Chapter 1, The Idolatry of Work, deals with the first challenge. After outlining a personal experience of moving from high flyer to being unemployed,?Sebastian Traeger, begins by defining what he means by an idol in a work context:
The trouble starts when our pursuit of?enjoyment?or influence or status in our work begins to make our work the source of ultimate?satisfaction or meaning for us. When that happens, our work has become our god … An idol is something that you desire more than you desire Jesus.
What does this look like in the workplace? How does it play out??The seemingly innocuous opening conversational gambit, “What do you do for a living?” can betray an exalted view of the importance of work. ?It’s easy to over-identify with our work – it becomes the primary way ?we defining who we are to people.?
Here are some common ways or indicators that we are idolising our work:?
- Our work becomes the primary source of our satisfaction – this can reveal itself in various ways: only doing what we are made to do, constant grinding frustration and a lack of fulfilment, a deep seated self-satisfaction with our achievements, ?Having appropriate expectations of our work will save us much disappointment!
- Our work is all about being the best so that we can make a name for ourselves – we have an undue emphasis on the pursuit of excellence. ?The issue though is not the hard work and desire to do well but rather the need to be recognised, e.g. unhealthy competition, perfectionism.?
- Our work becomes primarily about making a difference in the world – work becomes an idol when we elevate its importance to the point where. … we believe the value of our work is ultimately determined by its impact on the world. ?So we take pride in our achievements, neglect more menial responsibilities, get frustrated when we think our work is a waste of time or beneath our capabilities.
The chapter concludes with Traeger arguing that work is a terrible god because, rather than giving us the deep satisfaction we long for, our work leaves us wanting more and wondering what’s next.
Combine that with the reality the work is fundamentally flawed and and dreams of what next are always destined to be disappointing and fail to live up to our expectations: “There is always more that can be done, more that can achieved … We can always improve our work just a little more. ?We can always help more people, make the city a little better. ?We can always make our work a little more efficient and a little easier. ?The goalposts keep moving, and satisfaction proves elusive.” ? ?
So how do we fix the problem of idolatry at work? ?We need to repent of our wrong ways of thinking about work – expecting it to provide us with the satisfaction, purpose and meaning we long for. ?We need to repent when we have desired these things more than we have desired Jesus as the source and fulfilment of our deepest longings.?
Then our work becomes an act of worship to our God – work is worship!
Murray Wright (20/10/2014)