On work–starting a new occasional series

I believe that people were created to work. That we have a fundamental need for meaningful, transformative work. As a Christian, I think that this is clear from the creation account in Genesis 1-2. God made humans to work. Now, that’s not the only thing that He made us for, as I’ll doubtless discuss at a later time. But work is an important part of why we are here.

In particular, I believe that people were created for meaningful, transformative work. We were made to work in a way that is satisfying to our souls.

Finally, I believe that people were created to work in ways that offer service to others. In fact, I think that an economy can be defined by these acts of service. We are all each of us simultaneously served by some and serving others. This can be a beautiful interplay, as the efforts of people blend together into a harmonious whole, lifting all of us together into a greater and more perfect world.

Or, at least, it could. But it doesn’t usually work this way, does it?

The darkness in the world always seems to drag at this, tearing it down, and tearing us apart.

We were made to find satisfaction in the mutual service we have with God and each other. Instead, we find ourselves striving to lift ourselves up at the expense of those around us. And that certainly includes the world of work. I doubt that I need to explain this to anyone who has worked a job before. How often do our managers treat us as though we were merely their tools? To be fair, how kind are we to those who work below us? And how generously do we live with our co-workers, who should be our companions in great works but are often our competitors for the scraps tossed down from on high?

This is not what should be.

But maybe we can do better than this.

As a result of the last couple of years, I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about issues like work, organizations, productivity, management, and leadership. On recommendation of my father, I’m going to begin blogging about them. These will definitely be rough, half-formed ideas. In part, I’m writing to begin the process of working out these ideas. So, please see these posts not as firm conclusions but as milestones in my thinking. I’m at the beginning of the road, and there’s still a way to go.

Also, I’m allocating very little time to fleshing out these posts. Essentially, I’ll write for about thirty minutes on a topic and then post. As such, these will be particularly rough blog posts and potentially not up to my normal high(?) standards. But hopefully they will be helpful, even if only by prompting thoughts of your own.

A recent study made headlines by asserting that only 30% of Americans are happy and engaged by their work. That means that 70% of the workforce is unhappy and, therefore, suffering. I think that we can do better. I think that we must do better. This means rethinking our assumptions about life, work, and the job. That means questioning what we’ve been handed.

But, above all, that means clinging to the hope that it is truly possible to have joy in one’s work. Ecclesiastes 3:12-13 says, “I perceived that there is nothing better for them than to be joyful and to do good as long as they live; also that everyone should eat and drink and take pleasure in all his toil—this is God’s gift to man.”

But how?

Hopefully these posts will help discover the beginnings of an answer.

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2 responses to “On work–starting a new occasional series

  • jon

    can’t wait to see some of these posts. I’ve been thinking about this topic for some time now – specifically the aspects of creativity within work.

    this may be a meta-conversation in your investigation, but i’d be interested in your thoughts on the Google principle of work. (I don’t know how thoroughly this is still practiced today, but..) I know the early creators of Google found themselves dreaming up more ideas than they could execute… So they gave several of their workers one day a week off to work on ‘whatever’. Their idea was, if people were given the ability to spawn their own creations, they would work much harder at them… without even being told to. Which has given rise to many of the myriad google products. (I think it’s now called ‘google labs’).
    So, the short question is, “How important is creativity and/or ownership of work within a business?” and “How do you inspire people to be more creative at work?”

    Also interesting is this little blip from Tim Keller (which I might have actually gotten from your twitter feed):

    http://www.christianitytoday.com/thisisourcity/7thcity/why-tim-keller-wants-you-to-stay-in-that-job-you-hate.html

  • On organizations | A Dark and Quiet Room

    […] The second is less obvious, but I would argue it is equally important. Every organization exists to provide work to its staff (or whoever it is who is doing the work of the organization). Remember that meaningful work is a basic human need. […]

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