Would you agree that there is great tension between the world of work and the world of religion? Who do you think is winning the battle?
Recently, the Princeton Religion Research Center published a landmark survey conducted for the Wall Street Journal on the moral conduct at the workplace. The researchers measured a wide range of moral and ethical behaviors at the workplace, such as calling in sick when not sick, cheating on income tax, and swindling company supplies for personal use. The results were disappointing to say the least. But what the researchers found most startling was that there was no significant difference between the churched and the un-churched in their ethics and values on the job. They discovered that the Christian workers were just as guilty as the non-Christian workers when it came to calling in sick when not sick, cheating on income tax, and using company supplies for personal use.
To me, this survey suggests that many Christians are living double lives. At church they swear allegiance to values informed by Scripture. But at work, they follow the values depicted by the world.
Since worldly values are apparently influencing the Christian workforce, several principles on our behavior as Christians in the workplace will be discussed in this article.
Respect and Obey
First, as Christian workers we should respect and obey whoever is in a leadership role.
"Bondservants, be obedient to those who are your masters according to the flesh, with fear and trembling, in sincerity of heart, as to Christ: not with eyeservice, as men pleasers, but as bondservants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart." (Eph 6:5-6)
In practical terms for us today, this passage is teaching us to obey our employers, just as though we were obeying Christ. If our employers ask us to do something, we should do it without grumbling and complaining. We are to be model employees, always willing to go the extra mile to please our employers.
You may be wondering, do we have to obey our employers even if they want us to do something that is wrong and unethical? No.If your employer asks you to do something that is wrong and against the Word of God, then you should not do it.
"We ought to obey God rather than men." (Acts 5:29)
While serving as government administrators in Babylon, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were told by their employer, King Nebuchadnezzar, to bow down and worship a golden idol. They were given direct instructions by their employer to do something that was wrong and against their faith.
What did they do? Did they obey God or their boss?
Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego answered and said to the king, "O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer you in this matter. If that is the case, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and He will deliver us from your hand, O king. But if not, let it be known to you, O king, that we do not serve your gods, nor will we worship the gold image which you have set up." (Dan 3:16-18)
Since they would not obey the king's order, they were thrown into a furnace.
If you are every faced with this dilemma always obey God over your employer. You may be punished; you may even be fired. However, God will bless you for standing up for the truth. He will rescue you from the blazing furnace, just as He did Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. We are to respect and obey our employers and do what they ask us to do as long as it is not wrong and against our faith.
Who Is Your Boss?
Secondly, as Christian workers, we should always do our best because we are ultimately working for the Lord.
"Bondservants, obey in all things your masters according to the flesh, not with eyeservice, as men-pleasers, but in sincerity of heart, fearing God. And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance; for you serve the Lord Christ." (Col. 3:22-24)
This passage is teaching that while we are at work, we are to do our jobs with all of our hearts, not necessarily to please our bosses, but to please God, because we are ultimately working for Him. God is our employer.
Many years ago, on an extremely hot day, a crew of men was working on the roadbed of the railroad when a slow moving train interrupted them. The train came to a stop and a window in the last carÂwhich incidentally was custom made and air-conditionedÂwas raised. A booming, friendly voice called out, "Dave, is that you?" Dave Anderson, the crew chief called back, "Sure is, Jim, and it's really good to see you." With that pleasant exchange, Dave Anderson was invited to join Jim Murphy, the president of the railroad, for a visit. For over an hour the men exchanged pleasantries and then shook hands as the train pulled out.
Dave Anderson's crew immediately surrounded him and expressed astonishment that he knew Jim Murphy, the president of the railroad as a personal friend. Dave then explained that over 20 years earlier he and Jim Murphy had started to work for the railroad on the same day. One of the men half jokingly and half-serious asked Dave why he was still working out in the hot sun and Jim Murphy had gotten to be president. Rather melancholy Dave explained, "twenty-three years ago I went to work for $1.75 an hour but Jim Murphy went to work for the railroad."
If you only go to work to earn a paycheck, and that is your sole motivation, then all you will reap is a paycheck. You will dread your job and be unhappy. You will only give a half-hearted effort.
If you go to work to please God, and work for Him, then not only will you receive a paycheck, but you will also receive personal fulfillment and contentment. If you work only for pay, you will have a miserable day, but if you work for God, you will have happiness. Whatever you do for a living, do your best, so that you will glorify your Father in heaven.
