If you were to survey 100 business and professional people, you might get 100 different explanations about why they work and what they are intending to achieve through their work.
“Earning a living” would probably be the most common response. We work to earn the finances necessary to buy food, housing and clothing; to support our chosen lifestyle; to acquire things that we need and want; and even to help in funding causes we believe in. But there are many other answers to the question, “What are you working for?”
For some work provides a sense of mission and meaning, even significance. Others strive to receive personal recognition for their skills and talents. Work serves some for determining their self-worth – for achieving success, however they define that. Some simply view work as a way to spend waking hours.
Those with more selfless, philanthropic inclinations might view their work as a way to serve others, offering needed assistance and encouragement to individuals or groups of people with specific needs.
For most of us, the work we do can function as a measuring tool, for gauging how we fit in society and what contributions we can make in the world around us. Motivations can vary markedly from person to person, and some motives may be more self-centered than others. Ultimately, to find fulfillment in our work, we should have a clear answer to the question: “What are you working for?”
The Bible offers some interesting perspectives on that question, in some ways challenging prevailing notions about the purpose of work and why we do what we do:
Work for what cannot be taken away. One of the problems with setting professional goals, such as earning promotions and receiving more compensation, is those give brief satisfaction but as newness wears off, we take on the attitude, “What’s next?” or “Now what?” Speaking to His followers, Jesus told them to strive for goals that cannot fade or be removed. “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal” (Matthew 6:19-20).
Work for things that will last. Next week many of us will observe Thanksgiving Day, a festive day of celebration when many of us will eat much food more than we need. We all need nourishment, but Jesus said there is much better “food” we should strive for: “Do not labor for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to everlasting life…. I am the bread of life. He who comes to Me shall never hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst” (John 6:27,35).
Work for eternal rewards. We all have discovered that human recognition and honors are temporary. One day we can be the “star” of the company; the next day someone has assumed that role. For that reason, it is best to remember the One that ultimately offers rewards no one can take away. “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, since you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward” (Colossians 3:23-24).
Robert J. Tamasy is vice president of communications for Leaders Legacy, Inc., a non-profit organization based in Atlanta, Georgia, U.S.A. A veteran journalist, he has written Tufting Legacies (iUniverse); Business At Its Best: Timeless Wisdom from Proverbs for Today’s Workplace (River City Press); and has coauthored with David A. Stoddard, The Heart of Mentoring (NavPress). For more information, see www.leaderslegacy.com or his blogs, www.bobtamasy.blogspot.comand www.bobtamasy.wordpress.com.
1. Here’s the question for you: What are you working for?
2. Do you agree that to gain the greatest fulfillment from the work you do, you should have a clear answer for the question above? Why or why not?
3. Have you ever experienced a situation where you realized your presumed reason for working was not adequate? Perhaps a time when you had achieved your stated professional goals and all you could think was, “Is this all there is?” Explain your answer.
4. How do you respond to the biblical motivations for work cited in this “Monday Manna”? Do you believe they are practical in today’s bottom line-oriented workplace?
NOTE: If you have a Bible and would like to review additional passages that relate to this topic, consider the following verses:
Proverbs 6:6-8, 11:25, 22:9, 24:30-34, 28:20; Ecclesiastes 3:9-14, 4:8-12