What makes for meaningful work

by Paul Burmeister

Alain de Botton's book on work (Pantheon, 2009) is full of insights applicable to vocation. His practical framework means his thoughts often align nicely with applications of the Lutheran doctrine of vocation.

"The real issue is not whether baking biscuits is meaningful, but the extent to which the activity can be seem to be so after it has been continuously stretched and subdivided across five thousand lives and half a dozen different manufacturing sites." (80) The doctrine of vocation teaches that good work is an activity conducted on a horizontal plane, out of love for our neighbors.

"History may dwell on stories of heroism and drama, but there are ultimately few of us out on the high seas, and many of us in the harbour, counting the ropes and untangling the anchor chains." (241) Our vocations happen in the present, no matter the type of work that is in front of us.

"Accountants have no ambition to become known to strangers or to record their insights for an unimpressed and ephemeral future. They are well adjusted enough to have made their peace with oblivion. They have accepted with grace the paucity of opportunities for immortality in audit." (242) Our vocations happen in the shadow of the Cross. Christians bear all things in their vocations with grace and peace, knowing that earthly recognition and fame are not the final goals of their work.