“I want to do something meaningful with my life.”
Have you said this? I’ve said it, and I’ve heard it from many others.
What, then, is meaningful work?
Most of us carefully analyze the “what” of vocational decisions. (Unless you went with the Mr. Magoo approach to career planning like I did.) Vocational decisions involve both science (skills inventories, aptitudes, personality profiles, job and financial prospects) and heart (passion, motivation.)
Are some vocations more meaningful than others?
God created this incredible universe and gave human beings the work of cultivating the earth. His invitation to create is a great gift. I think he delights in all kinds of technical innovations and creative expressions.
Furthermore, heaven is often misunderstood to be an ethereal spiritual existence. The Bible describes something a little more concrete. Eternity with God will be spent on a redeemed and re-created earth. Quite possibly the products of our work remain for eternity. It’s no accident that the Bible begins in a garden and it ends in a city. (This is a very sketchy treatment of a complex topic. For more information read When the Kings Come Marching In by Richard J. Mouw and Amy L. Sherman’s excellent book on vocational stewardship, Kingdom Calling.)
Another aspect of the worth of our work is the value system that motivates it. Selfishly exploiting others while building up one’s own kingdom is no good. The work of a skilled surgeon in the service of his or her own ego might not be as valuable as the care of a nurse who is motivated by love and mercy. Much of our work is devalued by selfish and prideful motives, but I’m fascinated by the idea that God can redeem it. He will “hammer their swords into plowshares.”
Finally, no matter what vocation we pursue we can make our work meaningful by the virtue with which we do it.
The Bible is clear that anything and everything that our lives and work demand of us done in faith, in the name of Jesus Christ, by the power of the Holy Spirit, and to the glory of God is valuable in God’s sight. Perhaps full-time ministry done selfishly is no more meaningful than street sweeping done to the glory of God.
What we do matters.
Why we do it is important.
How we do it is perhaps most meaningful.
“And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” Colossians 3:17
How do you define the meaning of your life and work?