Meaningful Work

Most people prefer to find work that is fulfilling, in a career field they are passionate about, and with pay that compensates them rewardingly. But what makes work truly meaningful? What if work was meant to be fulfilling because it served a greater purpose, a purpose outside of ourselves? 

Whether it’s an entry-level position, work at home, or a leadership role there are many times where we have to do the work that is set before us. This is also known as whatever our hands find to do (Ecclesiastes 9:10). This may or may not be something we’re excited about or paid a lot of money for, but there’s still a purpose behind it. 

Originally work was established with the purpose of worship and expanding God’s kingdom on the earth. Then after the fall, a new layer was added while keeping the original intent. Work was going to be much harder, yet God provided a way for His people to be a part of the healing process in a broken world. God’s people were to be part of the solution and an Offspring was promised (Genesis 3:15). God’s people would have a new opportunity to glorify Him by having families, spreading out over the earth, and using their talents to serve His good purposes, while providing help to others (some product or service).

Work In The Beginning
In the beginning work was performed by God and then He gave instructions and assigned tasks to Adam and Eve. They were to be stewards of creation in perfect relationship with their Creator as they went about their assigned tasks.

And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”
Genesis 1:28 

The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it.
Genesis 2:15

Work After The Fall
As revealed in Genesis 3, Adam and Eve’s rebellion had consequences that still impact our working lives:

…cursed is the ground because of you; in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life; thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you…
Genesis 3:17b-18a

Work is now more difficult, but work was not the curse even though the curse affects our work. 

And then in the first eleven chapters of Genesis we go from the pre-fall garden of grace, caring for God’s creation, and expanding it to spread God’s fame, to a fallen people coming up with a grand plan to disobey God by living in one place and trying to make a name for themselves.

Then they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city and a tower with its top in the heavens, and let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be dispersed over the face of the whole earth.”
Genesis 11:4

Is work all about me, my self-worth, building a personal brand, accumulating wealth and retirement, while making a name for myself? Isn’t this a Tower of Babel mentality? 

There are two traps that we easily fall into. Our job, and the money and prestige it generates, can either feed our ego and selfish desires, or it can do the opposite where we tend to grumble and complain due to discontentment.

Consider these verses:

He who loves money will not be satisfied with money, nor he who loves wealth with his income; this also is vanity.
Ecclesiastes 5:10 

But godliness with contentment is great gain, for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world.
1 Timothy 6:6‭-‬7 

Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men.
Colossians 3:23

The Work Of Redemption
As mentioned in the introduction, after the fall God had a plan to restore and redeem and work continued to be incorporated into His plan. Below is a helpful excerpt from a devotional by the team at Theology of Work regarding “God’s Good Idea: Work and Redemption.”

Despite the curse, the work commissioned in Genesis 1 and 2 continues. There is still ground to be tilled and phenomena of nature to be studied, described and named. Men and women must still be fruitful, must still multiply, must still govern.

But now, a second layer of work must also be accomplished—the work of healing and repairing things that go wrong and evils that are committed. In a world of sin and sadness, many jobs echo God’s redemption: Scientists and salespersons help people overcome various difficulties by providing products to make life easier and healthier. Law enforcement officers and parents provide safety in the midst of chaos. Accountants and repairmen fix broken ledgers, appliances and technology.

These and other roles project hope for the coming restoration (Revelation 21:1). One day, brokenness will be gone; pain will be no more. But until that day, even the most frustrating jobs can be means by which we carry out the “ministry of reconciliation” (2 Corinthians 5:18). We can reflect Jesus’ finished work in our own lives as we display God’s characteristics to the world and work to redeem areas of brokenness.

The Greater Purpose
While we can’t work to earn our salvation, we can show the world where our Hope lies as we’re working. As we’re going and doing we can show by our actions and how we conduct ourselves that there is a greater purpose to what we do. The purpose includes the greatest command to love the Lord our God and our neighbors.

Therefore, work has meaning and is a tangible way we can minister to a broken world, while honoring God, providing income to steward and to give away to expand His kingdom, while helping others in need. It’s also an opportunity to point others to the promised Offspring, Jesus Christ, to emulate Him as His disciples, and to tell others about His finished work on the cross.

Work, after all, is still a means of worship…so whatever we do, let’s do it all for the glory of God (1 Corinthians 10:31).

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