1: Ecclesiastes says, “A person can do nothing better than to . . . find satisfaction in their own toil” (2:24).
But how? How should we approach our work in a way that leads to satisfaction and delight?
The Bible has specific answers to this question, Timothy Keller writes in Every Good Endeavor: Connecting Your Work to God’s Work.
The Bible tells us, “We were built for work and the dignity it gives us as human beings,” he notes.
The practical implications of this idea are profound.
Tim suggests we search for work that both fits “our gifts and our capacities” and allows us to serve the world in ways that benefit others.
We ask ourselves: Does the work I do make people better? Does my work appeal to the best or worst aspects of humanity?
Our goal is to be intentional about articulating what we do and what our organization does to serve humankind.
“Food that nourishes, roofs that hold out the rain, shade that protects from the heat of the sun. . . . the satisfaction of the material needs and desires of men and women . . . when businesses produce material things that enhance the welfare of the community, they are engaged in work that matters to God,” Tim quotes Professor Jeff Van Duzer.
2: But our choice of profession is only the first step. After all, we “can devote our life to community service and be a total schmuck,” Tim writes. We can also “spend our life on Wall Street and be a hero.”
How we see our work matters. “Around what ultimate purpose should our life revolve? Are we capable of heroic self-sacrifice or is life just a series of achievement hoops?”
3: There is, however, an even higher level question we should ask ourselves: Does the work I do benefit the nature of work itself?
“Our goal should not simply be to do work,” Tim notes, “but to increase the human race’s capacity to cultivate the created world.”
In Genesis 1 and 2, we see how God not only cultivated his creation, but he created more cultivators: “The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it.” (2:15)
That is our goal, too.
Yes, serving others is good. But there are pitfalls to this approach, writer Dorothy Sayers warns us:
“[T]he moment we [only] think of serving other people, we begin to have a notion that other people owe us something for our pains,” she writes. We “begin to bargain for reward, to angle for applause, and to harbor a grievance if we are not appreciated.”
3: Instead, we can set our mind on serving the nature and purpose of work itself. “The only reward the work can give us is the satisfaction of beholding its perfection,” Dorothy writes. “The work takes all and gives nothing but itself; and to serve the work is a labor of pure love.”
When we do the work so well that “by God’s grace it helps others who can never thank us, or it helps those who come after us to do it better,” Tim writes, “then we know we are ‘serving the work’, and truly loving our neighbor.”
Reflection: How does the work I do serve humankind in some way? Does my work appeal to the best or worst aspects of humanity?
Action: Journal my answers to the questions above.