Frequent mistake:  Seeking meaning FROM work.
Frequent mistake: Seeking meaning FROM work.

Frequent mistake: Seeking meaning FROM work.

This week I heard the quote, “I made the mistake of trying to derive meaning FROM my work, instead of bringing meaning TO my work.  I thought that if I would just get the right job, somehow it would fulfill me.  Instead, I have learned that God uses our work to do His work in us.  My work has been the crucible for the formation of my soul.”

I love the big difference that these little words can make.  Deriving meaning FROM my work is what many of us do.  We want joy, satisfaction, affirmation, compensation, and more.  

But what if we flipped the question and asked what meaning I can bring TO my work?  I have found that the best way to help people think through this is to ask them, “What is God doing in your workplace?” First of all in me, and then through me to the work?

Sometimes people laugh when they hear this question and say they feel that God isn’t even present there.  But we serve a sovereign God – there is no place where He is not present and therefore working.  When I begin to ask God what He is doing, He reveals that and also begins to show me how I can join Him in that work.  

Suddenly the focus of my work turns away from myself and what I can get, to God and what I can bring.  

We are to be salt, light, and leaven.  Most of us don’t eat salt by itself.  If I offer you a tablespoon of salt to eat by itself, thinking it a thoughtful gift, almost everyone will say, “No, thank you.”  Salt comes in the context of food, bringing flavor and preservation.  For most of us, that food – that context – is our workplace.  Likewise, leaven or yeast works from the inside, quietly and usually in darkness.  Again, it must interact with the dough.  No one wants to eat yeast straight.

God created us to work and, in our work, we are to be the hands and feet of Christ.  That means we bring value and meaning TO our work. We do it with excellence, with integrity, with joy.  We have an economic bottom line, being fruitful and multiplying.  We have an environmental bottom line, being stewards of God’s creation.  We have a social bottom line, loving our customers, colleagues, vendors, competitors, and suppliers with time, treasure, and/or talent.  And we have a missional bottom line – being a disciple and making disciples.

It’s not easy to change our perspective from wanting work to do something for us, to us doing something in our work.  But the beautiful thing is that when we do that, any work and any position can become meaningful.  Because God is also there working, and He invites us to join Him.

May your work this week open your eyes to see what God is doing in that space.