God at Work (Part 2): The Practice of Work
In Part 1, we considered the purpose of work. We saw that work is good and given to humanity that we might feed ourselves. However, God’s judgement on human sin means that our work has become grim and futile. Christ redeems our work, giving us a new identity to live out and a new mission of gospel-witness. In Part 2, we consider how these theological truths may work out in practice in our workplace.
Having understood what God says about work, we can now consider how this might look like in practice. Below are some initial suggestions to further reflect on:
1. Our Godliness
Employee conduct, that is adhering to company policies and expectations, is necessary if we are to keep our job and so feed ourselves and our family. This includes meeting the agreed work expectation of hours and quality of work. Our holy conduct includes and is more than our employee conduct. We are to live distinctively different lives from those around us in the workplace who don’t follow Lord Jesus.
Firstly, we prioritise following Jesus in all aspects of our life by regularly listening to the Bible, serving our church family and engaging in gospel witness. As we choose our job, we will consider which job gives us the best opportunities to serve Christ. We will not idolise over-achievement or keep changing jobs in order to pursue worldly ambitions. We will seek to regularly manage work expectations with our boss. Although some jobs will have phases of demanding work expectations, if this continues long-term and impacts our godliness and gospel witness, we should consider negotiating a lower workload or to switch to a new role.
Secondly, we work sincerely from the heart as to our Lord for his future reward. This involves working hard even when no one is watching and honestly confessing our mistakes. It means treating everyone with equal value regardless of their job titles, rather than acting as a people-pleaser towards our boss. It means showing forgiveness even when it is costly, and not laying blame without mercy. It means submitting to the final decision of our company leaders (i.e. bosses, HR, legal) whom God has put in place. It means not participating in unbiblical conduct such as gossiping, lying and drunkenness.
We will expect to endure some suffering as a result of our holy conduct. This may include being marginalised by individuals or an inner work circle, having slower career progression and less money, submitting to unjust decisions, facing pressure from family and peers to prioritise over-achievement, and struggling with our double-mindedness that wants to both follow Jesus and pursue worldly ambitions simultaneously.
2. Our Gospel Witness
Alongside striving for godliness in the workplace, we will strive to be a good gospel witness. Building relationships is foundational to creating opportunities to share the gospel. This can be through teamwork, talking about wider life apart from work, organising socials (such as meals, sports, trips) or other means. Church friends can also be included in these social activities where colleagues are present. Where possible we should commit to the same people over time, even after we change roles in the company.
Here are some suggestions for creating gospel opportunities in the workplace:
- Introduce yourself as a Christian who is involved in a local church. Look for gospel opportunities from the very start, rather than waiting to be established in your position first. It’s actually harder to start later.
- List the people you can have regular contact with (your mission field) and pray for them regularly. Prayer is crucial, because in the end it is only God who enables people to believe.
- Be prepared to share the gospel and your own testimony. Focus on the difference Christ has made to your life rather than simply engaging in intellectual debates. A gospel outline is useful to identify which aspects of the gospel people may have questions on. Share about Christ gently, winsomely and respectfully, not being overly pushy. Have gospel conversations by sharing Bible truths you learnt from the Sunday sermon or your mid-week small group. Schedule occasional one-to-one lunch meetings for a longer discussion on these matters. There may be gospel opportunities during seasons such as Christmas or Easter or during major life events such as the illness or death of a loved one.
- Partner with and be supported by Christian colleagues. Consider organise lunchtime talks in your workplace or business district. Invite people to guest events or interesting topics. Even if they can’t come, we can still share with them afterwards about the event.
- Organise a dialogue lunch in a small group at your home, office meeting room or a nearby restaurant. Such a meeting would involve food and a 5 to 10 minute talk on a Bible passage followed by an open discussion.
- Ask someone to read the Bible one-to-one with you. This can be potentially one of the most rewarding experiences. You could meet for 30 mins before or after work, or during your lunch break. Some useful resources to consider are The Word One To One and Christianity Explored.
- We may have many indirect gospel opportunities. We can give generously and sacrificially to fund more gospel ministry. God may give us the ability to earn a high salary to serve the gospel in this way. We may also be in a position to equip more gospel witnesses through engaging in Bible teaching in our church. If God grants us the right character, conviction and competency, we should also consider whether full time paid ministry will provide the best opportunities for us to serve Christ.
We will expect to endure some suffering as a result of seizing gospel opportunities or living a holy life. Additionally, we may face awkward responses from others when testifying to Christ. But our goal is not the praise of people, but the glory of God and the salvation of the lost.
- Don’t waste (or lose) your life working for futile worldly ambitions
Work is good, but it is also grim in this fallen world. While it is God’s design that we work to feed ourselves, our rejection of God means we now work in a fallen world under God’s judgement. Tragically, many Christians do not accept this view of work until their work life is over. Having lived their lives for worldly ambitions instead of Christ, they find no lasting satisfaction as death approaches. Don’t waste (or lose) your life working for futile worldly ambitions. Live and work for the glory of Christ.
- Follow Christ at work as you seek to bring people to eternal life
Living for the glory of Christ at work means we will seek to bring others to faith in Christ and eternal life. Because of Christ, our work has been redeemed. We have been given a new identity in God’s family and a new mission to do God’s work. Let us witness to Christ as work, and pray that God may use us to bring others to eternal life.
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Ryan Shuy is a member of St Helen’s Bishopsgate, primarily serving the international workers. He works as an actuary for 4 days a week and enjoys a day off to study at Cornhill Training Course. He thanks God for the privilege of great Bible learning where he’s at now and looks forward to bringing these back home in the future
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