I’m a fan of all the Night at the Museum movies. Now I don’t like all of Ben Stiller’s work, but I do like many of his projects, the Museum trilogy being one of them. When you think of these films, what most often comes to mind is comedy, creativity, historical artifacts, and of course Robin William’s last performance in a movie. However, the main idea that jumps out to me is identity and purpose in your work/career. Larry (Stiller’s character) struggles to find and keep a job, but more than that he hasn’t found purpose in anything that he does. This is hard for him mainly because he wants his son to look up to him, and not having a ‘good’ job isn’t helping. The job at the Museum becomes his saving grace, in more ways than one. Larry discovers who he is while at the same time a job he can feel good about. But the struggle doesn’t stop; in the second movie, we find that Larry has moved on to the business world. He begins to be dissatisfied with his job and wants ‘more’. Jebediah, his small museum friend, reminds Larry that his place is in the Museum and that they need him there – that the museum needs him and he needs the museum

Why does Larry continue to struggle? Because our culture tells us that the better our job is, the better we are, the more money we make, the more significant we are. 

If we’re not careful, we get stuck in the trap of defining who we are by what we do. It’s not bad to love your work or be proud of your job, it’s a good thing, however, defining yourself by your work (solely) would be a mistake. This would be like defining yourself by your stuff or your material possessions. Rather than finding significance from what we do, we should bring significance to what we do.

If we jump back to Genesis 1:26-31 we find God’s week of creation ending off on a high note – he creates man & woman. He creates us and then gives us something to do, work. As we read the closing part of that section we are reminded about where our identity really comes from. 

So God created mankind in his own image,
    in the image of God he created them;
    male and female he created them.

God saw all that he had made, and it was very good.

We are made in HIS image and we are GOOD. Humanity has been trying to get back to that ever since. After the fall in Genesis 3 we have been longing for redemption, restoration, wholeness and IDENTITY. Jesus is the climax of this longing. fast forward to the gospels and we discover that Jesus is the only one who brings those things back to us. 

John 15 says that we are no long servants, but we are his friends…chosen. Romans 8 says that nothing can separate us from the love we have in Christ Jesus. Nothing. And 1 John 3:1 reminds us that God’s love is lavished on us, and because of Jesus we can be called God’s children. “That’s what we are”.

So because of that truth, because of that new reality, because of Jesus, we can view work in a different way, not a place to find ourselves, but a place to ‘bring’ ourselves, an activity where our identity in Jesus makes a difference, no matter what we do for a living. 

Work now becomes…

…not where we find identity but where we bring our identityfor those of you who have a job you don’t like
for those who make too much of what we do
     …more about making a contribution than making money…doing/adding
your part
…is a way to build up and build into society – to make the human
community better
…sacred…not just church work, but all work is an avenue to
serve God.
     Luther would say…all work
is God’s work
     …a calling…to love our neighbour and make a difference through what
we do
     …an extension of God’s work…we create like he did…using our unique
gifts and skills
     … a reflection of our relationship with Jesus

Colossians 3 puts it like this, 
17 And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in
the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks
 to God the Father through him.

22 Slaves, obey your earthly masters in everything;
and do it, not only when their eye is on you and to curry their favour, but with
sincerity of heart and reverence for the Lord. 23 Whatever
you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human
masters, 24 since you know that you will receive an
inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are

This means, that as important as it is to ask God the
question, ‘what is it that you want me to do?’, it is equally important to ask,
‘please make whatever I am doing pleasing to you?’. Finding the balance between these two questions is
finding our meaning and purpose in our work
One writer says, “We are the ones who make our work significant, not the
other way around” 
 In other words, work doesn’t define us, we define
our work. We do that because of what Jesus has done to define us.
– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
small(er) group discussion
(random question) Are you a fan or not a fan of Ben Stiller’s work in Night at the Museum? Can you identify with his character in any way?
Do you think it’s true that people in the Western World draw identity in and from their work? If so why are we tempted to do this? Can work become something we worship, like material possessions? Even an idol?
In Genesis 1:26-31, we are taught two very important things about humanity, that we are made in God’s image and that we, his creation, are very good. How does that make you feel? What are your thoughts on God’s view and vision of us?
Jesus came to restore, redeem, heal, and save. He came to deliver us from sin, but also to deliver us from (our broken) self. Read through Romans 8:35-39 & 1 John 3:1a. Discuss how God sees us and how we see ourselves through Jesus?
Pick one of the 7 responses to work written about above. Which one resonates most? Which one is most difficult for you?
How can we find balance between the two questions we ask God about work?
– What is it that you want me to do?
– Please make whatever I do pleasing to you and impactful in my world?