A co-worker admitted to a bit of a laissez-faire attitude about work that he attributes to perceived inequities experienced or observed during his work history. Offering a few experiences of my own, I sympathized with his sentiments.
Given that we all spend a considerable amount of our lives at work, experiencing problems there should come as no surprise to any of us. However, Christ-followers should be ready to offer that while sin weighs on everything to do with life and creation, including workplaces, grace triumphs over sin. (See James 1:14-15 and Romans 6:14, NLT)
Am I taking St. Paul too literally to suggest that we believers “work out” much of our salvation at work?
Unfortunately, hearing my experiences only reinforced my co-worker’s cynicism. Not my intention but our duties that day didn’t allow me to dive more into this with him and we haven’t worked together again for a couple weeks.
Reflecting later on our exchange, I prayed for an opportunity to revisit our discussion. If that occurred, I would want to say something like….
“As a Christian, my context is based on Jesus Christ and the Bible. While work disappointments are certainly troubling, they should come as no surprise since all people are born with a condition called sin. Sin inclines most people to be prideful and act in their own best interests in a way that may be detrimental to others. This is natural and should be expected even with the nicest people.”
If able, I might add that “pride and selfishness are especially prevalent at work. However, Jesus came to cure people of this sin condition even while we were still sinners and enemies of him. (Romans 5:8, NIV). As a Christian, I am a new man in Christ, enabled to bless my co-workers and supervisors regardless of how they treat me in return.”
Side note. I’ve never said anything so succinct to anyone before but, God-willing, I’ll have other opportunities to do so - to be prepared to share the hope that is in me. (See 1 Peter 3:15, NIV).
While I suspect I’ve suffered more workplace disappointment than most of my mostly-younger co-workers, my inclination to be negatively influenced by those disappointments is tempered by something far stronger, stronger even than sin itself - grace.
This becoming a new man due to grace has evolved over time and experience. Truly, God used workplace disappointments to mold me into what I’ve become.
“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!” (2 Corinthians 5:17, NIV)
In a former job, a coworker/friend there expressed concern that the efficiencies I was introducing might eventually give the boss reason to no longer need me. In response, I failed to put into words my conviction that the Lord gifted me to bless in certain ways, especially at work. To hold back God’s gifting would violate who I am, even if the boss used my innovations to justify eliminating my position.
Ultimately he did eliminate my position so it seems my friend’s concerns were warranted. However, he is ultimately answerable to God for his motivations. (See Proverbs 25: 21-22, NLT)
I pray that the Lord’s molding of me is shaping me to live graciously more and more because I am becoming a new “I am” in the likeness of God who also defines himself that way.
“God said to Moses, "I AM WHO I AM. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: 'I AM has sent me to you.'" (Exodus 3:14, NIV)
My friend, Mike insists my presence made a noticeable, "spiritual" difference in my former workplace, a hardware store.
“When I go there during your shift, I can tell the difference just by walking in,” Mike recently shared. “That store is blessed due to you.”
I've enjoyed this job the most of all the jobs I’ve had in the last nine years. In seven months there as a sales associate, I slowly learned the store layout, how to cut keys and mix paint and grew more confident and comfortable greeting, helping and relating to our customers. I credit the people-focused culture to the owner, Tim and his hiring practices. He employs people like me - with some to considerable hardware know-how and good with people.
To affirm Mike’s claim would seem immodest but I mention it to explore a perspective in Scripture that seems ignored or overlooked in Christian circles - that God can and does work through certain "chosen" people to bless the places they occupy. Let me be clear though that the source of blessing is God, not me or you.
I desire to be engaged with God and I faithfully observe certain routines to develop and maintain a relationship with him. On good days, I am tuned into God's channel while at work, alert to bringing him into encounters with other people when an opening to do so occurs.
Likewise with the jobs I've sought and secured. I can make a case for God having something to do with me landing each one of them. Would that be the same as God "choosing" me for these positions?
As to God blessing my workplaces through me, well I can only say that Mike’s view merits consideration due to plenty of Biblical evidence of blessing attributed to God working through one person. The Bible also offers warnings of peril and vulnerability for people and places due to the apparent ABSENCE of “righteous” people, according to God.
Notable examples of God blessing others or nations due a person chosen by God are Abraham, Daniel, Joseph, and David.
- Abraham - Through him, God established the Messianic line to bless all the families of earth (see Genesis 12:1-20)
- Daniel - Able, due to God, to interpret the king’s dreams, exile Daniel was elevated to leadership in the government of his captor, Babylon (see Daniel 2: 46-49)
- Joseph - Like Daniel, God granted Joseph interpretations to Pharaoh’s dreams that resulted in Joseph becoming one of Egypt’s highest officials. (See Genesis 39: 2-5)
- David - Through David, God established an everlasting kingdom (See 2 Samuel 7: 12-17)
Conversely, Biblical places imperiled due to the lack of righteous people according to God include Sodom and, possibly, Canaan.
