I was just sitting outside enjoying the beautiful weather and my eye fell on the grossly overgrown lawn in the backyard. We have been getting tons and tons of rain in West Michigan over the last several weeks (including a pretty sizable storm last night complete with some of the loudest canon shot thunder one ever has the opportunity to hear), but this week the temperature has soared up to the mid-70s and the sun is wide out in the open blue sky. The result is a very rich and luxuriantly green grass, resplendently colorful daffodils and tulips popping out of their bulbs, and trees giving way to extraordinary flowers of white and pink (my wife and I just spotted a beauty on a jog this afternoon; the tree was as thick with white flowers as it will be with green leaves in a couple of months). What a wonderful God we have! A beautiful God who has produced a beautiful creation (out of nothing!) simply by the Word of his mouth. So foolish are the unrepentant proponents of the theory that dares suggest that mere chance and time gave way to such splendor.
But I had cause for another thought as I sat on the back porch enjoying the sunlight. As I mentioned, the grass is growing, and it is rich, green and beautiful. However, it needs to be cut and I am at the moment unable to achieve this result. My lawn mower is currently in the shop undergoing repair, a problem that wouldn’t exist if I had simply taken the time to get it fixed during the bitter cold months of winter when it was merely a useless chunk of steel taking up room in the garage. But I decided to procrastinate (as usual), so when I do finally get the mower back I will inevitably be induced to double or triple cut and then spend significant time blowing the clippings around to get that nice polished look of a finely manicured lawn. Don’t worry…for those of you who probably think I’m just a sap who is complaining about the relatively easy work I’ll have to do in a day or two, I do enjoy the work and am actually excited to finally get going. But as I thought about these things an idea for the blog began to emerge in my mind, so here goes.
Currently I have been reading Ecclesiastes in my own personal devotion (perhaps you now know where I am going with this thought). In chapter 2 of that book, after Solomon reflects on the vanity of seeking after the pleasures associated with such things as wine and laughter, we read:
4. I made me great works; I builded me houses; I planted me vineyards:
5. I made me gardens and orchards, and I planted trees in them of all kind of fruits:
6. I made me pools of water, to water therewith the wood that bringeth forth trees:
11. Then I looked on all the works that my hands had wrought, and on the labour that I had laboured to do: and behold, all was vanity and vexation of spirit, and there was no profit under the sun.
12. And I turned myself to behold wisdom, and madness, and folly: for what can the man do that cometh after the king? Even that which hath been already done.
Perhaps in the modern day we might add something like this: ‘I repaired my lawn mower and mowed the grass, but this also was vanity and vexation of spirit.’ Equipment is in constant need of maintenance, and anyone with a yard knows what it will look like a week after he mows.
There are a couple of things I want to say about this. First of all, I think all of us who like perfection (whether that be on a lawn, a house renovation, a paper for school, or what have you) need to be kept in check by the book of Ecclesiastes. Perfection in our daily work on the job or around the house is not wrong to strive for; do your best! Work hard! But recognize that in the end, whatever you do will eventually be undone. The creation does not cease from doing its utmost to become again the vast, desolate, overgrown, uncultivated wilderness (and thus, probably very beautiful in its own way!) that it was before we humans started plowing and building houses. The grass you cut will grow again. The flower bed you weed out will be completely weed-ridden in a week or two. The house you renovate will be outdated in a decade.
The second thing I want to say is related to the first thing. Because of the utter vanity of pretty much all of the work we do in this life, we need to relax a little. I know for certain that every paper I turned in at school could have been better. Many of us tinker around with this sort of thing for hours and hours, but rest assured that the perfect paper will never come. Now, I am not trying to encourage anyone to be lazy, but there does come a time when one must simply be content with what he has been able to accomplish (for me, deadlines make this a little bit easier!).
Finally, when considering the utter beauty of this creation, but also the complete futility of almost all of our labor therein, think about what the new heaven and new earth will be like. I am not suggesting that there will be no work in heaven. Surely there will be. All of our work will be to glorify God eternally. Therefore our work will no longer be vanity and our spirit will no longer be vexed. We shall be satisfied in everything that we do by the beauty and wonder of God himself in the person of Jesus Christ.