Have you ever wondered why we work? Is there more to it than just earning money? Martin Luther, the 16th-century German theologian, answered this fundamental question. He said, “Work should be done in service of the neighbor and the world.” This means that work should ultimately be done as a service to God.
The 17th-century Baroque musician Johann Sebastian Bach’s passion was to write beautiful music, pieces that are still performed today, more than 500 years later. At the bottom of each masterpiece he composed, Bach affixed the letters “SDG,” which stood for “Soli Deo Gloria,” meaning “only to God be the glory.” Bach was one of the greatest composers of all time, creating more than a thousand pieces of music in his lifetime, yet he believed that God and God alone deserved credit for his masterpieces.
Work is not meant to be an expression of our achievements. In the words of Timothy Keller, an American pastor, theologian, and Christian apologist, “Work is not primarily a thing one does to live, but the thing one lives to do. It is, or it should be, the full expression of the worker’s faculties…the medium in which he offers himself to God.” Our work should demonstrate God’s greatness.
This begs one question: how do we do that?
Here are 4 ways to use your work experiences to make your life more meaningful.
Oseola McCarty, a washerwoman from Mississippi, told one interviewer, “I start each day on my knees, saying the Lord’s Prayer. Then I get busy about my work. You have to accept God the best way you know how and then He’ll show Himself to you. And the more you serve Him, the more able you are to serve Him.” She started each morning speaking with God and then worked to serve Him throughout the day.
If God is the Creator of work, He should be at the center of our daily labor because when He is, miracles happen. And we enjoy the privilege of living a life of purpose not only on the weekends and in our free time, but also at our workplace, where we spend most of our time.
In the words of the Apostle Paul, “For David, after he had served the purpose of God in his own generation, fell asleep and was laid with his fathers.” Through David’s work and calling as a shepherd and later as King of Israel, he leveraged his work to live his life to the fullest.
That’s your highest calling: to be a person who glorifies God in all you do, including in your work.
Work is part of God’s plan for you. You should never look at it as a curse or something negative since work is part of God’s own identity. He first presented Himself as the Creator, working to sculpt the Universe, and He is still at work now, preparing a new Heaven and Earth for us.
The legendary UCLA Basketball Coach Wooden recognized the goodness of work. Tony Dungy, Super Bowl — winning NFL coach and author wrote, “Coach Wooden didn’t just teach basketball — he taught life. He taught the fundamentals of good character, integrity, a strong work ethic, and teamwork — all the qualities necessary to succeed in life. He taught as much by his example as by his words.” Wooden made every day his masterpiece and, through his excellent track record and attitude, left a profound impression on all the young men who played for him.
The Guinness Company of Dublin, Ireland, makes a creamy, dark brown ale. The stout’s taste and consistency stand out, as does the company’s work philosophy, crafted by its Christian founder, Arthur Guinness: “Earn all you can, save all you can, give all you can.”
In other words, work is good because it provides for you, your family, and the ability to help others. Guinness adopted that leitmotiv to build the company and achieve astonishing prosperity, while also doing massive good through generous giving.
I heard an entrepreneur tell his remarkable story at a conference I attended. He built an information technology company in Northern India, where it is illegal to preach the Gospel openly. He felt called to bring the Good News to his Hindu employees by building his company on Christian values. Then one year, a staff member told him, “We have planned a surprise for you to be presented during our year-end party.” He wondered what it might be. At the party, more than a dozen staff members poignantly acted out the death and resurrection of Jesus. At the end of the skit, with tears of gratitude in his eyes, the entrepreneur asked, “How were you able to perform the story of Christ’s Passion so well?” He wondered how Hindus could have such a deep understanding of Jesus.
The man who portrayed Jesus told him, “You are modeling it for us every day. Your Christian values have left such a profound impact on our lives we wanted to show you our gratitude, so we did Internet research on how to present this play.
As I listened to the testimony of the company owner, my conviction to become an entrepreneur grew stronger because I realized there are many places where formal religion can’t go, but as business people, we can bring the Good News of Jesus to people in our workplaces. My work as a member of the scientific community would open doors to His Word. Other scientists, who wouldn’t set foot inside a church service, might feel comfortable asking me questions about my faith. I could leverage my position to be an ambassador for God.
Be an ambassador for God.
Leadership expert John C. Maxwell has inspired me in many ways. One of his quotes particularly resonated with me: “Intentionally add value to people every day.” I wondered how I could do that, too. And then I realized I was doing it already. I may not be as intentional as John, but I do lift up others.
I add value to the lives of my work colleagues and business partners through verbal encouragement. I say things like, “You are awesome!” “You can do it!” “You did a great job. Keep it up!” “Well done!” It’s simple yet highly effective.
Encouraging someone else doesn’t cost anything. It doesn’t take much effort or time; you can do it many times every day. Words of affirmation build other people up. You can start encouraging others right away.
Don’t wait another minute. Do it now.
So often in the workplace, we concentrate on money or success, but as the authors of The Go-Giver, Bob Burg and John David Mann, write, “The first question should be, ‘Does it serve? Does it add value to the lives of others?’
If the answer to that question is yes, then you can go ahead and ask, ‘Does it make money?’” Focus on leveraging your time at work to add value to your co-workers’ lives.
In Jesus’s words, “The Son of Man came not to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Serving others does not diminish your value but rather adds value to their lives.