In a previous post, we talked about God as a worker and the sacredness of work, as well as God’s purpose for our work or business. Today we want to share a few reflections on the integration of our work and our faith as followers of Christ.
How You Work Matters
It's one thing to have a job and know God’s purpose for our work. It’s another thing to consider how we go about our work. God desires that we work with diligence, honesty and an excellent attitude. This attracts God’s favour and makes the Gospel attractive to a watching world. We are to serve people with love, as to the Lord.
1. Be diligent. Whatever your job is, develop your skill and be excellent at what you do. Then go about your work with all your heart, doing your very best, as to the Lord (Col.3:23). Diligence outworks itself in practical ways such as: showing up in time, respecting your boss or supervisor, exceeding expectations, doing your best, taking responsibility for mistakes, sharing the credit, being a good team player, resolving conflicts quickly, improving yourself, and volunteering for extra assignments. Diligence attracts the blessing of God and the favour of people (Prov.12:24; 13:4). You gain credibility by adding value to your workplace, resulting in growing personal influence.
2. Be a person of integrity. Integrity means there is integration between who we say we are and who we really are. Honesty pleases God and can be a powerful witness to others (Prov.20:23). Be wise in your relationships. Work hard, and not just when the boss is looking (Eph.6:5-9. Col.3:22-25). Employers, do what is just and fair when dealing with your employees (Col.4:1).
3. Be loving. God calls us to serve others in love (Gal.5:13). Love, or how we serve and treat people, is to be our priority as followers of Christ (John 13:34-35. 1 Cor.13), and this includes our workplace. Daniel Goleman’s landmark studies about people who are successful in the workplace reveal that “emotional intelligence” (our ability to control our own moods and to get along with a wide range of people) is twice as important as IQ (intelligence) and technical skill.
4. Be a witness for Jesus Christ. Our work provides us with an opportunity to mix with those who are not yet believers. Live in a way that is attractive to them, then look for opportunities to share a meal, to share your story, to share your faith, and to share about the good news of Jesus Christ (Col.4:5-6. 1Pet.3:15).
There's More to Life than Work
As important as our work is, there is more to life than work. First of all, you are not your job. It is interesting to note that when we meet other people, one of our first questions (especially for men) often is, “What do you do for a living?” It is easy to become what we do. In contrast, God desires our identity to be in who we are not what we do. What we do is to be an expression of who we are. God does not want our work to become an “idol” that becomes the primary source of our identity, security and significance, leading to greed and workaholism. It is helpful to reflect on why we do what we do and to inject some fresh meaning and purpose into our work, beyond just making a living, climbing the corporate ladder, and/or being “successful.” God is far more interested in who we are becoming than what we are doing for Him.
Secondly, you need to rest. The Sabbath principle is as important today as it was when it was first given and it was made for our benefit (Mark 2:23-28). On the seventh day, God “rested” from his work of creation and declared the day “blessed” and “holy” (Gen.2:1-3). This principle was then reinforced as the fourth commandment (Ex.20:8-11) which forbids being “lazy” (you must work if you are able) or becoming a “workaholic” (someone who never stops or slows down). Both work and rest are ordained and blessed by God.
Sabbath was a day of rest for the Israelites and violating it was a serious offence (Ex.31:14. Num.15:32-36). It was a joyous holy day, a day of spiritual refreshment, community worship, prayer, contemplation and community worship. Today we no longer need to keep the literal Sabbath Day as Israel did (Rom. 14:5; Gal. 4:10; Col. 2:16). However, we can glean some very important lessons from the principle of the Sabbath Day for our lives. We can and should reclaim Jesus’ liberating view of the Sabbath as a “gift from God” for our benefit and a time for “doing good”. This includes making church gatherings a priority in our schedule (Acts 2:42-47. Heb.10:24-25), spending time reading and meditating on God’s Word (Jos.1:8. Ps.1:1-2. 2Tim.3:16-17), creating special times for family and friends, ensuring we get adequate time for rest and relaxation, and taking time for reflection and contemplation (Lk.5:15-16. Mk.1:32-39; 6:45-46). Rested workers are the most productive. Managing our energy as well as our time is a key to effectiveness. This requires creating an appropriate rhythm between work and rest, and between activity and recovery.
[Quick Check: "Are you a Workaholic?"]
Finally, you need to balance work with the others aspects of your life. Work takes a significant portion of our time and can fill as much of our life as we allow it too. Family, friends and our church are also vital aspects of our life. In his letter to the Ephesians, the apostle Paul spoke about the importance of managing time (Eph.5:15-16), then went on to speak about the priority of family life, calling husbands to love their wives as Christ loved the church (Eph.5:21 – 6:4). Andy Stanley, in his book When Work and Family Collide, notes that there is more work to do than we have time, so someone will be “cheated”. Don't allow work to cause you to cheat God and your family. Create boundaries. Draw lines. Determine when enough is enough. There is great power in being content with the current level of provision God has given us and then living within our means, rather than continually striving for more (Phil.4:10-13. 1Tim.6:6-10).
1. If you were (or are) an employer, what qualities would you look for in hiring an employee?
2. What are the affects of a Christian employee who under-performs in the workplace?
3. The Bible tells us that Daniel was ten times better than all the other advisors to the king in Babylon (Dan.1:17-21; 6:3). What are some steps to developing excellence in our work?
4. Reflect on some workplace challenges, such as dishonesty, gossip and sexual temptation.
5. What are some key principles for sharing our faith in the workplace?
6. How can we avoid work becoming an “idol” (the source of identity, security and significance)?
7. Think about the impact of the pace of life in a mega-city such as Melbourne, with seven day a week trading, continually accessibility due to technology, and continual entertainment access.
8. What are the consequences of neglecting the Sabbath principle?
9. What specific practices can help us to embrace the Sabbath principle?
10. How much work is too much? What are some practical steps we can take to ensure that work doesn’t lead to us “cheating” God or our family?
11. You are offered a higher profile job with significantly more money in another city. What other important factors should you consider before deciding whether to take the offer or not?
12. Consider the quality of contentment and how it relates to our work (read Phil.4:10-13 and 1Tim.6:6-10).