The number on our paycheck can never quantify the value of our existence.
It’s easy to get lost in our work. Time’s an offering, the almighty office desk an altar. Culture praises overtime. Sacrificed relationships are badges of honor. Being a workaholic is socially acceptable, but we forget that’s how we get burnt out, spiraling out of control under pressure. A results-driven culture tempts us to sacrifice a little more time and health. Why do we recognize such little middle ground between lazy entitlement and obsessive workaholism?
Working hard is commendable. However, work is only one piece of the puzzle. Work is designed for significance beyond itself.
Conflict erupts within ourselves and with others when we make work into something it’s not. Labor carries intrinsic value, dignity, and income. It’s not just about individual achievement, wealth, or living comfortably. Without connections, work doesn’t live up to its potential. Work is about purpose and our purpose is connected to people.
I remember King Solomon from the Bible, He was considered the wisest man in the world. As king of one of the most influential nations, he had wealth, military assets, and a thousand wives and mistresses. It seems he should’ve been the happiest man in the world.
Yet, Solomon wasn’t satisfied. The cultural measure of success didn’t work for one of the world’s most successful people. In critique of the conquering and accumulation mindset, the narrator of Ecclesiastes revealed what really matters is much simpler.
What if we’re looking in the wrong places for a fulfilled life? Being satisfied isn’t found by owning more, controlling more people, or instant gratification. Working toward self-satisfaction is shortsighted; we’re made for more.
Life’s more than what we achieve. Our work isn’t everything, but it isn’t nothing.
Work is how we provide for people we love and contribute to the world. Work teaches us to grow and change. It helps us discover parts of who we are, but it’s not all that defines us. The number on our paycheck can never quantify the value of our existence.
We find substance in simpler things, like being a good friend, neighbor, and family member. We find purpose by learning to become who God dreamed us to be, and by doing work that adds to human flourishing. We find the true meaning of work when we realize it’s about striving for something eternally significant and connecting with people, not trying to gain from them.