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The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

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Work matters for our faith

Do what you love. This is one of the most popular catchphrases in the work world today. It’s not exactly clear who coined the slogan, but one of its most committed proponents was the late Apple CEO Steve Jobs, who included these comments in a graduation speech at Stanford [Calif.] University:

“You’ve got to find what you love. And that is as true for your work as it is for your lovers. Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do.”

Someone who says “I love what I do” is certainly blessed. To be fully involved in doing one’s work creates a relationship that is healthy for oneself and others. To strive to find such a position is the goal of all workers.

Jobs’ advice has had much discussion in social media with many followers, as well as a number of critics who have pointed out that his comments are a form of elitism and privilege that excludes many people in the work world who don’t find meaning in their current jobs.     

One blogger noted the eight repetitions of “you” and “yours” in Jobs’ four sentences. The implication is that the first and foremost center of our work is the self. The primary motivation in this view of work is to do what satisfies me.

Do we work only for ourselves? We work for others — to support our loved ones, to serve the needs of others, and even to participate in God’s creation.

What this continuing controversy raises are important questions: Why do we work? What is the meaning of work? And still further for Christians, how does our work connect, if at all, to our faith? Whether we now have a dream position or feel trapped in our job, how do we look for meaning in what we do? For work is a search for enduring meaning as well as for daily bread.

Quality 

To do quality work is not only a way to serve one’s employer but also to serve the consumer, that is, one’s neighbor, whether located near or far. To accomplish one’s work effectively and to perform the task well contributes to the ongoing work of God in the world. How we do a job is more important than what we do. Many a life has been saved by a properly tightened screw.

When Augustine was asked why he didn’t buy shoes from a Christian cobbler, the theologian and philosopher reportedly commented: “He does not make good shoes.” 

Growth

Much work has the possibility of growth, of learning, of finding ways to improve the performance of one’s work, of doing something a bit differently. Such growth indicates the worker is striving to develop the talents and gifts God has given.

Relationships

Our interactions with others at work are places where we are with our neighbors whom we are to serve and love even amid tensions and conflicts. How do we see those with whom we work, for whom we work, and who are the recipients of our work? Do we see others as objects or as creatures of God as we are, yes, fallible and fallen, but also people who deserve dignity, respect and even love?

A big question is: Is our work a way to care, really care, for others?


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December issue

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