Finding Satisfaction in Our Work

Someone has said, “I like work. I could sit and watch someone do it all day.” But most of us don’t have that luxury. We can’t afford to spend our days lounging at the poolside, sipping lemonade, and watching a gardener trim the bushes. Besides, I doubt that many of us would find full time inactivity to be satisfying for very long. A Chinese proverb states, “A man grows most tired while standing still.”

Our sense of personal worth is closely connected to a feeling that we are accomplishing something purposeful with our lives. Because of that, work and a satisfying life are inseparable. But unfortunately, work doesn’t always give us that sense of satisfaction. What should be personally fulfilling is more often a drain on us physically, mentally, spiritually, and emotionally.

If you are a factory worker, an executive, a professional, a single parent juggling two roles, or any other laborer, your struggles are in many ways unique. Yet in many other ways they are similar. 

What should be personally fulfilling is more often a drain on us physically, mentally, spiritually, and emotionally.


During my high school years, I worked for the owner of three small motels on Treasure Island, Florida. Sound like Paradise? It wasn’t. I cut grass, trimmed bushes, and pulled more weeds than I care to remember. It was a parttime job, and the pay was low.

One day I figured that I had enough experience pulling stubborn weeds out of gravel parking areas in the Florida heat. So, instead of reporting in for work, I picked up the phone and called my boss. I told him that I wouldn’t be coming in. I quit.

After I hung up the phone, I had a feeling that I hadn’t done the right thing—then my father found out what I had done, and he confirmed my feelings. I called my boss back and apologized. I also told him that I would work a few more weeks until he could find someone to replace me.

How did I get to the point of quitting that job? As I think back, a number of reasons come to mind. The work was repetitive, the conditions were hot and sweaty, the boss (though not Captain Hook) didn’t seem very appreciative, and I didn’t see that I was gaining much for my labor—either in money or in personal satisfaction. And besides, I wasn’t working to support a family; it was just a job to give me extra spending money.

My motivations for working have changed since those days. Unfortunately, though, my reasons have not always been the best—and I have felt like quitting more than once.

What about you? How is your attitude when the work loses its appeal, the boss seems too critical, co-workers get on your nerves, your family doesn’t appreciate how hard you work for them, you don’t get the raise you want, and the work becomes boring, repetitive, and seems rather meaningless? When you don’t feel that you are getting much for your work, it’s hard to keep giving your all, isn’t it?

But there is much more to our jobs than what meets the eye. We’re not really working for our supervisor at the store, the office, the factory, the construction site, or any other workplace.

Who are we really working for?

Ultimately, we are working for the Lord. He is the boss’s Boss, the supervisor’s Supervisor, the foreman’s Foreman, the manager’s Manager. That may be hard to remember as we report to work each day. But if we keep it in mind, our attitude will be transformed.

[O]ur actions on the job reflect our inner character and our level of devotion to [God].

God is an employer who has our best interests at heart. He’s not out to get the most work out of us at the lowest wages. He is concerned about you and me, and He wants to help us in every aspect of our work. The reason He cares about our work—and He cares deeply—is because our actions on the job reflect our inner character and our level of devotion to Him.

We were created to reflect God’s nature (Gen.1:26-27), and we were given abilities to use for His glory. Like Him, we are workers. He worked to create the universe, and Jesus said, “My Father has been working until now, and I have been working” (Jn.5:17). Man and woman were created to use their hands and their heads to master the earth and make it productive (Gen. 1:28; 2:15-20). Like those first two employees, we are to function in a Godlike way, faithfully working to care for what has been put under our control.

How will this change my attitude toward the people I work with each day?

If we are praying for God’s kingdom to come and His will to be done on earth as it is in heaven (Mt. 6:10), then we will be allowing Him to use us as His instruments in carrying out His purposes. Instead of considering ourselves to be victims of our circumstances, pawns of our employer, God wants us to be people of action who positively affect our environment instead of being controlled by it.


A Prayer for a Good Day at Work

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When Jesus summarized the commands of God, He said this: “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets”(Mt. 22:37-40).

How does what Jesus said apply to work? Love is the giving of ourselves. It seeks the highest good of another person. To love God with all our heart, soul, and mind involves giving to Him everything we have. To love others as ourselves requires that we care as much about the well-being of other people as we do about ourselves. If we apply that to the work situation, it means that our work should be done primarily for God’s glory, and that we work with the interests of other people in mind.

