What profit has a man of all his labor which he takes under the sun?
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Augustine of Hippo
So this is what the rich should do: not be haughty in their ideas, nor set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but on the living God, who bestows all things on us abundantly for our enjoyment; that is what they must do. But what are they to do with what they have? Let me tell you what: “Let them be rich in good works, let them be easy givers.” After all, they have the wherewithal. Poverty is difficult and grim. “Let them be easy givers”; they have the wherewithal. Let them share, that is, take some notice of their fellow mortals. “Let them share, let them store up for themselves a good foundation for the future.” “You see,” he says, “just because I say ‘Let them be easy givers, let them share,’ it doesn’t mean I want them looted, want them stripped naked, want them left empty. I am teaching them how to make a profit, when I point out, ‘Let them store up for themselves.’ I’m not telling them to do this so that they can lose it; I’m showing them where to transfer the account. ‘Let ...
If it is a vain thing to do good works for the sake of human praise, how much more vain for the sake of getting money, or increasing it, or retaining it, and any other temporal advantage, which comes unto us from without? Since “all things are vanity: what is man’s abundance, with all his toil, wherein he labors under the sun?” For our temporal welfare itself finally we ought not to do our good works but rather for the sake of that everlasting welfare which we hope for, where we may enjoy an unchangeable good, which we shall have from God, nay, what God himself is unto us. For if God’s saints were to do good works for the sake of this temporal welfare, never would the martyrs of Christ achieve a good work.
Those who are rich in things that are valued in the realm of the natural do not gain anything. They do not gain longevity. Rich and poor are in the same situation: they go through life quickly and do not stay for a long time. Thus “from all the toil at which they toil under the sun” one does not gain anything, no increase in natural qualities. But the one who toils and strives for things that lead to the eternal and to the invisible gains something: A human being becomes a god, an uncertain human being becomes a strong one, a coward becomes courageous.