Have you ever felt that your best wasn’t good enough? Maybe it was something a boss or coworker said or did not say about your performance.
Do you struggle with feelings of failure because you’re comparing your work and accomplishments to others?
HR experts Tony Schwartz and Christine Porath suggest that employees are vastly more satisfied and productive when four key needs are met. One of those key needs is emotional, and this need is met when we feel valued and appreciated for our contributions.
God has given us four tools to address this emotional need and the other three areas of need in our lives:
- In the physical area, God has given us the Sabbath.
- In the mental area, God has given us the resurrection.
- In the spiritual area, God has given us calling.
And, as we’ll see today, God has given us work as a tool to fulfill a deep emotional need for significance.
The Purpose of Work
The late John Stott defined work as,
The expenditure of energy (manual or mental or both) in the service of others, which brings fulfillment to the worker, benefit to the community, and glory to God.
We were given work in order to experience fulfillment and significance in this world. In fact, we were made to work. Genesis 2:15 says,
The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it.
Yet we often fail to embrace the purposes of work as articulated in Stott’s definition. Instead, we either make it too important, turning it into an idol, or we diminish its importance, suggesting that it is only a means to an end. This second error is often used to justify a slacker’s attitude toward work.
The Key to Finding Significance in Work
The key to finding emotional significance in work is to understand how work is redeemed from the fall of humanity.
The reality is that none of our best work on its own is good enough to satisfy God—not yours, not mine, not your boss’s, not even the smartest person at your company.
Jesus was one man who walked the face of this earth whose work was wholly acceptable to God. And it is the work he did on our behalf that redeems us and our work. This is why Paul can write in Ephesians 2:10,
For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.
To paraphrase the old Scottish Confession of Faith:
God, looking on those who are in Christ, is pleased to accept and reward what is sincerely done by us in our attempt to glorify God and serve our neighbor, even though it is accompanied by much weakness and imperfection.
In this light we need to heed Paul’s words:
Whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God (1 Cor. 10:31).
Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters (Col. 3:23-24).
When you show up to work, you’re there for the glory of God. God wants to be honored in what you do and in how you do it.
There is great emotional reward in understanding that our work through Christ is important to God. When done this way, our best is always “good enough,” and it’s irrelevant to compare ourselves to others. We work to please our Master alone and in the end hear him say, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”
Editor’s note: Learn more about the biblical meaning of work in Hugh Whelchel’s How Then Should We Work?
Have you been encouraged by IFWE blogs? Help us spread the word by becoming a monthly IFWE partner!