False Stories of Work: My Source of Meaning

Reprinted from the Salt & Light Australia Daily Devotional.

Part two of a series.

So God created mankind in his own image,
    in the image of God he created them;
    male and female he created them.
God blessed them and said to them, ‘Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.’

Genesis 1:27-28

This is part two of seven devotions dealing with some false stories about work we might hear about, or even unconsciously absorb; and the better story for work that we read in the Bible and is commended through the Gospel.

We have already done false story one: My focus is on my leisure time, not work. Today we look at:

2. Work is my source of meaning and purpose

This is virtually the opposite of the first myth. Instead of focusing on leisure rather than work, we focus on work as the source of our sense of meaning and purpose. This is a tempting false story, because it has the appearance of virtue. For middle class workers it is an increasingly attractive myth.

The Harvard Business Review did research in 2018 that claimed that:

More than 9 out of 10 employees…are willing to trade a percentage of their lifetime earnings for greater meaning at work. Across age and salary groups, workers want meaningful work badly enough that they’re willing to pay for it.

That same article referred to a massive increase in the desire for meaning to be found in the work people do.

However, this is a false story. As an Atlantic article said, “our desks were never meant to be altars”; and it is dangerous to seek meaning and purpose in an organization which can go bankrupt, or a job you can be fired from.

The reading from Genesis tells a better story for our work. God gives us important work to do: filling in and caring for creation. This is work which has meaning and purpose because we are appointed as sub-creators by God to care for this world. We continue his good work of bringing order out of chaos.

We are made in the image of God, which means we are image bearers of God, and so we represent God in the work we do. That gives everything we do a sense of gravitas and significance.

Think It Through

  • How much do you see this false story lived out around you? Do you sometimes live out that false story in your own life?
  • What difference does it make knowing that you are fulfilling God’s purposes through your work; and that you are God’s image bearer as you work?


Dear God,
It is tempting sometimes to find meaning and purpose in our work, rather than in working for you.
Forgive us for putting too much emphasis on our work, rather than seeking you in our work.
Help us to be conscious of bearing your image in the way we do our work, and may others see you in our working.
Help us to see your vision for our daily work.

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Kara Martin is the author of Workship: How to Use Your Work to Worship God, and Workship 2: How to Flourish at Work. She is also a lecturer with Mary Andrews College. Kara has worked in media and communications, human resources, business analysis and policy development roles, in a variety of organizations, and as a consultant. Kara has a particular passion for integrating our Christian faith and work, and helping churches connect with the workers in their congregations. She is currently conducting research on how to effectively equip workplace Christians to integrate their faith and work.

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