Wisdom and Work: Theological Reflections on Human Labor in Ecclesiastes

As part of the corpus of “wisdom literature,” Ecclesiastes traditionally has defied uniform interpretation. In fact, Ecclesiastes is considered by biblical scholars themselves to generate the most divergent interpretations of any book in the biblical canon. The fact that biblical scholarship itself has made the book’s interpretation virtually inaccessible is tragic, particularly given its rich insights into theology – even when it is not foremost a theological tract – and ethics. This session is devoted to exploring a pivotal theme in one of the most puzzling books of sacred scripture. Human labor, upon closer examination in this “wisdom” book, takes on an entirely different cast when viewed, not from the perspective of “meaninglessness” as dictated by “under the sun” secularism, but from the standpoint of divine providence, divine inscrutability, and divine generosity. At bottom, faith permits believers to find satisfaction in and through their work, thereby expressing the reality of their individual vocational callings.

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