Work. The word can bring you up or bring you down just by the mentioning of the word. Some of us are able to work at something we love to do so it does not even seem like work. Others of us are just using our current job as a way to try to make money and would rather not be doing what we are currently doing. There is also everyone in between. No matter what we do, people generally enjoy having a vacation from their normal work. A change in scenery. A chance to do something different than we normally do. A chance to relax.
With this in mind, I wanted to tackle the topic of work and go into it with a little more in-depth discussion about work. I will be breaking this discussion into three parts and the main topics we will be discussing will be as follows:
Part 1: Our busy society and our search for answers.
Part 2: Good work and engaging it with joy.
Part 3: Sacred work and using it as a means of service.
It is my intention to show that work can be something much more meaningful than just the work that we do as a job. The things we do for work can be used to really affect our world and the people we work with in a positive fashion. We can make our world a better place and the lives of the people we work with can be better if we approach our work with the right frame of mind. With this idea in mind, let’s get into the subject of work.
We will best be able to discern and respond to our calling (work/vocation) if we have a deeper appreciation for the meaning of work. If our vocation is about responding to God to be in the world and to do work that reflects this call, then we naturally need to ask about the meaning and purpose of work. So what constitutes good work. In my mind, good work is work that is congruent with God’s purposes in our lives.
Good work = work that is in line with God’s purposes for our lives.
Sometimes it can be very difficult to take the time to pause and consider the meaning of work because we are living in a world with the crisis of an “active life.” The life of engagement with the world is for many, if not most, marked by a hectic, busy and bewildering pace. We have a remarkable capacity to live overworked lives, caught up in hectic activity that “has to be done.” This is one of the sins of modernity and of life and work in urban, industrialized societies. We have lost a sense of what it means to be reflective and contemplative.
Busyness often makes us feel important. But we know we are mistaken to assume that if a person is busy he or she must be important or, to turn it around, that if an individual is important than he or she must be busy. Underlying all of this is an inevitable awareness, that in our busyness we begin to lose a sense of what our actions mean and ultimately what our lives mean.
As a result, people are trying to find answers, solutions, and meaning. Books on work, career, career transitions, and career development are best-sellers. there is a palpable sense within our communities that we need to be able to resolve this crisis and come to terms with both our identity and our work so that we can find meaning, joy, and purpose in that work.
While various helpful resources are available, it is critical that we think deeply about a theological response to this crisis. Many may consider this idea either strange or perplexing because they have not given intentional theological thought to anything. But when a crisis looms in our lives, we often have to ask the most critical questions. And here is where careful theological reflection can provide us with a way forward.
So how do we go about giving our current work situation serious theological thought? We simply try to think about our work through the lens that God would look at our work. We can simply go to the source and ask God ourselves. We can talk to God through prayer and ask Him to reveal His plans for us and if our current work reflects those plans. We can spend some time reading the bible and ask God to reveal to us through His Word what we should be doing with our work. Another great resource is to schedule a visit with your pastor. They would be in tune with god and would be more than happy to talk to you about your work and if it is fitting into God’s plans for you. The important thing is that you do put some thought and effort into trying to get some answers to this simple question:
Does my work reflect the plans God has for my life?
I would like to share with you a couple of verses from the bible that I think might help drive this idea home a little bit.
17 May the favor of the Lord our God rest on us;
establish the work of our hands for us—
yes, establish the work of our hands.
23 Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters,
I do have a little assignment for you before we get to Part 2 of this discussion on work. I want everyone to take a pen and paper and jot down a few of your own thoughts to get you thinking about your current work and what is the meaning of that work. I want you to think about your work and write down words or phrases that immediately come to your mind about your work. Which of these words or phrases reflect a positive and/or godly attitude toward work?