Your Identity Doesn’t Come from Your Work

By Nicole George featuring Bob Robinson

What is our purpose?

The question haunts humanity and we often seek to define our purpose by what we do, as Bob Robinson points out in “Your Identity Doesn’t Come From Your Work.” Although humans are made to work as part of our nature, it isn’t our identity. It can’t be how we define ourselves. 

I like to think of it similar to art (although this is an imperfect allegory). I’ve seen paintings in art galleries and museum that look like a kindergartener could have easily painted the same piece. The painting didn’t necessarily make it into that gallery or museum because of itself. Although the painting’s appearance is part of why it’s there, we know the real reason the painting is there is the artist behind it. It’s the intention, genius, creativity and skill of the person who created the piece that lands that piece in a display.

The same goes for every single one of us. We cannot define our value by our self-existence. We didn’t create ourselves. Certainly things about us like our jobs, skills, personality, likes, dislikes and appearance all add to who we are and make up part of who we are, but these pieces of us are tainted by sin. They’re also parts of us that can easily fade, grow and shift. They, including our job titles and descriptions, are unstable and cannot define us.

Robinson writes the following:

We’ve got to get things in the right order. First and foremost, God created mankind in God’s image. Being the “imago Dei” is the essence of what it means to be human. And that is what’s amazing. 

But our ability to be human is the very thing that broke when we rebelled against God’s order of things. We are not fully what God created us to be. 

Think about it: We all have this innate desire to “be somebody,” to be significant. But we are convinced that in order for us to be someone special, we have to do something special.

But that’s backward thinking. It’s thinking that has been damaged by The Fall.

Theologians call this the “Noetic effects of our sinful nature.” Sin is subtle in this way, right? We are blessed with these minds that are capable of doing things like inventing new gadgets and ingeniously solving problems. But with these same minds, we are also capable of figuring out how to cheat to get ahead without anybody finding out. And we see this all the time: People believing (fervently believing) that their view or their cause is absolutely righteous when the rest of us look at them and ask, “Huh? Really?” These are the noetic effects of our sinful nature.

So we have come to believe that who we are flows from what we do, rather than the other way around.”

What we do certainly matters and what we contribute to the world is important. We are made to bring glory to God and a huge aspect of bringing God glory is our daily work. But our daily gig cannot define us because it is not fully who we are supposed to be. We are broken and apart from God’s saving grace through Jesus Christ, we would be defined by our inability to measure up, even in our job.

Only God can define us and it goes one of two ways. He loves all of humanity (John 3:16-18) and has offered himself to the world that the world might be saved through him. So we either respond in acceptance and belief in Jesus Christ, the only Son of God and are given his righteousness and a new identity as a child of God, or we respond in rejection and rebellion and keep the identity of the consequences of sin—condemned. As a Christian, you have gone from being defined by what you do (sin) to being defined by what has been done for you. This is the new identity in Jesus that we can have confidence in and define our lives by to walk in freedom.

Read Robinson’s Full Article on Work and Identity