Acton Institute Powerblog

Is Work the Meaning of Your Life?

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Work: The Meaning of Your LifeThe subtitle of Lester DeKoster’s little classic, Work: The Meaning of Your Life–A Christian Perspective, can be a bit off-putting. Is work really the meaning of your life?

On the one hand, when we understand DeKoster’s definition of work, we might be a bit more amenable to the suggestion. DeKoster says that work is essentially our “service of others.” This means that “work” as such is not strictly defined as waged labor outside the home, for instance.

But there is another sense in which even this more restricted and perhaps common sense of work has under-appreciated significance. As DeKoster opens the book, he puts it plainly: “Work gets the largest single block of our lives.” Doubt this assertion? Take a look at this infographic from Planet Money that breaks down a typical day for someone with a full-time job:

Time spent on something is only one measure of importance, to be sure, but it is an important one. And the fact that, as DeKoster puts it, “work gets the single largest block of our lives,” makes it even more critical that we understand what makes work meaningful. For that understanding and as we approach this Labor Day weekend, DeKoster’s book is a great place to start.

Jordan J. Ballor Jordan J. Ballor (Dr. theol., University of Zurich; Ph.D., Calvin Theological Seminary) is a senior research fellow and director of publishing at the Acton Institute for the Study of Religion & Liberty. He is also a postdoctoral researcher in theology and economics at the VU University Amsterdam as part of the "What Good Markets Are Good For" project. He is author of Get Your Hands Dirty: Essays on Christian Social Thought (and Action) (Wipf & Stock, 2013), Covenant, Causality, and Law: A Study in the Theology of Wolfgang Musculus (Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 2012) and Ecumenical Babel: Confusing Economic Ideology and the Church's Social Witness (Christian's Library Press, 2010), as well as editor of numerous works, including Abraham Kuyper Collected Works in Public Theology. Jordan is also associate director of the Junius Institute for Digital Reformation Research at Calvin Theological Seminary.


  • Ken

    For the school aged, those in the graphic whom we are informed get 34 minutes from the working stiffs whose income pays the bills, there’s quite a different allocation of where the day’s hours go.

    For kids in school who get there by bus or carpool, or bike, or on foot, I’d wager that nearly the same time is spent doing that and sitting in a classroom as the graphic indicates is spent by adults “working & commuting.” Over 9 hours and to what end? I’ve often heard adults tell their kids that their job at this time in their lives is school. But with recess, moving from class to class, attendance taking, settling the children down, tending to the bulletin announcements, the scuffles, the missing assignments, the problem cases; it’s no wonder “home school” looks attractive.

    For the parent, that 34 minutes of care explodes into a busy “day shift” of meaningful work being the primary educator of their child. And for the kids, there’s actually some learning. Not a bad average day.

  • Shawn

    Thanks for this. I am reading it now, well worth the $2.99.