Is work meaningless?

In a Courier Mail article late last year, Kristina Olsson examines whether the satisfaction we get from our work depends on the meaning our work gives us. As Olsson rightly observes, “But in a global economy ruled by profit and bottom line, by efficiencies and dividends and change, how many among us can say we enjoy our work, that work is a calling that brings purpose and pleasure?” She asks the big question, “How many of us would choose to work if we didn’t have to?” and then provides some interesting insights taken from popular culture and behavioural studies about the meaning we derive about ourselves through our work.

Yet how do we derive meaning from days of frustration, futility and loss in our work? We understand that the perfection of God’s creation has been infected by a curse that is all pervasive and captured in the words of Genesis 3

‘Cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat of it all the days of your life’.

In spite of the reality of this curse, our work is no less valuable as an expression of who we are – i.e. creatures made in God’s image. Just as God works, we emulate him through our work – i.e. work that involves creation, discovery, order and maintenance, renewal and service of others, even in a world suffering from the consequences of sin.

This search for meaning from our work is something that transcends even the nature of the work we undertake. The possibility that my work may not be particularly interesting or significant does not detract from its value and its potential to add real meaning to my life, particularly if I offer it as an act of worship each day. Indeed, seeing my work as an act of worship may in fact transform the most menial of tasks to becoming something of far greater substance.

To explore these concepts in greater depth, consider taking part in a Gotham course. For more details about setting up a Gotham course in your church click this link.