What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. (James 4:14)
Last week, we saw how Scripture refutes what we might call “The Office Story” of work, namely that work is a meaningless drudgery we must endure in order to collect a paycheck to enjoy the truly meaningful things in life.
Today, we look at the second (and I would argue most readily believed) story of work, exemplified by the hit musical, Hamilton.
If you don’t know the story of Alexander Hamilton, here’s a quick recap. Before he was recognized as a Founding Father of the United States, Hamilton was an orphaned kid in the Caribbean whose youth was marked by unimaginable tragedy. By the grace of God alone, his neighbors recognized Hamilton’s formidable talents as a young writer and raised enough money to put him on a ship bound for New York, promising the young man that, “The world’s going to know your name!”
Hamilton vows to make good on that promise. As he walks onto the staged streets of New York, he sings, “My name is Alexander Hamilton. And there’s a million things I haven’t done. But just you wait, just you, wait.”
This is Hamilton’s declaration of significance, a commitment to use his work to make a name for himself. And of course, he does precisely that.
In one sense, the fact that an orphaned kid rose to become a Founding Father of the United States makes Hamilton’s a remarkable story; but in another sense, his is one of the most common stories ever told. How so?
If some are drawn to “The Office Story” which says that there’s virtually no meaning in our work, I would argue that many more of us today are drawn to “The Hamilton Story”, which promises cosmic meaning. Work wasn’t just “work” for Hamilton and many of us today. Work was a means of justifying his existence—of making his mark on the world.
On the surface, this appears to be the biggest storyline possible for our work. But just a tiny bit of reflection reveals that “The Hamilton Story” for work is also quite small. Why? Because even the most accomplished of us will soon be forgotten and our work will be upended. Today’s verse is just one of many passages of Scripture that reminds us of this truth. Hamilton is the exception that proves the rule, and in a few more hundred years, even he will likely be forgotten.
What could be a bigger story for work than one like Hamilton’s that views work as a means of self-salvation? “The Biblical Story” of work which we will examine next week.