We all desire recognition at some level. Perhaps we desire it from our parents, our colleagues, our spouse, our children, or our professors in college or graduate school. However you slice it, we want people—someone, anyone—to acknowledge our existence.
For this reason, I think Aristotle was correct when he said humans are political animals. No, he didn’t mean all people are interested in politics (thank God!). He meant that humans are naturally suited to live in a polis—that is, in community.
We might tell ourselves that we don’t care what other people think, but is such a sentiment really true? Furthermore, we might initially chuckle at Jean-Paul Sartre’s comment that “Hell is other people,” but, again, do we really believe that? We introverts might tell ourselves that we would love to live alone and not be around other people, but “me time” can only last for so long. (Watch an episode of the new show Castaways to see what I mean.)
In prison, solitary confinement is a punishment for a reason. And except under rare circumstances, even prisons are not permitted–by law–to keep inmates in isolation for an indeterminate period of time. We’ll go crazy without any human contact. Thus, philosopher William B. Irvine concisely stated the human dilemma: “[W]e find it hard to live with other people, and we find it even harder to live without them.” Actually, I would go further: We want others not only to affirm our existence, we want them to hold us in high regard.
Given this reality, two questions come to the fore: “What is our desire?” Answer: We want affirmation and admiration.
Second question: “What’s our strategy for gaining the affirmation and admiration of others?”
In my experience, most often we go about gaining the affirmation and admiration of others through accomplishments. And the context wherein we seek to accomplish our way to admiration is in our vocation. This strategy, however, perverts the gift of work.
Let me explain:
God gave us work as a gift. Yes, you read that correctly. Work is a gift. Most people—including Christians—gasp when I draw their attention to the fact that work is not a result of the fall of humankind into sin. Nevertheless, after humanity’s fall into sin work became more difficult and seemingly futile.
Thus, as we consider the concept of work through the lens of the Bible, a clear picture emerges. Whereas God gave us work as a gift, we have corrupted this good gift and invested more in it than is appropriate. As John Tweeddale recently observed, “We no longer treat work as a gift from God but as a platform for personal greatness.”
When we treat work this way, we violate one of the core principles of life—namely, that life is gift, not gain.
Our vocations are not an avenue through which we are to find ultimate meaning, but the context in which we are to utilize our God-given gifts while we live in this world.
The aim of our lives, then, is to identify the gifts and passions God has given us and then tackle every task with verve and accomplish every assignment for his glory. As we work, we are to shine a spotlight on the glory and beauty of Christ in and through all that we do.
 William B. Irvine, On Desire: Why We Want What We Want (New York: Oxford University Press, 2006), 43.
 John W. Tweeddale, “Eternity in Our Hearts,” Tabletalk 42:9 (September 2018): 13.
 David Gibson, Living Life Backward: How Ecclesiastes Teaches Us to Live in Light of the End (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2017), 130 et. al.