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The reason we live

Amy Butler, a friend and peer in ministry, tells of her experience touring the Google headquarters in Manhattan. It matched pretty much what I’ve heard. She describes it as “The Disney World of Work Places.” Snack and Coffee stations are seemingly around every corner, with everything free of charge. There are large collaborative work spaces in the center of employee clusters so that teams can meet up and combine talents. Scooters are provided so that you can ride up and down the long, carpeted hallways. Little work rooms are everywhere, so that teams can meet with glass windows and whiteboards everywhere. Places where ideas can be captured so that creativity will abound.

Apparently, it’s working. Google employees are said to rarely leave the building. They tend to eat most of their meals there. They average some of the longest work days in any office setting. She observes that this may be impressive. It’s also probably not good, when one considers how much time Americans already spend working compared with the rest of the world. Or when we remember how much time that means we aren’t spending on other things.

If you’ve retired, or if you’ve been to someone’s retirement celebration recently, did you say or hear them say, “I wish I had spent more time at work?” Our work is important. It provides, it supports, it makes possible all the other things we do in life. Trouble is, it’s all the other things we do in life that makes work worth it most of the time. 

We have competing values in our culture, I believe, when it comes to work. On the one hand, we have glamorized and idealized hard work. We set it up as the model for a good and responsible life. We readily castigate anyone who won’t work hard or who seems to have other things in their life they value ahead of it. 

Yet most of us probably, in the honesty of our souls, see work as a necessary price to pay in life. But not the thing we most want to be doing. Not the thing we believe is anywhere near most important in life compared with family, friends and some of the other pursuits that we wish we had more time for. We all need a reason to live. For all but the very fewest among us, our work just may not be it.

So, if you haven’t already written this off as another sorry misplaced Labor Day holiday piece, a few weeks too late, then let’s ask ourselves the logical next question: could there be another reason we live? In Esther 7: 1-10 and 9: 20-22, the story eventually begs that question of us all. 

Esther is a fascinating book of the Bible. The story never mentions God by name during the entire story. Yet here is a fascinating tale that causes us to look at the value of life. Esther will compel us to evaluate our – dare I say stewardship? – of the one precious chance we get to live. It will even showcase the sometimes surprising discovery of our own sense of “why”? 

Esther was put in a terrible position. Because of the corrupt and sociopathic actions of the king’s second-in-command, the lives of all the Jews in the Old Testament Persian empire were in danger. Not even the Queen could approach or speak to the king without his invitation first. Anyone who violated this rule could be put to death. It had been more than a month since the king had sent for his queen when her big moment came. So, she had to gather up her courage. She really didn’t know how it would go even if she got permission to talk with the king.

The King awoke to the injustice and took up her cause from there, as we hear in the story. Even the servants had known how corrupt and awful Haman was, and they mustered the courage to speak up at key moments along the way. 

This is a scripture tale that inspires and challenges us to wonder what we could impact, could resolve, could help out with, redeem or repair if only we heard God’s call upon our lives and were willing to give of ourselves to help out. Who knows, it could be our reason to live. Who knows but what you or I have been put in our current positions for just such a moment?

DR. CHARLES QUALLS is senior pastor at Franklin Baptist Church. Contact him at 757-562-5135.