At Work & Theology 101

The Fascinating, Heartbreaking Contradiction in How We Long for Significance

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This, then, is how you should pray: “‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”

Matthew 6:9-10

“It is both fascinating and heartbreaking that most people long for significance and at the same time believe they’re nothing more than the product of arbitrary biological mutations,” writes Richard Doster in an article for byFaith magazine entitled “Our Work and Life’s Meaning.”

Even though our non-Christian friends and neighbors believe, in Doster’s words, that “they began as a pointless fluke and that they’re destined for oblivion,” they still hope that their lives will matter.

Even though I studied it, I never understood the lure of Marxism until hearing the following quote from Steve Garber that speaks to this truth about everyone looking for significance:

What Karl Marx promised the alienated workers of mid-19th century England was that the work of their hands mattered to history. While he profoundly misread the human heart, he did speak to the deep human longing that we all hunger for our work to matter. The hammer and sickle, ordinary tools, represent the hope that what one does day after day will affect history and that the world will be different because of what we do.

Believers and nonbelievers alike long for our work to matter. But we, as disciples of Christ, believe this desire, as Doster writes,

Comes from a place beyond ourselves, and it is why, when we see that our work satisfies another’s need, something inside assures us: This is why we were made.

Scripture and our Christian tradition tell us our purpose is to know and glorify God, and our work is a form of devotion through which we become a blessing to others.

Our work, says author Michael Wittmer, isn’t a means to our various ends, a path to self-discovery, or some expansive terrain where we set out to “find ourselves.” Work – in restaurants, as citizens, in law firms, and public schools – is where we’re to lose ourselves for Christ’s sake and discover the meaning we so urgently crave. (Matt. 10:39)

Wittmer also says we are tailor-made for earth, yet we long for something more. We are natural creatures, but with a nagging sense that we were made for a supernatural purpose.

The work God calls us to do satisfies us because it is inextricably tied to the purpose of our existence.

Doster argues that,

Human beings are the image of God, the visible presence of the invisible Creator, and the primary means by which He carries out His work in the world.

God’s will is done on earth one of two ways: directly, by himself, or indirectly, by his image bearers. Not only does God maintain the universe by the power of his word (Heb. 1:2-3), but he also rules indirectly through his followers in both culture and society.

“God put us here to create the policies, practices, and structures that cause life and creation to thrive. He put us here to develop customs, habits, and traditions that give life meaning,” says Doster, paraphrasing theologian Al Wolters. And when these things are based on God’s design and desire for his creation, they not only glorify Him but give others a picture of the way things should be.

This is the work that is designed to give our lives meaning and significance.

Doster closes his article by saying,

We work with the confidence that He’s present in all we do – working through us to accomplish His will on earth, just as it is in Heaven.

This week, how will God use your work to give others a glimpse of his kingdom?

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