- Sodom - But for the presence of just ten righteous people, the Lord would have spared Sodom from destruction. (See Genesis 18: 16-33)
- Canaan - Israel was ordered to completely destroy the nations occupying their “promised lands” due to longstanding societal patterns that were detestable in God’s eyes (see Deuteronomy 18: 9, 12)
Mike isn’t the only person who claims I’ve made a noticeable difference in a place I worked. Furthermore, even though I’ve not been part of any workplace longer than 18 months during the last nine years, many of the companies have thrived during my time there. Also, I’m aware that some faltered a bit after I left.
Did God "choose" me for any of these workplaces? Is any of this supposed blessing or prosperity due to God dwelling in me as I dwelt in the work I did there? Was my leaving in any way associated with God withdrawing blessing?
Given God’s nature and manner and the evidence of Scripture, all of the above are certainly possible even if logically far-fetched. So imagine with me for a moment that little old you and me are conduits for Godly goodness in the workplaces we occupy, whether big or small. Author Samuel Williamson says God is always speaking and acting through his creation and people and wants to speak to and through us in every moment.
“God invites us to walk with him even in--maybe especially in--our ordinary moments.” (from “Hearing God in Conversation,” page 33)
Even at work or, if you are retired, whatever you are doing wherever you are doing it.
I pray that what Mike claims is true, that God blessed that store because I brought my relationship with the Lord to work with me. Ditto with my new job, a manufacturing company.
How about you?
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- Image source: Jill Heyer via Unsplash
In the rather convoluted job/career track I’ve been on since 2008, 16 positions in nine years, my current job has by far been the most enjoyable. It seems I found something new I flourish at - customer service!
Might have something to do with the workplace - a hardware store - essentially a toy store for a Do-It-Yourself guy like me.
It’s a great work environment - a knowledgeable, patient boss, supportive and friendly co-workers and a growing and appreciative customer base. I also love the part-time schedule that has allowed me to work a little more on some long latent creative longings like this blog, writing in general, maybe doing something more with my ornaments...
Unfortunately, the variable schedule pushes against the rhythms my creativity thrives best in and then there’s the compensation issue. Retail pay is notoriously poor and I’m at the lowest rung possible. Although we gave this a go, we’ve been tapping into our modest savings to cover our bills.
We already live frugally but we managed to find a couple small costs to cut back on while keeping a closer eye on spending. Meanwhile we lean heavily into what has become our primary life strategy - to trust in, abide with and wait on the Lord.
This "Trust-Abide-Wait" focus finally locked in with me in 2016, a few months after I was “downsized” from position #15. During eight or so years of career-searching, I basically vacillated between following the “Guru” career-search track and seeking/depending on the Lord.
“Guru” is my term for the generally advised career-search strategy that involves crafting a plan with tailored materials and pitches that feed a relentless campaign to aggressively promote yourself to hiring managers who make the call about who gets the job and who does not.
Some of the Guru mantras are: “Go big or go home… Just do it… If you want it, you gotta go get it;” and, “Don’t turn back until you hit your mark.”
In stark contrast is God’s way along the line of Jesus’ striking teaching in Matthew’s gospel:
Notice how individualized God’s advice is. “EveryONE who asks receives, and the ONE who seeks finds, and to the ONE who knocks it will be opened.”
So how does God work out what happens when each of us ask, seek and knock along different lines? EXACTLY!
When I finally peeled myself away from Guru to give myself over to trust-abide-wait, I was able to hear God’s voice a lot better. This hardware job surfaced during that time and I accepted it with full knowledge of its variable hours and meager pay. While our bank account dwindled a bit, my wounded spirit was restored.
In the last three weeks, two job opportunities were made known to me, both bearing God’s fingerprints. While neither were perfect fits, I applied for both. The second one resulted in my next job that offers stable hours, better pay and a growth track I can pursue if I want to.
Now I have to break the news to my current boss and colleagues. Store staffing is delicately balanced and my departure is going to upset that balance during our busiest season. After I accepted the offer for the new job, I decided to also trust-abide and wait for a couple days to seek God’s guidance about the conversation with my boss.
I’m glad I did because God reminded me that my duty is to listen for and follow only him and let him take care of everything else.
“He is before all things, and in him ALL THINGS hold together,” wrote Paul in his letter to the Colossians (1:17, NIV).
“Behold, I am the Lord, the God of all flesh. Is anything too hard for me?” (Jeremiah 32:27, ESV)
God holding ALL THINGS together includes my boss and colleagues, all our customers as well as everyone at my new workplace. Such “holding” as only God can do is behind Paul’s bold, “no stress” statement in his letter to the Philippians:
Ideally, obedient believers have no stress whatsoever when we follow the path the Lord opens no matter how unusual or irrational it may initially seem. Even so, God recognizes that this life is far from ideal and we all are stuck in it to varying degrees. For our "stuck" moments," Jesus offered these words of comfort:
No matter how stressed we feel about what we know we have to do, "Trust-Abide-Wait" is generally a great course to take.