In many churches, and in the lives of many Christians, the Christian faith does not seem to have that much to do with work. A survey estimates that:75% of Christians have never been asked by their minister or pastor about their witness at work, only 50% had ever heard a sermon on work, and only 25% had been taught a theology of work.
This is a great tragedy, because Christians who work spend more time in the workplace than any other place. There are three callings (at least!) which all Christians have to face up to – especially those who work:
The call to glorify God in all that we do.
In 1Cor. 10:31, Paul says, “So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.” The glory of God is the ultimate aim in the Christian life. “Man’s chief end is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.”
I’m sure most of us have heard that statement many times, but I wonder if we have really thought through what it means in relation to our daily living. For this first principle of the Christian life to have any meaning, it must be grounded. In other words, it must make a difference to the ins and outs of our daily lives. Paul, in 1 Cor.10, brings this principle down to earth. He is talking about eating and drinking! How many of us think about glorifying God as we eat or as we drink? Christians who work are called to glorify God in and through their work. And this is one of the most important callings, because:Christians who work spend such a significant amount of time at work. The average person in the UK will spend around 88,000 hours at work. The average committed Christian will spend as few as 4,000 hours in a lifetime in church meetings and church related activities. If you are working, and you are serious about bringing glory to God, then it is vital, just because of the amount of time that work takes up, that you work out what it means to glorify God in and through your work.
That time is, generally speaking, spent with non-Christians. What an opportunity there is to bring glory to God, not just in the eyes of your fellow Christians, but also in the eyes of non-Christians. Therefore, it might be argued that it is more important to work out this call in the context of work, than in the context of Sunday church. Our everyday lives – our everyday working lives – is the place where the real battle of bringing glory to God takes place. One of the things that holds us back from doing this is that we tend to make an unhelpful distinction (and an unbiblical distinction) between spiritual things and non-spiritual things. Sunday and church is spiritual, whereas Monday and work is non-spiritual. BUT we are called to glorify God in whatever we do! It might be designing a new computer software program, answering the telephone, or operating a machine. These things are not any more or any less spiritual than what you do at church on a Sunday. Doing these things has as much potential to bring glory to God! “There is no work better than another to please God; to pour water, to wash dishes, to be a cobbler, or an apostle – all are one, as touching the deed, to please God” (William Tyndale). “It is not what a man does that determines whether his work is sacred or secular, it is his attitude” (AW Tozer). We need to get away from the idea that doing things connected with church is spiritual activity and doing things connected with work, or other everyday tasks, is secular. We are called to glorify God in all that we do.
The call to serve God in all that we do.
In Col. 3:23 we read “Whatever you do, work at it with all heart, as working for the Lord, not for men.” I was visiting a CF group a while back and during a time of discussion one of the group members said this: If you are not serving the Lord full time, who are your serving part-time?” Just as Christians need to ask, “How can I glorify God in and through my work?” they also need to ask, “What does it mean to serve God in my work?” This is difficult for some of us. Yes, when teaching Sunday school I am serving God, but what about when I am giving a sales presentation? Is that serving God? Yes it is, or at least it can be!
Another word for service is the word ministry. There is in fact a Greek word used in the New Testament which can be translated as either service or ministry (‘leitourgeo’). In our evangelical churches, we tend to misuse the word ministry – ministry is what the minister does!But if we look at Eph. 4:11,12 we see that it is the people of God who do “ministry”. The pastor/teacher is preparing the people of God so that they can go out and do ministry! Therefore, as you leave church on a Sunday you leave to enter into works of ministry and service. For Christians who work, their workplaces are crucial contexts for ministry. A Christian is called to serve God in and through their work. In other words, they are called to be ministers at work!
In the Bible, the concept of service is closely related to the concept of worship. Rom.12:1 talks about presenting our bodies as living sacrifices because this is your reasonable service (AV) or this is your spiritual act of worship (NIV). If we are to serve God in and through our work, this really means worshiping God in and through our work! How many of us have ever thought of work as worship? For most of us we think of worship in terms of what takes place on a Sunday at church. But this is only a very small part of worship. Worship has to do with the whole of our lives – with our working lives, if we work. For those of you who leave home on a Monday morning to go to work, and you say goodbye to you family, have you ever thought about saying, “Bye, I’m off to worship!”
The call to be witnesses in all that we do.
In Matt. 5:13 Jesus says, “You are the salt of the earth” and in Matt. 5:14 he says, “You are the light of the world.”
It is vitally important that we grasp what Jesus is saying here: we ourselves are the salt; we ourselves are the light. The salt and light are not primarily the words we say, or the evangelistic events we organize, or the testimony that we give. We are the salt, we are the light! Once again, this is something that involves the whole of our lives.
Robert Murray M’Cheyne said this to pastors, but it is relevant to all of us, “Covet universal holiness of life. Your whole usefulness depends on this, for your sermons last but an hour or two; your life preaches all week.” Did you know that you are not only a minister, you are a preacher! Your life preaches all week. What message are you preaching? We may not all be called to be evangelists. We may not all have the gift of evangelism. But we are all called to be witnesses, and as you live, you witness!
It is interesting that there are so few instructions in the NT about evangelism or about how to witness. There are no ‘evangelism in 3 easy steps’ instructions. The assumption of the NT is that if you live for Christ, you will witness for Christ. If you live as a Christian, your witness will overflow from your life. This is really what Peter is saying in 1 Pet. 3:15 – “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give a reason for the hope that you have.” The assumption here is that you are living the Christian life and the hope of the Christian life is shining out! For Christians who work, this is a vitally important issue. It is vitally important because of the potential that there is in workplace witness. At work, you don’t have to go knocking on doors to find non-Christians. You don’t have to find common ground upon which to build a relationship, because work establishes common ground. If you are a Christian who works, think of yourself as being strategically placed by God, and think of all the Christians all over the country as being strategically placed by God. A vast army which has infiltrated enemy territory. And if all these Christians were to shine as lights, and savour as salt, think of the difference that would make. In NT times, it was very rare for Christians to be found in the top jobs – the majority of Christians were women and slaves. But now that is not the case. Christians can be found in virtually every profession and industry – from cleaner to chief executive. There is a vast army out there! There is great potential, but there is also great challenge. Whether you know it or not and whether you like it or not, if you are a Christian at work you are a witness at work.
Witness is not primarily something you do. Primarily, it is something we are. You are the salt of the earth. You are the light of the world. The light can shine and salt can savour in all kinds of ways through Christians in the workplace: in how they deal with difficult clients or co-workers, in how they deal with failure, in their attitude to money, promotion and success, in their concern for junior members of staff, in how they deal with really tedious work, in the interest they show in people’s lives, and in their willingness to put themselves out for others. If Christians are serious about workplace witness, the Holy Spirit will give opportunity to share the reason for the hope that is within! You might not be a pastor, you might not be a missionary, you might not be in so-called full-time Christian service, but God has called each of us: to glorify Him in all that we do, to serve Him in all that we do, and to witness to His love and grace in Christ Jesus.
Written by Mark McConnell, Christians at Work. Used with permission. All rights reserved. Content distributed by WorkLife.org > used for non-profit teaching purposes only.