How to Find Purpose in Our Most Ordinary Work

I’ve recently been reading What’s Best Next by Matt Perman to learn ways I can improve on how I use my time. As far back as I can remember, I’ve wanted to make a difference with my work. In my mind that meant that I needed to make sure I am doing things that are important each day. I’ve put a great deal of pressure on myself to be productive in doing things that have a positive impact. In fact, it was such a driver for me that I would feel anxious if I wasn’t engaged in something I felt was meaningful. Work like cleaning up my inbox or filing papers just didn’t seem to fit the bill.

I’ve come to realize that this mindset is all about me. It’s about my life, my importance, my purpose. Me.

But as Christians we are not called to focus on ourselves or how important our work is or even how much success it will bring us. We are called to do everything we do for the glory of God in service to others – including small, ordinary tasks.

I’ve learned that I need to take my mind off of myself and tune into how I can serve those around me with love. Then, even the most mundane work I do has purpose and can glorify God. This is so counterintuitive in today’s workplace. At the same time, it’s incredibly liberating and brings greater fulfillment to tasks we might otherwise consider trivial.

Here are a couple of ways this shift in perspective has helped me see even the most ordinary assignment in a more God-centered light.

    • Our primary purpose is to glorify God. Our primary purpose is not to climb the corporate ladder or make a million dollars. Some people will achieve them, but not everyone will. Matthew 6:33 says “… seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” “All these things” include the things God knows you need.
    • All work we do in love has purpose. Galatians 5:13 tells us not to use our freedom to give into our natural tendency to put ourselves first, but rather to serve one another humbly in love. That means everything from sweeping floors to filing to creating a strategic plan?
    • Work done to serve others makes a difference. Your output is someone else’s input. If you clean offices, then you impact what people experience in their environment. If you enter numbers into spreadsheets, the accuracy of those numbers determines the quality of the decisions made based on those numbers. Matthew 5:16 says, “… let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.

According to Matt Perman, “The overarching, guiding principle for our lives is love. Putting the other person first equals maximum productivity” (p. 133). The way to find purpose in even the most mundane work, regardless of where you are in the organization, is to shift from seeing your work from the world’s standards to viewing it based on the standards Christ taught us. “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45).

Make your work matter,

Catherine Gates
Director of Outreach & Engagement

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