he search for significance, living a life with meaning and purpose that makes a positive contribution towards a greater good, as Solomon chronicled in his journal Ecclesiastes, can be a futile and empty pursuit if the motivation and attitude is one of selfish gain. In Solomon’s chasing after fulfillment through knowledge, pleasure, and work he came up empty.
Solomon’s conclusion on pursuing work under the sun, that is Solomon’s way of saying, without God, or without a faith based view, as a means of gaining a meaningful and significant life is summarized in the following brief but thought provoking statement.
“So I hated life, because the work that is done under the sun was grievous to me. All of it is meaningless, a chasing after the wind.” Ecclesiastes 2:17
I can identify with Solomon when he says that work is grievous (a burden) to him. Who hasn’t encountered difficulty at work from time to time and found their work frustrating? However, when work is viewed from a Biblically Christian faith based perspective, work and works complex challenges takes on a different meaning. Therefore, When it comes to our work, what we believe about work, determines how we interpret difficulty, challenges, success, failures and yes how work can contribute to a meaningful and significant life.
Dorthy Sayers, the first women to graduate from Oxford and an outstanding Christian thinker and author had a lot to say about the nature of work and workers. In her very popular essay “Why Work” she writes.
Unless we do change our whole way of thought about work, I do not think we shall ever escape from the appalling squirrel cage of economic confusion in which we have been madly turning for the last three centuries or so, the cage in which we landed ourselves by acquiescing in a social system based upon Envy and Avarice.
Fascinating! We find ourselves in the same kind social system today that Sayers described years ago. Work as a way of one upping others and a constant striving to gain fortune and fame sometimes at the expense of all else. This is the same thing Solomon discover and described in his journal.
And I saw that all toil and all achievement spring from one person’s envy of another. This too is meaningless, a chasing after the wind. (Ec 4:4).
Sayers purposed as a way out of this “rat race” mentality is to reconsider the nature of work and to look at it from a different perspective. With this thought in mind let me suggest 2 powerful ways to reimagine your work.
2 Powerful Ways to Reimagine Your Work
- Your work is a gift from God and one way to fulfill your life mission. I must admit, for the longest time I did not view my work as a gift from God, or as a way to fulfill my life mission. I had a rather negative view of the work I was doing. I viewed work as a necessary evil in order to make a living and buy the stuff I and my family wanted. I’ve since come to realize that I viewed work outside the church setting as “secular” not sacred. The great reformer Martin Luther made a significant contribution to the way Christianity should view work.
Luther’s message was that value is found in the quality of the work and the attitudes of the individual rather than the nature of the work itself. One of the purposes of vocation was for men to serve one another and bring order to the world. This requires people to do different jobs in society, and maintains that work outside the church has value in God’s economy.
All work that contributes to the cultivation and flourishing of culture has great value when viewed with the understanding that God has ordained work to create a greater good for society at large. Therefore, your life mission exercised at work gives you a platform to truly make a difference within your sphere of influence.
- Your work is a way to serve a greater good. Sayer wrote her essay during WWII. She observed that the prevailing attitude of the workforce became focused on serving a greater good, winning the war and securing freedom. They saw their work as making a positive contribution towards the common good of society. A way, if you will, of saving lives. With this attitude, the workforce found significant meaning in what they did. Their personal sacrifice, and the challenges they faced was the price one pays to accomplish a job well done.
Hold on you may say. You don’t know what I do for my work. You are right I don’t. At first I didn’t make the connection between my work and it serving a greater good either. After all I work as a sales professional. How does that contribute to the creation of a better culture? After some thought here’s what I’ve discovered.
1. The work God has given me is an opportunity to serve other people.
+ I serve my customers by helping them solve specific work problems thereby helping them achieve their work goals.
+ I serve my company's owners and managers to be a blessing to them, not a "curse".
+ I serve my coworkers. Helping them to flourish and find meaning and purpose in what they do.
+ I serve my wife by providing financial stability and a way to meet our needs.
+ I serve my work with excellence and competence that reflects well on the sales profession.
2. The work God has given me is an opportunity to cultivate a good honorable business that contributes to the well being our of customers and our city.
3. The work God has given me is an opportunity to demonstrate God's heart towards other people.
4. The work God has given me is an opportunity let others see the power of God at work through prayer.
There are probably more things I could list, but you get the idea.
Once I began to reimagine my work from a Biblical Christian faith based perspective, bringing God’s purpose for work squarely into focus, I began to think about my work in terms of it being a gift and a blessing from the Lord and as one of my primary ways of making a positive contribution to the great good of society. Now my work has for me a greater sense of meaning and significance.
How do you view your work? How would reimagining your work from a Biblically Christian faith based perspective give you new meaning and purpose for your work?