Do you ever feel overworked and underappreciated? Had you registered that complaint with Solomon, the author of Ecclesiastes, I doubt you would’ve gotten much sympathy. More likely, he would have said, “That’s life. Life’s hard. Move on.” In Ecclesiastes, Solomon reminds us that life here at ground level isn’t pretty or fair and is anything but predictable. It’s a blunt force trauma perspective on life. 

For example, in Ecclesiastes 9, Solomon describes several inequitable situations that characterize human life. In the final verses of the chapter, he emphasizes both the value of wisdom and its limitations. He says…

There was a small city with few men in it and a great king came to it, surrounded it and constructed large siegeworks against it. But there was found in it a poor wise man and he delivered the city by his wisdom, yet no one remembered that poor man. So I said, “Wisdom is better than strength.” But the wisdom of the poor man is despised, and his words are not heeded. The words of the wise heard in quietness are better than the shouting of a ruler among fools. Wisdom is better than weapons of war, but one sinner destroys much good. (Ecclesiastes 9.14-18)

Every day we see situations like this. We see business leaders, politicians, and public figures who are loud, foolish, and inept. Frequently, it’s the quiet voices of their humble helpers who cover for them and save the day. The helpers get no credit and they’re soon ignored and forgotten. What’s worse, as Solomon observes, the good work these people do is often undone by a single act of folly.

So, what if you’re in one of those dead-end jobs? What if your boss doesn’t realize what a tremendous asset you are? What if you don’t get the recognition you deserve? What if nobody listens to you? What if you don’t get the raises and promotions you deserve? What if your best efforts are treated like yesterday’s emails? What if you’re overworked and underappreciated?

Solomon also provides an answer for this. He says take heart. Earlier in the chapter, he makes two other observations that, I think, balance the negativity in the rest of the chapter. In verse one he says, “For I have taken all this to my heart and explain it that righteous men, wise men, and their deeds are in the hand of God.” Then, he says in verse seven, “God has already approved your works.” 

Work life can be frustrating. You might well be ignored, marginalized, or forgotten. But there’s hope, because God sees what we do and blesses us when we work not for human approval, but for his glory.