The Purpose of Work

The Purpose of Work September 5, 2008
As some of you may know, I go to a Presbyterian church. It’s located in a bucolic, historically-preserved town that happens to be a stone’s throw from the pharmaceutical Mecca of the Northeast, and also within commuting distance of both New York City and Philadelphia. Needless to say, we are a church community filled with our fair share of corporate executive-types. Also there are many entrepreneurs, artists, doctors and lawyers, and a few farmers (throwbacks from the olden days from whence our town was historically preserved). It’s a pleasant cross section of ambitious, intelligent, hard-working folks.

One Sunday morning in church I noticed in the bulletin an announcement for a new Men’s group that was going to be starting up the next week as a new offerring of the Christian Education program.  I yawned at first, because trying to get men to talk about their faith in small groups can sometimes be painstaking. But I decided to take an obligatory look at what kind of topics this new Men’s group was going to tackle. The first guest speaker was a man by the name of Dr. Stephen Payne, “Leadership Coach,” and he was going to be speaking to the men on “Faith in the Workplace.” This got my attention.

The next Sunday I proceeded directly to the new Men’s class to meet this Dr. Payne. I discovered that he was a British chap with a great accent and terrific sense of humor, along with a long list of business accomplishments. Kind of like Monty Python with a briefcase. It turns out that Dr. Payne is also a very mature Christian with a passion for helping working stiffs like me find more spiritual meaning in our careers and work life.

After the men had gathered and settled in, Dr. Payne opened up the class by asking a question. A very simple question:

“What is the purpose of your work?”

This cross-section of intelligent, successful, ambitious men from our very sophisticated church were immediately stumped and sat in embarrassing silence for a few moments. Even I was thinking to myself, “He shouldn’t make us think so hard about things which we know nothing about, so soon into the class, and so early in the morning.” Coming up with an answer to this deep question is supposed to be his job, isn’t it? I consider myself to be a well-educated, knowledgeable Christian, but this one flew right over my head.

Dr. Payne prodded us a bit, and one at a time we spoke up, mumbled something in hopes of having the right answer, but we all had the same wrong answer. It was one form or another of: “My purpose for work is to make money and provide for my family.”My purpose is to make money? Come on! I like making money, but I know my purpose for my work is more than that!

Dr. Payne was quick to chastise us short-sighted men and pointed out that the purpose of our work was instead to glorify God.

I knew that. I had just forgotten about it.

The purpose of my work is to glorify God. 

Well. That puts things in a different light, now, doesn’t it?

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