The Problem with Work
The Point: Our work gains meaning when it’s done to honor Christ.
Get Into the Study
Share the following story with your group as you introduce this session.
The New York Times Magazine recently published an article titled, “Wealthy, Successful and Miserable,” with the subheading, “The upper echelon is hoarding money and privilege to a degree not seen in decades. But that doesn’t make them happy at work.” The author of the article earned his M.B.A at Harvard in the early 2000s. He describes acceptance into the program as feeling like “a winning lottery ticket, a gilded highway to world-changing influence, fantastic wealth and…a lifetime of deeply meaningful work.” However, the author was surprised at his 15-year class reunion to find many of the most successful classmates were deeply unhappy. He quotes one classmate who was earning $1.2 million a year as saying, “I feel like I’m wasting my life. When I die, is anyone going to care that I earned an extra percentage point of return? My work feels totally meaningless.” The author of the article goes on to consider what makes a job feel meaningful.
Ask: “When have you been disappointed by a job?”
In this session, we will learn that we don’t need a dream job in order to find meaning in our work. Our work gains meaning when it’s done to honor Christ.
Nikki Wilbanks is a stay-at-home mom, writer, Bible study teacher, and commercial real estate appraiser/investor. She is a graduate of Pepperdine University. She lives with her husband and two children in Murfreesboro, TN.
Get into the Study [Optional Activity #1]
In advance, find and load an online ad or video that reflects our culture’s view of work. After playing the video, invite group members to describe attitudes about work displayed. Compare to what the Bible describes as the right attitude about work. (From Adult Leader Guide, p. 53) Here’s a sample:
Get into the Study [Optional Activity #2]
The following video and article highlight the problem of overwork in the Japanese culture. You may want to share this information with your group or simply use it in your own preparation. (Shout out to Toni Sanders, who found these to share with her own group.)
Article in The Guardian: Japanese woman ‘dies from overwork’ after logging 159 hours of overtime in a month
Study the Bible
Share the following article as you wrap up your study the Ecclesiastes 2:18-23 portion of the session.
A recent article in The Atlantic declared that our society has developed a new religion—“workism.” “What is workism?” journalist Derek Thompson asks. “It is the belief that work is not only necessary to economic production, but also the centerpiece of one’s identity and life’s purpose; and the belief that any policy to promote human welfare must always encourage more work.” He goes on to explain that as a country, we have developed a relationship with work that makes us believe that it will save us—that all we need to do is “hustle harder” to find fulfillment—when really, all it does is create burnout and greed. As people, we’re always looking to worship something. One of the easiest pitfalls Christians face in this day and age is to keep ourselves from joining in on the idol worship of career.
But as followers of the one true God, we know the truth—that only a deep, loving relationship with our Creator will fulfill us. It changes everything. It sets us apart. It reminds us that, just as Solomon discovered thousands of years ago, career only finds its meaning when it’s done to glorify God.
May we be a gospel light in this world, and a gospel light in our workplaces.
Ashley Emmert is a freelance writer and full-time mama from Chicago, where she lives with her husband and her new baby boy. You can find her on Twitter at @ashgemmert, or failing to update her blog at ashleygraceemmert.blogspot.com.
Study the Bible [Optional Activity]
After reading Ecclesiastes 2:18-23, share this article that reflects our culture’s view of work. After viewing the information, ask members to describe attitudes discussed about work. Compare with what the Bible describes as a right attitude about work. (Idea from KJV Adult Leader Guide, page 53).
- What is your dream job?
- What makes a good job rewarding?
- What’s the best thing about the work you do?
- How have you experienced the situation described in Ecclesiastes 2:18-23?
- On the spectrum of idleness to idolatry, to which extreme are you most tempted?
- Why is work an important part of our lives as human beings?
- What, according to the teacher, should we aspire to in this life?
- Based on this passage, what does “satisfaction” in our toil look like?
- What are some ways you can model for others that your work is a gift from God?
Send the following link to your group members as either a teaser before the group meets or as a follow-up thought:
Here’s a brief video giving you an overview of this session: Finding Meaning, Session 4.