Going Deeper with the Message:
Our Lives Made Meaningful Through Work
by: Ben Biles
Work gives us meaning. It gives us a purpose to fulfill. We are created with abilities and skills, supplemented by gains in knowledge and wisdom, and given positions to exercise these abilities and skills. When we set about doing the work given to us, we live out our purpose. This truth is seen as early on in Scripture in the life of Adam. “The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it” (Genesis 2:15). God gives him the work of cultivating his creation, the naming of his animals, and the care of his plants. He is not left to simply wander around, but instead, God gives his life direction. To this task, he also sets Eve as she is brought to Adam to help him in his God-given work. Together, they are to walk with God, love each other, and do the work God gave them to do, setting out the example for all of humanity.
In Exodus 31, we see that God selects skilled artisans to carry out the work of building the Tabernacle, which served as the dwelling place of God among the nation of Israel. These artisans had spent their lives perfecting their crafts and were approved by God for use in his specific purpose. Because they pursued their work with diligence, their skills in building and crafting were put to use in glorifying God. Their work always had meaning, but now they could use it for greater purposes.
Solomon, the author of Proverbs, reflects and writes on the importance of work in the lives of humans in another book of his Ecclesiastes. “So I saw that there is nothing better than that a man should rejoice in his work, for that is his lot” (Ecclesiastes 3:22). This is a point he makes multiple times through Ecclesiastes. God has given each person work to do and the ability and time to do it. We are doubly benefitted by working diligently for it glorifies God and gives our lives meaning and purpose. This should provoke in us a sense of responsibility to do the work that God gives us and a sense of joy that he has given us work through which we can glorify him.
However, there is temptation on both sides. On one side, there is the temptation to approach our work with the attitude of laziness. We neglect to recognize our work as being God-given and show no thankfulness to our purpose. On the other side, there exists the temptation to make our work an idol and to put it before God and family. Here, we neglect to recognize our place before God and our responsibility in our relationships. Yet, when we recognize our responsibility to God and our relationships while seeing our work as a means to glorify God, we find that work gives us meaning and are able to enjoy it as God intended.
Living out the Message:
Making Work Work
Chances are when you wake up on Monday morning, you might not be in the best headspace. You just enjoyed a (hopefully) relaxing weekend away from the normal routine of work, but now you are back at your desk and the reality of spending 40 more hours at work sinks in. In 2017, Gallup published a poll revealing that 70% of Americans hate their job with only 15% feeling engaged with their work. These are some horrifying statistics. We spend much of our time and energy at work, and if that time is filled with feelings of despair and discontentment, surely it has a negative overall effect on our lives.
Many view their job simply as a means to an end. We work to earn money and use that money to support our families. A few times a year, we use that money to go on vacations that allow us to live out our dream lives. While rest and relaxation are great to recharge our energy and calm our stress, when they become the focus and only fulfillment of happiness, it points to a sad reality. We spend 95% of our time to enjoy the remaining 5%. Yet, if we truly believe as followers of Jesus that our work is a means to glorify God, shouldn’t we be more excited when it comes to working? What’s a more practical way to engage with work?
As believers, we need to have the right mindset when it comes to work. The Apostle Paul writes in Colossians, “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord.” Paul points us to the reality that our work is for God and as such should be done with the full engagement of our hearts, minds, bodies, and strength. This means that when we approach our job, we think about it in terms of our relationship with God. I have 8 hours today to work, which means I have 8 hours to work for the Lord and glorify his name through what I do. Because our jobs constitute much of our time and energy, they are one of the main ways we honor God in our lives.
When you go to work this week, spend time beforehand in prayer. Thank God for giving you this opportunity to work for him. Pray that he would give you the right attitude, heart and mind to engage with your job. Be encouraged and filled with hope that everything you do is meaningful and used for his glory. Then, with this mindset, work with diligence and vigor. You will work with a refreshed sense of importance and engage with your work with purpose.