As part of a research study examining the connection between work and meaning, psychologist Dan Ariely paid participants to construct figures out of Legos.
For each consecutive figure, the price dropped by several cents. By decreasing the financial incentive, Ariely was trying to find other factors that influence productivity.
In a not-so-surprising conclusion, he found that one group of participants—a group who had their figures taken apart in front of them while they worked on the next one—was the least productive.
Ariely concluded, “In our view, meaning, at least in part, derives from the connection between work and some purpose. … When that connection is severed - when there is no purpose - work becomes absurd, alienating, or even demeaning.”
In his study, Ariely writes often of “meaning,” as “a connection between work and purpose.”
But he never explicitly names what seems to be the theme of his least productive group: their longing for permanence.
If we are to endure in our work, we want to believe that our work will matter into eternity. It often leads us to ask God if he, like the researcher in the Lego study, will ultimately dismantle our efforts.
Is work nothing more than part of the curse—a toil meant to punish mankind for our sin in Adam? Or has God given us work merely to distract us while He implements His plan for salvation?
Scripture suggests otherwise.
The implications of these two verses show that God is using the work of his people in his plans for the new heaven and the new earth:
This knowledge gives us the confidence to strive for excellence in all our work, knowing that God will use it in some way to usher in his salvation for all of creation. He’s not breaking down our proverbial Legos. He’s using them.
There are many ways to find purpose in our work. We can and should contribute to the flourishing of creation and to the correction of injustice, but if our worldview tells us the end of all our work will be nothing, then any purpose we’ve found in our work becomes temporary at best and meaningless at worst. We become like Ariely’s Lego builders who found no purpose in their labors.
This is precisely why embracing biblical faith and work theology has breathed new life into the vocations of many Christians who have lost a sense of purpose in their jobs.
In the final reckoning, the efforts of our hands will not be disassembled like the Legos, but redeemed. In fact, looking around, there is evidence he’s doing just that, right now.