Who deserves service “as to the Lord”? The Bible mentions several types of people who deserve our best efforts because we want to please the Lord. These people include our employer, our family, the poor, and society.

1. Our employer. As you know all too well, this can be tough to do. According to a story that appeared in Executives’ Digest, “The instructor at a company-sponsored first-aid course asked one of the workers, ‘What’s the first thing you would do if you found you had rabies?’ The worker immediately answered, ‘Bite my supervisor.’” That humorous response reflects a disturbing fact: People often view their boss as an enemy. Developing a good attitude isn’t always easy.

In Ephesians 6:5-8, Paul told slaves to respect their masters. Paul wasn’t condoning slavery, but those people who found themselves in that situation were to serve their masters as if they were serving Christ Himself. Paul was addressing slaves, remember, not employees who work somewhere by choice. Yet Paul told them to serve with “fear and trembling, in sincerity of heart, as to Christ” (v.5).

The Bible mentions several types of people who deserve our best efforts because we want to please the Lord.

Then Paul added some motivation when he said they should do so, “knowing that whatever good anyone does, he will receive the same from the Lord, whether he is a slave or free” (v.8).The ultimate paycheck will come from God. (See also Colossians 3:22-24.)

2. Our family. The Bible also speaks directly to those of us who have a family depending on us for food, clothing, shelter, and much more. In 1 Timothy 5:8 we read, “If anyone does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his own household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.” Those are strong words. We have the responsibility to supply the financial needs of our family. That includes our spouse, our children, any dependents, and elderly parents who need special care. If we carelessly or deliberately fail to provide for them, we contradict our faith in Christ.

3. The poor. The apostle Paul gave these instructions: “He who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work, doing something useful with his own hands, that he may have something to share with those in need” (Eph. 4:28 NIV). And Proverbs 19:17 states, “He who has pity on the poor lends to the Lord.” Just as we are to see ourselves as serving the Lord when we serve our boss and provide for the needs of our family, so too we are to see ourselves as giving to the Lord when we give to the poor.

Another proverb tells us, “The desire of the lazy man kills him, for his hands refuse to labor. He covets greedily all day long, but the righteous gives and does not spare” (21:25-26).Again the contrast is sharp—the lazy man wants more and more for himself, but the godly person is looking for ways that he can give to the poor. (See also Psalm 37:25-26, Acts20:35, Galatians 2:10, and 1 John 3:17-18.)

4. Society. In addition to what we saw above about supplying the material needs of the poor and our family, we need to work for the spiritual well-being of our boss and co-workers.

In 1 Thessalonians 4:11-12, the author says, “Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business and to work with your hands, just as we told you, so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders and so that you will not be dependent on anybody” (NIV). The goal is to win the respect of unbelievers. They need to see that your faith in Christ makes a positive difference in the practical, everyday aspects of your life.

When Paul wrote to Titus, he told him that part of the motive workers should have is to “make the teaching about God our Savior attractive” (2:10 NIV).An honest day’s work backs up our profession of faith and points to the truth of the gospel.

In the Old Testament book of Genesis we read about a hard worker and person of integrity named Joseph (Gen. 39–50). As a young man he was sold into slavery by his brothers, and he ended up in Egypt in the service of Pharaoh. It is hard to figure how he could have anything but contempt for his captors. Yet Joseph served loyally, never compromising his faith in God. Pharaoh noticed.

Daniel is another Old Testament example of a person whose work reflected well on his faith in the Lord. When Israel was overrun by Babylon and taken into exile, Daniel was forced to serve King Nebuchadnezzar. By the way he devoted himself to his work, his life was a bright light for God in that pagan kingdom.

What more can we do? Recognizing that we are really working for the Lord is the all-important first step to finding satisfaction on the job. But there’s more that God wants us to do. The sections that follow will expand on what we can do to make our work more closely fit the job description that God has written out for our lives. As we do that, our lives will become more purposeful, more meaningful, and more satisfying.

 Think about it. Why does God want you to work? What do you give to God and others when you work? Why is giving to others more satisfying than serving only yourself? How do you use your money to help the poor? Are you providing for your family? Do your co-workers know that you are a Christian—and are they drawn to Christ because of your life and example?