Why do you work? Why do you work hard? If you're one of the "driven" types, why are you so motivated? Why do you care about advancing in your field, climbing the corporate ladder, growing your business, getting the next promotion, developing the new product?
Our answers to these questions reflect our biggest hopes and dreams. I want to provide for my family, retire early, grow my wealth so I'll have more freedom, be known as a leader in my field. All of this can be worthwhile. But notice the theme: it's all about my personal aspirations and fulfillment. This is how most industrious Americans experience work—as a way to express my talents, accomplish my life goals, and feel significant. What if that's only part of the picture?
A bigger vision of work moves beyond the individual seeking personal fulfillment. What else does it include? Let's look at one man's famous encounter with Jesus that shook him free from his career-as-personal-fulfillment mind-set.
Zacchaeus was a tax collector who started listening to Jesus. His story is briefly told in Luke 19:1-10. The despised Roman government contracted collectors to enforce their tax edicts. In return, the collector got a cut from the booty. In fact, they were usually given liberal leeway in how much to charge. As long as Rome got her proper amount, the collector could keep whatever was above-and-beyond. So the job notoriously attracted the most cutthroat and driven.
Zacchaeus was chief tax collector in Jericho, a major import-export center just outside Jerusalem (19:1-2). As chief collector, he employed a cadre of subordinates and took a cut of their revenue. In other words, he sat atop a multi-level scheme in a tax-loaded city. Leaving no doubt, Luke tells us, "He was a chief tax collector and was rich" (19:2).
After encountering Jesus, Zacchaeus changed.
He publicly renounced underhanded profit: "Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor. And if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I restore it fourfold" (19:8). So how did Zacchaeus' approach to work change? A quick reader would say, "He went from being dishonest to honest." While that's certainly true, his revolution went much deeper.
First, consider how Zacchaeus became a tax collector: he consciously chose personal wealth over community. Charging taxes for the Roman government while adding his own "convenience fee" meant making money by adding burden to his fellow citizens. Tax collectors were widely scorned, relegated to a shameful category with sinners. Zacchaeus surely knew this when he got into the business. But he decided it was better to make money than friends, better to be rich than a normal member of society. He valued his own personal advancement.
So his offer to give half his goods to the poor and repay anyone ha had defrauded fourfold was more than a conversion to honesty. it was a decision to re-enter society and serve the common good. Zacchaeus suddenly saw his work and wealth as more than personal advancement! Now they were a way to serve his fellow man and reweave the social fabric.
This is work redeemed. It's not just about the money I make, the reputation I achieve, the freedom I enjoy. It's about a work-vision to bless others—my family, my city, my community, the needy—by serving the common good. Zacchaeus didn't just change from shady to honest. He gave up working to advance himself in order to work as a blessing to others.
For addition insight on how your work can be a blessing to others, get a copy of 33 The Series Volume 4: A Man and His Work. View Session 1 of A Man and His Work.