) The Lord knows our works and labor (Rev 2:2)
and will not forget our"labor of love which we show to His name, having ministered to
the saints." (Heb 6:10) So there are two sides. Labor according to our own purposes
is in vain. Investment of time and energy into things of this world is foolish. However,
labor in the work that the Lord is doing is not in vain, but has eternal value. In what am
I laboring? Am I living with eternal values in view?
Eternity to the godly is a day that
has no sunset: eternity to the godless is a night that has no sunrise. Thomas Watson