Ephesians 6: 5-8 (MSG)
Servants, respectfully obey your earthly masters but always with an eye to obeying the real master, Christ. Don’t just do what you have to do to get by, but work heartily, as Christ’s servants doing what God wants you to do. And work with a smile on your face, always keeping in mind that no matter who happens to be giving the orders, you’re really serving God. Good work will get you good pay from the Master, regardless of whether you are slave or free.
Genesis 13: 2
Abram had become very wealthy in livestock and in silver and gold.
Acts 16: 14
One of those listening was a woman from the city of Thyatira named Lydia, a dealer in purple cloth. She was a worshipper of God.
“There is a widespread view that God and work simply don’t mix: the competitive, cut-throat demands of the working world are seen as the obvious enemy of Christian compassion and love. But the God who created and sustains the world is also the God of the workplace. If the Christian faith is not relevant in the workplace, it is not relevant at all.” (Ken Costa)
The workplace can be an environment where we flourish, grow and thrive, but it can also be the realm of life where our faith is tested and challenged most. Pressures can come in the form of difficult people, the constant need for increased profitability, internal power struggles, external competition, maintaining personal integrity, upholding values and creating a healthy company culture.
The temptation can be to compartmentalise our faith as something we do on Sunday and not see it as being integrated and interconnected with how we conduct ourselves in the workplace. The reality is that if our faith doesn’t apply to our work, then our faith isn’t working. Our relationship with Jesus is not a part of our lives – He is our life, and therefore no area or aspect of our existence is untouched by our faith. It can be anything ranging from whether or not you partake of the gossip happening around the lunch table to how ethically you source the materials that make up your products. God cares about all of it just as much, if not more, than He cares about your prayer life or church commitment. Your work is an expression of your worship. As artist Mark Cazalet says, “When I commit myself and my work into God’s hands it means there is no split between the sacred and the secular, so everything I do becomes interconnected and part of my dialogue with God.”
Throughout the centuries this false sacred/secular divide has caused Christians to envision a religious pecking order in God’s sight where bishops rank ahead of bankers and church pastors ahead of computer programmers. The reality is that all jobs are equal. William Tyndale, the translator of the Bible into English, said in 1528: “There is no work better than another to please God; to pour water, to wash dishes, to be a souter [cobbler], or an apostle, all is one; to wash dishes and to preach is all one, as touching the deed, to please God.”
As we read the Bible we find God’s people involved in a vast range of different jobs: Abraham was a cattle trader; Joseph was Prime Minister; Luke was a doctor; the first Ethiopian convert was a banker; Dorcas was involved in fashion; Simon the tanner was a leather worker, Paul made tents, and Jesus, of course, was a carpenter. Work is a wholly holy occupation. Your workstation is your worship station.
Before Jesus is arrested, He prayed for his disciples: “My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one.” (John 17:15) We have been called by God to carry life into every sphere of society and corner of culture. Of course, there will be times when we get it wrong, we may say things we regret or behave in a manner not fitting our calling. I have been there. You probably have too. That can cause us to shrink into a corner and want to keep our faith private and separate from our work. However, there is always grace when we fail and with that grace comes the Spirit’s empowerment to display our discipleship in our daily duties and everyday labours. Ken Costa expresses the struggles and sustaining he personally experiences:
“The workplace is a tough place but I have been encouraged by the belief that God has called us to be strengthened in the world for the world. This means embracing the challenges of a competitive world, and growing through them in order to help others to do the same. Knowing that we are placed in the world not by random accident, but by God’s design for a distinct purpose, has carried me through many a difficult day.”