Meaningful Work

December 17, 2010

As part of the Dale P. Jones Business Ethics Forum, held Nov. 1-12 by the Hankamer School of Business, Bonnie Wurzbacher, senior vice president for the Coca-Cola Company, shared with approximately 500 Baylor students how she has managed to bring meaning to her work as a Christian female business leader during her 25-year career with one of the world's largest companies. The talk, "Bringing Meaning to your Work: A Personal Journey," was co-sponsored by Baylor Business Women and Hankamer Christian Fellowship. Below are a few excerpts.

On working in business as a calling: "I wanted to do something significant, respectable and noble with my life, as I'm sure all of you do. The idea of being called to some type of secular work never even crossed my mind. However, through the course of my faith and work journey, I found that all believers are in full-time Christian work, and that God calls all of us to every type and place of work, including business. ...
"I eventually learned that business was indeed my calling. I believe to identify your calling, you need the ability, the desire and discernment....Most importantly, [our calling] is the way and the place in which we can best serve God with our unique set of gifts and talents."

On the importance of having Christians work in business: "Business, just like every other field, is full of flawed and sinful people who do not always stick to the economic and ethical principles that are required for business to thrive. I argue that those [negative] examples serve to build the case that not only do we need stronger ethics and governance in business, we need more people in business who understand how and desire to glorify God in both the product and the process of their work. It took me years to understand that a healthy, ethical, well-run business can have such a positive impact on the world that it's one of the noblest callings a person can have."

On the theology of work: "How does what you plan to do professionally serve to advance God's purposes in the world? The answer to that question is the theology of your future work. I encourage each of you to begin to understand it, internalize it, and learn to give the 10-second version of it.
"Here's mine: 'I'm an executive with the Coca Cola Company, and I'm responsible for the global growth of our retailers around the world. This is exciting and purposeful, because I'm part of a 120-year-old wealth creation machine that creates millions of jobs and contributes to the sustainable economic wellbeing of thousands of communities in over 200 countries. I feel God's pleasure in both the product and the process of my work because of the way it enables so many people to use their God-given gifts for good and for God.'"

On the role of business in God's kingdom: "The role of business in God's kingdom is to advance the economic wellbeing of communities throughout the world, and as the only source of wealth creation, to enable every other social, civic or spiritual institution to exist. Without successful, ethical, sustainable business, the world just doesn't work."

Five final lessons for the audience:

  1. Identify your calling based on your strengths.
  2. Recognize and trust God's hand in your life.
  3. Choose your life partner wisely (he or she makes problems at work more tolerable).
  4. Understand the theology of your work.
  5. All things are sacred.