Why do we work? Or what I'm really asking is, what motivates our work? What deeper purpose are we fulfilling or striving for through our labor?
What I’m really asking is Why do you work?
Work is often viewed as a necessary evil we must engage in to make a living. In essence, if we put up with work long enough then eventually we can retire and finally do what want. But this ‘live for the weekend’ mentality can be dangerously unfulfilling. Tim Keller, in his 1996 sermon titled “Work”, dives into what the Bible tells us about work. He explains why work shouldn’t be for status, money, or simply a means to enjoy a weekend. Instead, he shows us how it can be something that brings us great joy and, most importantly, gives God glory.
The ideas in this post are built off of Keller’s sermon. I encourage and recommend listening to the sermon in tandem with this article, although my points below can still be helpful on their own.
So, what is work, and why do we do it? Here are six points that unpack this further:
1. God created us to work - Adam was assigned to tend to the garden even before sin entered the world. We are naturally wired to find satisfaction in our work. Similarly, we can quickly become dissatisfied or dejected when we do not work.
2. All good work brings order to chaos - God’s work in the world brought (and is bringing) order to chaos. We live in God's image when we work. When we do Godly work we too bring order to chaos. This kind of work increases the common good in the world.
3. All good work helps others - Keller cites Dorothy Sayers’ definition of work in his sermon. She calls it “the generous expression of creative energy in the service to others”. It doesn’t matter if you are a brain surgeon, a preacher, or a street sweeper. Each job helps others. Each job is ‘good work’.
4. Work out of the joy for what God has done for you - We cannot earn God’s favor by what we do. He already loves us unfathomably as demonstrated by Christ’s sacrifice on the cross. It is out of our gratefulness for what God has already done that we work to please Him.
5. Rest Well – Doing God’s work is restful by nature. The satisfaction that comes from pleasing God and helping someone else through our work is deeply peaceful. When this enjoyment exists in our work it becomes easier to stop, breathe, and see the good work we are doing. When someone is passionate about their job and living out a calling, then work/life balance is wholly integrated within their work. This also makes it easy to rest well when ‘off the clock’.
6. Work if you are able to – Paul writes to a group of Thessalonians who are not working, warning them of ‘being idle’ (Thessalonians 5:14). He is not talking about those who want to work but aren’t able to or can’t find work. He is speaking to those who are capable of working, yet choose not to. If our goal with work is purely to earn money, then we will stop working as soon as we don’t need to earn any money anymore! If we are working for the joy of pleasing God and helping the common good, then we will naturally find meaningful work that serves others, even if it is for little or no pay (volunteering). See my previous posts on retirement: What does Retirement Mean to You? and Is Retirement Biblical?
Very rarely are we in an ideal job situation. Finding work that perfectly maximizes the use of our unique giftedness and service to others is hard to do. Those that do will likely discover that the job is ideal only for a season. Therefore, we shouldn’t be alarmed if we aren’t in the perfect job. We can still honor and please God just as much in our work while we strive to align with His calling for us.
Here are some practical things you can do to improve your satisfaction and relationship with work:
- Remind yourself of the common good you are contributing to.
- Look for new ways to infuse your passion and giftedness into your current job. Consider the people you interact with or can impact in your job. Ask yourself what you might be able to do differently to serve or uplift them even more.
- Take money out of the equation. Remind yourself that how much you earn or what status you receive shouldn’t be our motivators in our work.
- Seek a new position that better fits your giftedness. Sometimes we find ourselves unhappy with our job, and it’s because we aren’t getting to use our God-given talents or promote the common good. In this circumstance, it is appropriate to seek out a new opportunity.
Keller offers two dead give-a-ways to help us identify if our view of work is out of balance. We either care too much about work, or we care too little. We care too much when we are working for our status or for money. We aren’t able to truly rest when we care too much. On the flip side, we are missing out on the joy of work when we care too little. We aren’t seeing or realizing how our work matters. When we aren’t working to bring order to chaos and increase the common good then we are at risk of caring too little.
How we view our work is one of the most significant contributors to our happiness. I find great joy out of serving others through financial planning and I enjoy having conversations with my clients about topics like this. I believe a financial plan should be holistic, and that finding satisfaction through work is foundational to a healthy plan. Whether you’re an existing client or a prospective one, I welcome the chance to talk more about this with you.
About Wacek Financial Planning
Founder, Ben Wacek, is a fee-only, Certified Financial PlannerTM who has a passion to help people of all income levels make wise financial decisions and steward their resources from an eternal perspective, using Biblical principles. If you’d like to learn more about Wacek Financial Planning, please visit www.wacekfp.com.
Photo courtesy of Patryk Dziejma on stocksnap.io.