In the latest issue of The Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society, Eric Ortland has an excellent article called “The Gospel in the Book of Ecclesiastes.”
It is an excellent article. I don’t think the JETS articles are online, but if you subscribe to JETS, check it out.
Here is one of the most helpful and meaningful things in the article: Ortlund points to the term “already” in Ecclesiastes 9:7: “Go, eat with joy your bread, and drink with a good heart your wine, for God has already approved what you do.” The passage then goes on to refer to work and the other aspects of life.
The point in this passage, shown by the term “already,” is that God gives us the gift of our work and its results, and delights in these gifts to us “prior to and irrespective of what we accomplish.”
This is an authorization and affirmation of meaningful work. God does not wait to see the results of our work to identify if it is meaningful; rather this passage is saying that the endeavor itself is meaningful.
This is incredibly freeing. You don’t have to ask if God approves of you working with all your heart and with great purpose. Yes, he already approves of that. So go do it.