Do you ever have that Monday morning feeling? Bob Geldoff sang ‘I don’t like Mondays’, and that’s how many people feel about going to work. Sadly, for many reasons Christians are not immune from this.
Maybe we are shaped and influenced by the attitudes of work colleagues who view work as a necessary but burdensome part of life that they have to grin and bear until they retire and head for the golf course! It may be because as Christians we feel out of place and unable to make an impact on the lives of those around us. We dread those conversations around the coffee machines when we are asked, ‘So what did you do over the weekend?’
All this seems a far cry from the vision of work given to Adam and Eve – to care for and develop and ultimately extend the boundaries of the garden, to see the whole world subdued for God’s glory. And in the New Testament Paul teaches slaves that they should always work in a way that ‘make[s] the teaching about God our Saviour attractive’ (Titus 2:10).
How then are we to show our devotion to Christ in our place of work? How can we begin to see work as something that fits and fulfils part of our design? As Tim Keller puts it, ‘as a means not just of securing funds so that our leisure time can be enjoyed… but as a service to God and to our neighbour.’ Here are some ‘starters for ten’.
Remember who it is you serve
Paul said we’re to work ‘as if serving the Lord, not people’ (Eph. 6:7). Many of us have been subject to the putdowns of the office or factory bully. Many of us have experienced the pressure of impossible sales targets and unrealistic deadlines. The temptation is to follow the majority into harmful patterns of behaviour such as moaning behind the boss’s back or giving way to unreasonable demands because we fear the consequences.
The key is to fear God above all others, allowing our actions and reactions to be tempered by this reality. This will enable us to be unafraid of the work bully. Recently I was told of a head teacher who bullied a member of her staff to the extent that they went off sick with stress. A Christian member of staff took time to visit and take an interest in this individual.
Remember to do good to everyone
The best way to counter the prevailing work-based culture is to live such an attractive life in the service of others that they may ultimately acknowledge it (1 Peter 2:12). Paul says that it’s possible – through the way we work – to make the gospel attractive.
We might do this by responding compassionately to the needs of colleagues… spotting and getting alongside those that are in difficulty privately. It means helping weaker members of your team or befriending unpopular characters. It means being ready to do the less popular or more difficult tasks. It means setting a high standard of workmanship. If we are managers it means we are fair and even handed. One commentator calls this ‘luminous righteousness’ – righteousness that is visible in less than ideal circumstances!
Remember to say ‘no’ to what is wrong
This we are more familiar with. There are many things we must say a big ‘no’ to in our workplaces. For example: gossip, moaning, cheating, lying, laziness, disrespect, laughing at innuendos and coarse conversation. This will not gain us friends. In the short term we may attract abuse (1 Peter 4:4). Some of the most difficult times for me have been on overnight business trips with colleagues where the pressure to conform is huge.
So, if the prospect of Monday morning at work does not excite you, try applying these principles and you will find that ‘his service will become your delight’.