How you think about your work matters.
If the world is a zero-sum game where one party wins only at the expense of another, you may see business as dirty or even evil. This will have a chilling effect on your motivation and your productivity. In Business for the Glory of God, Dr. Wayne Grudem wrote:
If people think business is evil, they will hesitate to start businesses, and they will never feel real freedom to enjoy working in business, because it will always be tainted with the faint cloud of false guilt. Who can enjoy being an evil materialist who works with evil money to earn evil profits by exploiting laborers and producing material goods that feed people’s evil greed and enhance their evil pride and sustain their evil inequality of possessions and feed their evil competiveness? Who wants to devote his life to such an evil pursuit as business?
If this is how you think of what you do all day, you will not be motivated to do your work, or if you are, you will begin to think of yourself as a predator.
But is this picture of business true? In a free market, all exchange is voluntary.
Buyers and sellers only come together when both parties benefit. Unless there are no other options, the buyer won’t buy unless the value of the goods exceeds the value of his dollars. Likewise, the seller won’t sell unless the value of the dollars exceeds the value of his goods.
Exchange takes place when value is created for both parties. When you conduct such business, you help your fellow man and in the process, you provide for yourself and your family. In addition, a number of theologians would argue that in the process, such business is pleasing to God. A number of books echo this theme:
- Business for the Glory of God (Wayne Grudem)
- Doing God’s Business (R. Paul Stephens)
- Every Good Endeavor (Tim Keller)
- God at Work (Gene Edward Veith)
- Our Souls at Work (Mark Russell)
- Why Business Matters to God (Jeff Van Duzer)
- Your Work Matters to God (Doug Sherman)
A few caveats are necessary. This is true of most businesses, but not all.
If you are trying to get ahead by taking advantage of your customers, you should feel bad about what you do. You are neither helping your fellow man nor pleasing God. This also applies to deceiving your customers, stealing from your customers, working to enslave your customers, or violating your customers’ rights. It is not likely that you can truly add value to other people (or please God) as a mafia enforcer, a drug dealer, or a prostitute. But short of these exceptions, the most boring, mundane work you can imagine can be quite valuable.
Your Work Matters
Now consider your work. Think of the people that are served by the product or service that you provide. How difficult would it be and how much time would it consume if others had to do the specialized work you conduct? How long would they have to study to learn what you can answer in minutes? How much effort would they have to put in to do what you can do reflexively?
For example, if I had to make arrangements with banks, insurers, inspectors, and potential sellers, walking door-to-door to figure out who might want to sell their homes, I would still be a renter. We need realtors, mortgage lenders, bankers, insurance agents, and contractors to make the process happen. Without them few of us would be in our own homes.
Customers are often suspicious of salesmen. But the best salesmen seek to make their customers more effective by matching their clients with the right products. Those who focus on this type of transaction add enormous value and they deserve to be rewarded.
Bosses often devalue accountants. While salesmen add profits, accountants are a cost. But accountants keep the operation running. This includes cutting the checks that pay the salesmen and providing the information that the boss needs to stay on track. Without the accountants, we would all be out of work.
A boss who devalues accountants is like a football coach who values his offense but not his defense. Both are necessary to achieve success.
I don’t particularly like insurance, but I buy it. I hate the idea of paying for something I hope I will never use, but I value the peace of mind that comes from the protection insurance brings. I appreciate the actuaries that have calculated the cost. I am happy to know insurance salesmen who know their business inside and out so that I do not have to spend weeks trying to figure out the same information.
The bottom line is this: Your work matters. It matters to others. It matters to God. It should matter to you.
What About You?
How do you think about your work? Do you see the nobility in all legitimate work? Can you see how your work matters?
 Grudem, W. (2003). Business for the glory of God: The Bible’s teaching on the moral goodness of business. Wheaton, Il. Crossway Books.