The Christian’s Role In The Workplace – A Biblical View
One famous restaurant in the United States is called “TGIF”—Thank God It’s Friday. The name aptly captures how the average person views work—I am glad the workweek is over! However, is that the way a Christian should view work? Should Christians view work as a necessary evil, or should we view work as a gift from God and thus glorify him even in our workplace? This brief article aims to help the reader accomplish the latter [i.e., glorify God] by giving 5 biblical truths concerning work.
Truth # 1. Work existed before sin entered the world.
A lot of people mistakenly think work is a result of sin in the world. Even before sin entered the world, God had placed Adam in the Garden of Eden to “work it and take care of it” [Gen 2:15]. However, because of sin, work was made more difficult, “Cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat food from it all the days of your life” [Gen 3:17].
Since work was part of man’s life in a perfect world [i.e., before the fall of mankind] and work will exist in the coming new world, work is to be viewed as a blessing and not as a curse!
Truth # 2. Work is a command from God.
We are commanded in 1 Thessalonians 4:11 to “work with [our] hands.” The Greek culture of that time looked down on manual labor. However, the Bible declares all labor as dignifying if done according to biblical principles. Think for a moment. If work is a curse, why would God command his children to work and that too with their hands? No, God will not command us to do anything that is even remotely evil. As God’s children, we need to take every command of God seriously—even those that may seem contrary to our natural desires.
Truth # 3. Work is for the common good of others.
In addition to taking care of personal and family needs, work is a way of fulfilling the second commandment, “Love your neighbor as yourself” [Matt 22:39]. Several biblical commands stress the importance of helping those in need. Acts 20:35 tells us that by “hard work,” we must “help the weak.” In Ephesians 4:28, we are commanded to “work” so we can “have something to share with those in need.” In Proverbs 14:31, we are told, “whoever is kind to the needy honors God.” Even to the rich, God issues this command, “be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share” [1 Tim 6:18].
Those in need include family, friends, and even strangers. While we need to exercise wise stewardship, we must also remember that God blesses us to be a blessing to others. D.L. Moody summarized this truth about working for the common good in this beautiful way:
Do all the good you can, by all the means you can, in all the ways you can, in all the places you can, at all the times you can, to all the people you can, as long as ever you can.
Also, the “love your neighbor” command reminds us to be careful about where we get employed. Places that provide goods or services that lead to the destruction of many individual lives and families cannot be legitimately called places promoting the loving your neighbor concept. It is not suitable for a believer to be employed in such places.
This principle of non-participation would also extend to places where sin is blatantly committed [e.g., lying to customers]. Even if the financial benefits may seem incredible, believers should not put themselves in a place where they may be tempted to disobey God’s word.
Truth # 4. Work is to be rendered with the reminder that the Lord is the real Boss.
“Oh—No,” you say! “Oh—Yes,” says God’s word! Ephesians 6:5-8 makes this truth clear [also see Colossians 3:22-25]. In Ephesians 6:5, we are commanded in this manner, “Slaves, obey your earthly masters with respect and fear, and with sincerity of heart, just as you would obey Christ.” Notice we are to submit to our employers as we “would obey Christ.”
A Christian’s work ethic must never be based on merely pleasing the boss when they are watching, “not only to win their favor when their eye is on you” [Eph 6:6a]. Instead, Christians should remember that the Lord is always watching, and it is to him they ultimately render their service. It is the “will of God” [Ephesians 6:6b] for Christians to always submit to their boss and do a good job.
Paul proceeded to say, “7 Serve wholeheartedly, as if you were serving the Lord, not people, 8 because you know that the Lord will reward each one for whatever good they do, whether they are slave or free” [Eph 6:7-8]. That’s why believers should never base their work ethic on whether the bosses recognize their work.
Many get aggravated and hence do not work hard when their work goes unnoticed. “No congrats, no bonuses, no well done, why should I care?” type of attitude is prevalent among many. If God is the real boss [and he is], God will reward the believer one day! That’s his promise, and that should be the encouraging factor for service—not mere human recognition. We cannot let our bosses or others influence our behavior!
We must always work as if the Lord is the real boss. We should show the same attitude of submission that we would show to the Lord. This calls for exhibiting a spirit of humility. The exception is, of course, if our boss tells us to do something that violates Scripture, then we have no obligation to obey our human boss. In such cases, we must obey God—“We must obey God rather than human beings!” [Acts 5:29].
We must also remember if we have a Christian boss, the principles of 1 Timothy 6:2 apply, “Those who have believing masters should not show them disrespect just because they are fellow believers. Instead, they should serve them even better because their masters are dear to them as fellow believers and are devoted to the welfare of their slaves.”
