Highlight: Why your work matters with Bethany Jenkins

Does your daily work matter to God? From answering emails to flipping burgers or cleaning floors, many of us might think our everyday work isn’t all that significant. But as Bethany Jenkins points out, it makes a difference to see your work as contributing toward a larger purpose.

“Studies show that those who do, whether they’re a janitor or factory worker or even a banker, they tend to be more satisfied with their jobs. They put in longer hours, they have fewer absences, and they just find meaning in what they’re doing.”

Many jobs require difficult and demanding daily routines. Bethany says it’s key to remember your end goal.

“I run marathons and it’s not a fun experience. But then at the end of the marathon, I want to run it again. With marathon running, or anything that requires daily activities that reach toward the larger goal, we care about the fight. We care about the end, we care about making progress, and we care about having a sense of purpose.”

She reminds us of two prominent biblical examples of endurance in light of the larger goal: the Apostle Paul and Jesus Christ.

“The amount of suffering Paul endured and even received voluntarily, he could do it because he was connecting it to this idea of ushering a people in to love the Lord, to know the Lord.”

“Christ too: “For the joy set before Him, He endured the cross” (Hebrews 12:2). The cross wasn’t the goal necessarily. We were the goal; the joy was us. But yet He endured it because He had this bigger grasp of what narrative was happening.”

If you’re feeling burned out at work right now, Bethany offers a quick self-examination of three areas in your life: heart, community, and world:

“The first thing I do is I check my heart, check my motivations for why I am working. Am I burned out because I am over-extending myself? Am I’m trying to find my identity in my work? Or am I burned out because the work itself is just impossible? I check my heart first because I may not need to change anything but my heart.”

“(Next) I go to community. Who are my clients, my colleagues, the people that I’m interacting with? Am I burned out because I have a difficult boss? Or because my colleague is very challenging and takes credit for everything I’m doing? Am I burned out because there’s gossip in my office?”

“The third thing I think about is “world” and that’s my relationship with the work itself.  Am I being innovative? Am I approaching it with a redemptive perspective? Am I trying to insert the Gospel into the work that I’m doing? The first thing, if you’re burned out, is to think about which one of those three is really going on.”

Bethany L. Jenkins is the Director of The Gospel Coalition’s Every Square Inch, the Director of Vocational & Career Development at The King’s College, and the Founder of The Park Forum. She previously worked on Wall Street and on Capitol Hill. She received her JD from Columbia Law School and attends Redeemer Presbyterian Church in Manhattan, where she is a current CFW Fellow and a former Gotham Fellow through the Center for Faith & Work.

Why your work matters with Bethany Jenkins