“Let your roots grow down into Him, and let your lives be built on Him. Then your faith will grow strong in the truth you were taught, and you will overflow with thankfulness.” Colossians 2:7

When it comes to our work, it’s easy to dwell on what’s wrong, or not quite right, in our daily grind. When we get stuck in the negative aspects of our jobs and tasks, we may be missing out on the biggest opportunity of all: an opportunity to learn gratitude. Economist Dr. Anne Bradley says it’s time for a shift in perspective about our work.

“Over the last 150 years, I think Christian theology has gone off the rails a bit in terms of work. We’ve secularized work, saying work is secular and going to church or mission trips is sacred. That’s not true. If you read scripture, work is a gift. We all have skills and talents and abilities: what we need is to be able to unleash them.”

“People are poor when they cannot do that, when they can’t act in an entrepreneurial way with their gifts and talents. I think we need to reclaim the dignity and the value of work, and empower people. Then there’s a gratitude and fulfillment that comes from that, because you’re doing exactly what God designed you to do.”

Anne says it helps to be honest about our strengths and gifts, so we can use what God’s given us, and grow in the skills we have.

“Professionally, I’m an economist. I’m not a professional tennis player, although that might be nice, I might have wanted to do that, but I’m just not built for it. I could try to run against the grain of how God created me, because I think pro-tennis is going to bring me the most fame, most money, etc., but I’m going to be permanently frustrated because I’m running against God’s design for me.”

Gratitude is best cultivated when what we do fits who are designed to be.

“The first step to gratitude is to ask ‘who am I made to be?’ and we live into that. Then, we do feel appreciative of the freedom, the ability, and the fulfillment that work brings–we have gratitude that comes with it.”

While the outside culture urges us to find our value in money, power, and prestige, Anne reminds us that any job done with excellence and gratitude is valuable to God’s economy.

“Here’s what we see in scripture: we all matter. All of our work matters. We give all the glory to a surgeon who performs open heart surgery, but they can’t do it alone. They have to come together with a whole group of people including janitors, the truck driver who brings supplies to the hospital, the nurses, the technicians, the people who make the machines on the factory floor. All of those people are required for this lifesaving thing to happen. ”

“When we have this bigger view of how we fit into the tapestry of work, then there’s no ‘I’m just a janitor,’ or  ‘I just work at McDonald’s’. iI all matters.”

Anne Bradley is the Vice President of Economic Initiatives at the Institute for Faith, Work, and Economics, where she develops and commissions research toward a systematic biblical theology of economic freedom.

How gratitude changes your career