Overcoming Competition through Kairological Enjoyment: The Implications of Qoheleth's Theology of Time for the Ethics of Work

Studies in Christian Ethics 26 (4):395-409 (2013)

In this essay, I seek to enhance eschatological perspectives on work through specific engagement with Qoheleth’s theology of time in Eccl. 2–3. I suggest that prior to a perceptual transformation in the first of the book’s so-called carpe diem passages, Qoheleth is dissatisfied with his labour because he construes it temporally-speaking within a chronology characterised by competition. Within such a construal, death poses the ultimate obstacle to the enjoyment of labour, because it strips away the promise of an immortal inheritance produced by human hands. What transforms Qoheleth’s relationship to labour is a new understanding of time as kairos, defined as the opportune time in which God unexpectedly intervenes in human work ‘under the sun’ and does something paradigmatically new. Under this ‘kairological’ perspective, Qoheleth assumes a posture of receipt, declaring present labour as a gift from God, with internal as well as external goods for the worker. Qoheleth’s ‘accipe diem work ethic’ draws the eschatological ultimacy of life and peace into present labour, re-orienting eschatological understandings of work that fall prey to competitive-chronological notions of progress
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DOI 10.1177/0953946813492915
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