In addition to being good employees, Christians must also be good employers. Ephesians 6:9 says, “And masters, treat your slaves in the same way. Do not threaten them, since you know that he who is both their Master and yours is in heaven, and there is no favoritism with him.” Just as Christian employees should serve their employers in a Christ-honoring manner, Christian employers must also treat their employees similarly. They are not to threaten or take advantage of them. They are not to treat them with partiality either because the Lord does not show favoritism.
When believers realize the Lord is the real Boss and that we don’t work just for a paycheck, the perspective towards work changes. Work does not become a burden but can be viewed as a blessing and an excellent means of bringing God glory.
Truth # 5. Work is a means—to an ultimate end—God’s glory.
1 Corinthians 10:31 clearly states we are to do all things for “the glory of God.” Understanding this will help the Christian to see work as the means to the ultimate goal of glorifying God. When this perspective is absent, work can quickly become the master, and the worker becomes the slave. And this will lead to other kinds of problems, such as desiring to get rich, wishing to climb the corporate ladder, pursuing the best that the world has to offer, etc.
It can also harm one’s spiritual and family life [e.g., having no time for personal devotions, no time for family, no time to attend Church meetings, the tendency to compromise, or even take shortcuts to success. That is why Proverbs 23:4 gives this warning: “Do not wear yourself out to get rich; do not trust your own cleverness.”
Plainly stated, don’t be a WORKAHOLIC! A Christian’s identity does not come from how successful they are as employees or employers. Instead, a Christian’s identity comes from the fact that they are in Christ—a sinner saved by grace. God has already accepted them, and in the end, that’s the only thing that will matter!
So, there we have—5 fundamental truths concerning work. In addition to these truths, there are 3 other general principles to consider when it comes to working.
Working in a Difficult Environment. We must not get discouraged if we find ourselves working in a stressful environment. God is sovereign over all the affairs of life. 1 Peter 2:18-21 reminds us that there may be times when we must bear up under unreasonable employers. God may be keeping us there for a reason—maybe change the people around us or change us through such difficult circumstances as we are forced to lean more on him for strength.
Changing Jobs. There is nothing sinful in seeking another employment [1 Cor 7:21]. However, it is good to approach this aspect prayerfully and thoughtfully when it comes to changing jobs. We must not hesitate to ask ourselves some tough questions:
- Why do I want to move?
- Is it because of my pride in refusing to submit to my employers that I am seeking to move?
- Is it merely for more money and more comforts?
- Is it just for personal career fulfillment?
- Will this move jeopardize my personal and family’s spiritual growth?
- Will this move affect my service to the Lord, and my involvement in the local church?
- How will this impact my time with the family?
Such sincere questioning of the motives coupled with prayer enables us to make the right choices regarding changing jobs. It is always good to keep the big picture in mind—How does my desire to move or stay glorify God? When we put God first and then ask the questions, answers will quickly follow. We must never forget: The pursuit of earthly fulfillment can lead to significant spiritual disasters.
Besides, it is also good to remember that it’s not Christ-like nor God-glorifying to continually speak evil of our employers or grumble and complain about our jobs. We need to cultivate a thankful heart for even having a job! Let’s not forget—many are jobless! And even when we leave one employment for another, it is not good to continually speak negatively about the previous company. It is good to put the past behind us and move forward.
Please Note: It is not sinful to express a difficult situation that one faces at work and ask others to pray, nor is it sinful to speak about genuine atrocities in the workplace. What is sinful is if we develop bitterness toward those who are not treating us well. Constant reflection about the negative aspects of the workplace can lead us to such sinful attitudes. So, we must be watchful!
Evangelism at the Workplace. While the Bible does command us to reach everyone who does not have a saving relationship with Christ which includes those at the workplace, wisdom is required. The Christian is paid to do a job and must remember that evangelism should not interfere with the job functions. In other words, we need to refrain from evangelizing during work hours if that leads to neglecting our job duties. Such an approach does not promote Jesus. Instead, it brings a damaging testimony about the Christian faith. Lunch break or after-hours are possibilities to consider.
It is also good to remember—in addition to proclaiming the gospel message, being a faithful employee or employer is a powerful way of promoting Christ.
Let’s never forget: The most significant work was the work done by the Lord Jesus when he lived that perfect life on our behalf and went to the cross to die as a substitute for our sins. His victorious cry, “It is finished” [John 19:30], reveals his payment for our sins was sufficient—the resurrection was God’s “Amen” to his work. So, we can rest in him and draw strength from his Spirit to fulfill his commands, including the command to live out the biblical principles concerning work.
God is glorified even in the secular realm. Let us not wrongly conclude that God is glorified only if someone works full-time in a “Church” ministry. Scriptures remind us that every Christian is in full-time ministry—if they glorify God in the area, he has called them to function. Whether we are in the secular work area, in the home taking care of and raising godly children, or serving in the Church—faithfulness to God’s Word is the issue. When we develop such an attitude, rather than saying TGIF, we can joyfully say TGIM—Thank God It’s Monday!