In the video, Kid President gives us a pep talk. We’re encouraged not to quit, to pursue our dreams, and to make the world awesome. We’re told to stop being boring because we’re “gooder than that,” and later because “we were made to be awesome.” I agree completely.
But why? Why should we work toward excellence? According to Kid President, we work hard because “it’s everyone’s duty to give the world a reason to dance.” The explanations are superficial to say the least.
Yet the reason why I agree with Kid President is because I believe in God and in the resurrection of Christ. The atheist believes that, fundamentally, man is a cosmic accident. If that is true, then it obviously follows that we can’t be awesome, we aren’t “gooder than that,” and we have no duties to the world or the common good[er]. Some may respond that life only has the value we place into it — that we have to add purpose to our life. But this does not solve the problem, it only complicates it. If there is no fundamental purpose to your life, then there is no meaningful purpose you can add to it. This is because everything in your life (including the meaning you add to it) is ultimately meaningless.
If you agree with Kid President, then you believe there is objective and meaningful purpose to life. And since life has meaning, work has meaning also.
Unfortunately, many today (including myself sometimes) treat work as simply a means to accumulate status, prestige or money. But this approach is at worst selfish, or at best treats work as a necessary evil — as something which we must do, but really do not want to do. Selfish motivation is based on personal pleasure and survival, which is to behave as though life were meaningless (with no purpose outside of ourselves). If work is a necessary evil, then our purpose is evil — since work is the expression of purpose. Indeed, Tim Keller writes in his book Every Good Endeavor, “Without something bigger than yourself to work for, then all of your work energy is actually fueled by one of the other six deadly sins. You may work exceptionally hard because of envy to get ahead of somebody, or because of pride to prove yourself, or because of greed or even gluttony for pleasure.” So we need to take a different approach to work.
Obviously, if we believe that man has an objective and meaningful purpose, then we also believe that there is an objective and meaningful giver of purpose — that is, God. And if we frame our beliefs about purpose and work with God in mind, coherent answers follow. As the Christian thinker Dorothy Sayers wrote in her 1942 essay, “Why Work?“:
The habit of thinking about work as something one does to make money is so ingrained in us that we can scarcely imagine what a revolutionary change it would be to think about it instead in terms of the work done. To do so would mean taking the attitude of mind we reserve for our unpaid work – our hobbies, our leisure interests, the things we make and do for pleasure – and making that the standard of all our judgments about things and people. We should ask of an enterprise, not ‘will it pay?’ but ‘is it good?’; of a man, not ‘what does he make?’ but ‘what is his work worth?’; of goods, not ‘Can we induce people to buy them?’ but ‘are they useful things well made?’; of employment, not ‘how much a week?’ but ‘will it exercise my faculties to the utmost?’ …
[W]ork is not, primarily, a thing one does to live, but the thing one lives to do. It is, or it should be, the full expression of the worker’s faculties, the thing in which he finds spiritual, mental and bodily satisfaction, and the medium in which he offers himself to God.
While Sayers’ argument is not without fault (it is not bad to consider what a job will pay, especially when families and spouses hang in the balance), her main emphasis is correct. When reading Genesis 1 and 2, it is clear that work existed before the fall in Genesis 3. God employed Adam and Eve with tending the Garden of Eden (Genesis 2:15); then after they sinned, God cursed the object of their work (the ground) instead of work itself (Genesis 3:17-19).
Indeed, this seems to align well with reality. No matter what kind of work you do, there will always be difficulties. As Tim Keller also notes in Every Good Endeavor: “Just because you cannot realize your highest aspirations in work does not mean that you have chosen wrongly, or are not called to your profession, or that you should spend your life looking for the perfect career that is devoid of frustration. You should expect to be regularly frustrated in your work even though you may be in exactly the right vocation.”
In this sense, work is an intended function of the perfect creation. What makes work imperfect is the object of our work — but this should not change our outlook or the amount of effort placed into our work. Ultimately, then, when we work, we work for God; as such, we should strive to do our work well. As Colossians 3:23-24 says, “Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance. It is the Lord Christ whom you serve.”
We can be awesome because we have a purpose and a reason to do excellent work. More than that, though, we can be awesome because we work for the One truly deserving of the title “Awesome.” To quote Keller once more, “All work has dignity because it reflects God’s image in us, and also because the material creation we are called to care for is good.” We work for a blessed and Perfect God.
How will you be awesome this week?