Wednesday, 27 January 2010


One of my favourite blogs, frequently linked in the sidebar here, is Matt Perman's What's best next. It's great for organized people, and even better for disorganized people like me, especially at this 'getting organized' time of year. Matt is senior director of strategy at Desiring God ministries (led by John Piper), so when he talks about organization, you know it is going to be worth sitting up and taking notice.

A couple of days ago he blogged Studs Terkel's 1972 book Work, including this quote:

Work is about daily meaning as well as daily bread. For recognition as well as cash; for astonishment rather than torpor; in short, for a sort of life rather than a Monday through Friday sort of dying. We have a right to ask of work that it include meaning, recognition, astonishment, and life.

I commented on the post that Terkel's view was attractive but idolatrous, expecting from work what we ought rather expect from God. Here's my elaboration on the notion that work (in this world) ought to be meaningful or astonishing, as opposed to meaningless and boring:

To work and find satisfaction is a gift of God. But work is afflicted with meaninglessness and boredom, unavoidably so. This problem will be fixed in the new creation and not before.

Those who can find satisfaction in work should thank God for his unexpected kindness, neither taking it for granted nor treating it as a right.

1 comment:

Radagast said...

I disagree. Quite a bit, actually.

The desire for meaningful work is part of our being created in the image of God, as is indicated by the parallel between the 6 days of Creation and the 6-day work week. Work is about daily meaning.

Like everything else, the Fall has damaged that, and it won't be 100% fixed in this life, but what Paul calls the "firstfruits of the Spirit" does involve an ability, indeed a duty, to make one's work as meaningful as possible.

The first and greatest source of meaning lies of course in God: Eph 6:6 basically indicates that even the most menial work can be a kind of prayer. The Practice of the Presence of God by "Brother Lawrence" famously expands on this.

The second source of meaning lies in the opportunity to serve others, even if only by smiling at them. Again, even menial jobs have this opportunity.

The third source of meaning lies in the opportunity to use the gifts given by God (cf the parable of the talents).

The fourth source of meaning, related to the others, lies in the opportunity to create or to do or make things which are objectively good, as God did in creation (Eph 4:28, NASB: "performing with his own hands what is good" = "ἐργαζόμενος ταῖς ἰδίαις χερσὶν τὸ ἀγαθόν").

Similarly, I think Eph 6:9 implies a duty on employers to facilitate this search for meaning in work.

As Christians, we don't only hope for the future: the Holy Spirit should also be inspiring our lives here and now:

For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. (Eph 2:10)