Faith in the Workplace - Kevin Seaton

This series is written by Northstar members and connects us with how they live out their faith in Jesus as a faithful worker/employee.

by Kevin Seaton

I used to work with a guy who would constantly say to me “Whatever you say boss!” even though I wasn’t his boss, and he rarely did what I said. But this raises the question… “who is our boss?” In other words, who are we working for, and who are we trying to please? Can we believe Ephesians 6 which teaches that we are to work “as to the Lord and not to people”?  Yes, for it teaches us that there’s a glory that we bring to God by doing our labor.  Paul told us in Colossians 3:17, “And whatever you do, in word or in deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him." While we should strive to make our earthly bosses happy, we must never forget that God put us here to work, and that we ultimate work to please him. We can please him by working hard at being a good student, a good engineer, a good manager, and a good father or mother. Just like we often pray before meals, asking God to bless our food, it’s good to pray daily that God will bless our occupations and that our efforts will please him and bring him glory.

While God calls us to work (Exodus 4:9: “You are to labor six days and do all your work."), He does expect us to have proper work-life balance. God calls us to be a good spouse, a good parent, to serve His church and even have times of rest. But all these responsibilities take time, so it’s vital that we establish time structures during the week to allow for reasonable and proper work-life balance. We’ve all known individuals who make their jobs their identity. It is sad, and it’s not honoring to God. I like how Tim Keller put it when he said:

"If our identity is in our work, rather than Christ, success will go to our heads, and failure will go to our hearts."

Soon after graduating from college, I listened to Martin Luther King Jr. deliver his “What is Your Life’s Blueprint?” speech (Oct 26, 1967) in front of a group of graduating middle school students in NY.  This speech has long been an inspiration to me to work hard at what I do, regardless of the task at hand, and to do it for the glory of God.  In that speech he said, “When you discover what you’re going to be in life, set out to do it as if God Almighty called you at this particular moment in history to do it."

We can work diligently for God’s glory no matter what our vocation is, whether it’s writing a research paper, being a janitor, a technician, a parent raising a small child, or a person cleaning the streets. Speaking of this, here’s a wonderful snippet from MLK’s speech about being a “street sweeper:"

“If it falls to your lot to be a street sweeper, sweep streets like Michelangelo painted pictures. Sweep streets like Beethoven composed music. Sweep streets like Leontyne Price sings before the Metropolitan Opera, and sweep streets like Shakespeare wrote poetry. Sweep streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth will have to pause and say, “Here lived a great street sweeper who swept his job well.”

You can just imagine his voice building to a crescendo as he spoke that!  The truth is that consistent and persistent work is a Godly virtue, for we are not made for idleness. “Idle hands are the devil’s workshop” is an old saying generally supported by Scripture. Having too much time on our hands tends to get us into trouble with sin. Instead, God wants us to work, provide for our family, and even provide for others who cannot work.

Besides working hard at your occupation, it’s vitally important that we “be the church” at all times wherever we are. It’s not uncommon for us to work alongside unbelievers. As followers of Jesus, our lives should be different. Our conduct in the workplace should reflect our Biblical value system. We should avoid gossip, using crude language, and indulging in inappropriate jokes. Our speech should occasionally reference God, Jesus, and fellowship with believers. We should be ready and sensitive to those in need so that we pray with them (or for them) in the workplace.  Remember that non-believers are watching our conduct, and some may desire that intangible sense of peace and joy that is evident in our lives. Dietrich Bonhoeffer got right to the point when he wrote:

“Your life as a Christian should make non-believers question their disbelief in God.”

Our close relationship with God and the work of the Holy Spirit in us equips us to weather the storms of life, even the occasional bad news at work. Over time, I’ve become aware of the fact that non-Christians watch how I react when confronted with bad news or a stressful situation. The words of D.L. Moody gives us a reality check when he wrote:

“Out of 100 men, one will read the Bible, the other 99 will read the Christian."

 While our conduct at work is a witness to our faith, nothing substitutes the importance of speaking the gospel to our coworkers or fellow students. Paul wrote, “Faith comes from what is heard, and what is heard comes through the message about Christ.”  We may never know the outcome of sharing the gospel with any one person. We do it out of love for our neighbor, and a deep love for God and his call for obedience. May our occupation reflect Jesus in every way possible. May we devote ourselves to loving others in what we say, how we act, and how we pray for those around us. I’ll close with one final excerpt from that MLK speech that still brings inspiration to me:
If you can’t be a pine on the top of the hill,
Be a scrub in the valley but –
be the best little scrub on the side of the hill.
Be a bush if you can’t be a tree.
If you can’t be a highway, just be a trail.
If you can’t be the sun, be a star,
For it isn’t by size that you win or you fail.

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