Why Do You Do What You Do?

Sometimes it seems like our lives just don’t matter. We get up, go to work, come back home, go to bed, get up, go to work, come back home, ad nauseum. And for what purpose? 


I read recently about how daily work can become a daily burden or a daily blessing, and the outcome is significantly dependent on each of us answering the “why” question. Why do you do what you do? Why do you work? Why do you go to school? Why do you clean the house, mow the lawn, make the bed, do the dishes? If we fail to answer that question, our daily routine becomes a life sentence rather than a life journey.


Eugene Peterson calls this “vocational holiness” (Under the Unpredictable Plant: An Exploration in Vocational Holiness). The idea is that we are made holy not in the abstract but through our concrete vocation. We can’t be holy in the abstract. “Instead, we become a holy blacksmith or a holy mother or a holy physician or a holy systems analyst. We seek God in and through our particular vocation and place in life” (Warren, Liturgy of the Ordinary, 94).


Our work is part of God’s kingdom vision—to bring heaven to earth. Many Christians spend so much time trying to get from earth to heaven, that they forget Jesus taught us to pray about bringing heaven to earth. May we never be so heavenly minded that we are no earthly good. But may we also never be so earthly bound that we possess no heavenly vision. In fact, I would say that our heavenly vision is what inspires us to do earthly good.


This kingdom vision—praying for God’s kingdom to be present on earth—works itself out in the small routines of daily work and vocation, as we check our email, clean the house, mow the lawn, and go to meetings.


Martin Luther once wrote, “God himself will milk the cows through him whose vocation it is” (Luther’s Works, 6:10).


If you are a stay-at-home mom who feels like your life is confined to laundry, meal planning, and being a transportation service to your kids, consider your work as vocational holiness. If you are a student, envision your studies as part of God’s kingdom vision. If you are employed, utilize your occupation to fulfill your vocation as God’s kingdom agent. 


Each kind of work is its own kind of craft that must be developed over time, for our sanctification and for the good of others. We hone our craft as we are honed in the holiness of our vocation.


A kingdom vision gives us the “why” we do what we do, whether we’re honing the craft of motherhood or the craft of selling computers. May it all be done for the glory of God.


“And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus,

giving thanks to God the Father through him” (Colossians 3:17, ESV).