Kill Them With Kindness
Thirdly, as Christian workers, we should always go out of our way to be kind and friendly to others.
As Christians, we are to care, be gentle, and show a warm smile. We are to be kind to others.
"And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another..."(Eph. 4:32)
"Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering;" (Col. 3:12)
"See that no one renders evil for evil to anyone, but always pursue what is good both for yourselves and for all." (1 Thess. 5:15)
In Chicken Soup for the Soul at Work, Naomi Rhode wrote of an experience she witnessed while working at a Hospital.
John was admitted into the emergency room and placed on the cardiac floor. He was unshaven, dirty, dangerously obese, and wore a black motorcycle jacket.
The nurses at the station looked wide-eyed as this mound of humanity was wheeled by, each glancing nervously at Bonnie, the head nurse. "Let this one not be mine to admit, bathe and tend to?quot; was their pleading, unspoken message.
One of the true marks of a leader is to do the unthinkable. To tackle the impossible. To touch the untouchable. It was Bonnie who said, "I want this patient myself."
As she put on her latex gloves and proceeded to bathe this huge, very unclean man, her heart almost broke. Where was his family? Who was his mother? What was he like as a little boy? She hummed quietly as she worked. It seemed to ease the fear and embarrassment she knew he must have been feeling.
And then on a whim she said, "We don't have time for back rubs much in hospitals these days, but I bet one would really feel good. And it would help you to relax your muscles and start to heal. That is what this place is all about?a place to heal."
The thick, scaly, ruddy skin told a story of an abusive lifestyle: probably lots of addictive behavior with food and other things. As she rubbed those tense muscles, she hummed and prayed. Prayed for the soul of a little boy grown up, rejected by life's rudeness and striving for acceptance in a hard, hostile world.
As John rolled over onto his back, tears ran down his cheeks and his chin trembled. With amazingly beautiful brown eyes, he smiled and said in a quivering voice, "No one has touched for years. Thank you. I am healing."
This special nurse went out of her way to show kindness to a rugged and filthy stranger.
How many of us go out of our way to show kindness to co-workers or customers?How long has it been since you have approached a co-worker to tell him or her what a good job he or she is doing? If you are an employer, how long has it been since you have done something nice for your employees besides giving them just their paychecks?
As Christians, we should flood our workplace with kindness. Every day we should touch lives by taking the time to care about others. Let us go out of our way by reaching out with the spirit of kindness to everyone we work with, even those we may not like.
Establish Proper Priorities
Lastly, as Christian workers, we must never put our careers before God and our families.
Let's face it, in society the family is in serious trouble because careers are becoming more important than the family. It is not enough anymore to just work 40 hours a week. Now, people are choosing to work longer hours or get second jobs so that they can make more money to keep up with the Smith's and the Jones'. The family unity is disintegrating because husbands, wives, and parents are more preoccupied with their professions then they are with their own families' needs.
In the Bible, Eli, who was a Priest and Judge in Israel, was a man who spent more time working, then he did caring for his families' well being. In fact, Eli was so preoccupied with his career that he did not even know about the trouble that his children were in.
"Now Eli was very old; and he heard everything his sons did to all Israel, and how they lay with the women who assembled at the door of the tabernacle of meeting. So he said to them, "Why do you do such things? For I hear of your evil dealings from all the people. No, my sons! For it is not a good report that I hear. You make the LORDâ€™S people transgress. If one man sins against another, God will judge him. But if a man sins against the LORD who will intercede for him? Nevertheless, they did not heed the voice of their father, because the LORD desired to kill them." (1 Samuel 2:22-25)
Eli's sons had followed in their fatherâ€™s footsteps by both becoming priests. However, these two ministers of God became so immoral that they were sleeping with their co-workers. To make things even worse, their father, the Priest did not even know what was going on, even though everyone else did. Because he was spending too much time at the office, Eli had lost touch with his family. His children even lost respect for him (v. 25).
If the family unit is going to survive, it must understand that God and family are more important than money and careers.
If we want to be true Christians in the workplace, then we need to be actively following four principles:
- We should respect and obey whoever is in authority.
- We should always do our best because we are ultimately working for the Lord.
- We should always go out of our way to be kind and friendly to others.
- We must never put our careers before God and our families.
May the Lord guide us in our daily Christian walk with our employers, employees and, most importantly, our families.