I work in a secondary school and sometimes I tell the students to ask their teachers if they would do their job for free! How about you? Would you do what you're doing now (or the job you're hoping for) if you didn't get paid?
So many people in this life hate their jobs and only do them because they think they have to. They're constantly counting down to 5pm and the weekend when they finally get to do what it is they actually want to do with their lives. And why do people do the lottery? Isn't it because they dream of having so much money that they never have to work again? They can finally tell their boss to shove their job and then head off and enjoy life.
It's tragic! Don't you think it's tragic that so many people get trapped into wasting 8 hours a day doing stuff they hate just so they can survive? And isn't it rubbish that so many only do what they want for 4 hours a day? Most people don't even manage that! Solomon says, 'All their days their work is grief and pain; even at night their minds do not rest.'
People say it's better to 'work to live' than to 'live to work' but actually both of these ideas are a waste of time. Why should we work to live? Why can't we have life to the full when we're working, resting, playing and all the time? I truly believe that God wants us to enjoy our work in this way (v24). What if it were even possible to have life to the full beyond this short life? Solomon knows that this is our ultimate goal and that most people miss out on it completely because they get sucked into 'living to work' or 'working to live'. At the end of it, all we've worked for gets left behind and forgotten, or worse - undone by someone else!
Notice what Solomon says is the reward for those who please God: 'Wisdom, knowledge and happiness'. It's not about their stuff or money but about character and becoming more like God himself.
I work with young people in a school and I can truly say that I love my job. Would I do it for free? I can honestly say that I'm not sure. Maybe I would! Not just because I love it but because I know it's exactly where God wants me right now and I believe he's using me to bring people closer to him - and he's bringing me closer to him by doing it too. I believe he's changing me bit-by-bit to be more like him - to have more 'wisdom, knowledge and happiness'.
So why are you doing what you do? I think Solomon would say we should work for 'wisdom, knowledge and happiness' because this is the reward God gives to those who please him. What would it look like if this became the main reason you do what you do?