New Series: The Meaning of Work

the meaning of work Sep 16, 2019

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth….So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.” (Genesis 1:1, 27-28)

According to Gallup’s recent State of the Global Workplace report, 85% of workers are disengaged from their jobs.

That number is so alarming, it can be hard to wrap your head around, so let me say it a different way: Nearly 9 out of every 10 people find little to no joy or meaning in the thing they are spending more than a third of their days doing.

This is the opposite of human flourishing, and it’s certainly not what God intended when he created work as a form of worship in the beginning.

It seems like everyone has an opinion as to why these job dissatisfaction numbers are so high. I’ve heard people blame bad bosses, toxic company cultures, wage discrimination, and a myriad of other factors. There’s little doubt that all of these things contribute to our collective discontent at work. But after helping more than a million Christians connect eternal meaning and significance to their work, I am convinced the reason why so many people are unhappy at work stems from something far deeper: an unbiblical view of the meaning of work.

I would argue that most of us who make up that 85% fall on one of two ends of a spectrum representing what we believe about the meaning and purpose of work.

Those who fall on the left end of the spectrum expect far too little meaning from their work. These are people who see work as a meaningless means to an end. They go to work merely to collect a paycheck so that they can enjoy what they see as the truly meaningful things in life: family, friends, travel, Netflix, church, etc.

As today’s passage makes clear, the Bible refutes this view of the meaning of work. In the beginning, God created. God was productive. God himself worked.

The Bible is the only religious text that says that God worked. Every other religion says that the gods created human beings to work and serve the gods. Only Christianity starts with a God who works.

But not only did God work, he called us to work and reveal his working, creative character in the process. God worked and called us to do the same as an act of worship. This truth gives inherent meaning and purpose to every person’s job. We work because God worked.

So, the Bible tells us not to expect too little meaning from our work, because work is a form of worship. But I would argue that most of us don’t fall on the left end of the spectrum of the meaning of work. Today, most of us are much more likely to fall on the extreme right end, expecting far too much meaning from our work. It is that end of the spectrum we will turn to in next week’s devotional.


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