At Work

What Is the Most Meaningful Job in America?

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“It’s been said that money can’t buy you happiness. It turns out it has similarly little effect on whether an employee feels their work is making a positive difference in the world,” writes Katherine Dill in a Forbes article listing the most – and least – meaningful jobs.

Guess which one of the following jobs made it to number one on Forbes‘ list: orthopedic surgeon, police chief, or youth minister?

Congratulations if you picked all three.

Surprising, right?

“Topping the list for the most meaningful job is a three-way tie of jobs as different in compensation as they are in nature: orthopedic surgeon, police chief, and youth minister,” Dill reveals.

She goes on to explain more about this unexpected three-way tie:

  • “Orthopedic surgeons, those who perform surgery to correct musculoskeletal issues, take home median pay of $337,800 each year, and 100% of respondents found strong meaning in their work.”
  • While Police chiefs “don’t bring in nearly the salaries of orthopedic surgeons, 100% found their work meaningful. The job pays a respectable median of $63,100.”
  • “Youth minister, the third part in this tie for first, pays the least by far – an annual median $35,000 – but 100% of respondents still find strong meaning in the role.”

As Christians, how can we look at this data about meaningful work? How should it impact how we view our jobs?

Christians have three options.

Do you believe your work makes the world a better place? 

The higher we rank our jobs according to this criterion, typically the more satisfied we are with our work.

This is called “the personal perspective” on job satisfaction. According to this perspective, you are the one who determines the importance and meaning of your work.

Do you believe the meaning of your job is tied to the amount of money you make?

The second way our jobs are typically measured is by what is known as the “economic/market perspective.”

This perspective measures the importance of your job based on the size of your salary.

Culture puts a lot of emphasis on this perspective. Money is seen as a measure of success and status.

In a free-market economic system, your compensation is driven by the immediate value of your labor to the market at any given time. That’s why the importance of your work is driven by the market in this perspective.

Do you view your work the way God views your work? 

Genesis 2:15 says,

The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it.

The work God calls Adam to do is important to God. It has intrinsic value in and of itself.

This is also true for the work God calls each of us to do.

It is God, not you or the market, who determines the importance of your work.

Our callings are designed by God to make the world a better place. He designed them to bring more flourishing to his creation.

If you’re a follower of Christ and work as a senior media buyer (the occupation listed as the least meaningful job on Forbes‘ list), this should radically alter the way you view your job.

Sometimes it is difficult to see how what you do every day contributes to the flourishing of others. This is why it’s helpful to connect faith and work with economics.

Economics helps us see the bigger picture of how our work adds to what others are already doing in their work, and how the sum of all this activity contributes to everyone’s flourishing.

God has given each one of us a comparative advantage with which we should faithfully engage the world through our work to his glory, the service of our neighbor, and the furtherance of his kingdom here and now.

So let me ask you, “How meaningful is your job?”

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