Who’s your boss? A drill sergeant? A spouse? Your parents? A teacher? The supervisor at your company? Your regional manager? Here’s the first good news: when you work as for the Lord, that person is no longer your boss. In your heart, you will now work for the Lord. Paul wrote, “it [really]is the Lord we are serving” (Col. 3:24). Though your tasks come from human beings, you don’t do it for them, but for God and God alone (“serving the Lord, not men” – Eph. 6:7). If your earthly boss is pleased, that’s a plus, but it’s not what you seek. You’ll have a godly ambivalence about human opinion, as Brother Lawrence stated in the book The Practice of the Presence of God: “The most excellent method I have found of going to God is that of doing common business without any view to pleasing men, as far as I am capable, doing it purely for the love of God.”
Working for the Lord creates interesting paradoxes. Though men dictate our tasks, we look to God alone for our feedback. When humans give us feedback, we listen attentively, humbly and thankfully, seeking any way we might improve our service. But we do not seek their approval. Jesus said, “I do not accept praise from men” (John 5:41). Neither must we.
I recall the first time I spoke publicly in church. I was terrified, because I knew how much I wanted the praise of my pastor and friends – and I knew this was wrong. I prayed God would help me close my ears to my brothers and sisters. Afterward, people came to encourage me, so I greeted them but tried to close my ears to what they were saying. As soon as I was done, I ran home and asked God how He thought I did.
There was a day when my company was the toast of our city. Every word spoken or written gushed with praise and adulation. When we hit hard times a few years later, we became an object of scorn. I learned that the praise of men is as fickle as the wind. Those who anchor their lives to it will be tossed around like a dry leaf, and they will never come into their true purpose. It is impossible to serve both God and men. The praise of man and the scorn of man are two sides of the same coin. The praise of men is an evershifting goal, but the Lord is constant, and unchanging. He knows our hearts, and He is so easy to please. He makes a much better Master! Those who accept praise from men are doomed to slavishly serve them. As Jesus said, “How can you believe, when you accept praise from men?” (John 5:44).
Neither do we seek our reward with men, but rather a heavenly reward (Matt. 6:19-20). The same is true of promotion.
No ambition, no territorialism, no politics
By changing bosses, we unseat one of the most dominant spiritual forces at work in the world: the political spirit. This is a spirit of self-promotion. The dictionary defines it as, “Intrigue or maneuvering within a political unit or a group in order to gain control or power.” The political spirit crucified Jesus, and it will persecute wholehearted believers in the workplace, because we are a threat to that spirit.
The scriptures are filled with warnings to stand against the political spirit. It is called “selfish ambition.” In Gal. 5:20 it is listed as one of the deeds of the flesh, alongside immorality, impurity, idolatry and witchcraft. We are told it is a root of much evil:
For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there is disorder and every evil thing. James 3:14 (NASB)
We are told to keep selfish ambition from our hearts:
Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Phil. 2:3 (NKJV)
All true promotion comes from God, and we should choose to take the last seat until the Master himself comes to promote us (Luke 14:7-11). King David followed this principle, never promoting himself but waiting for God to unequivocally promote him. Though it took longer, he knew it was the Lord’s work, not his. Later, his son Absalom tried to promote himself by gathering an entourage and asserting his claim to the throne. Jesus’ parable in Luke 14 tells us that those who promote themselves will be demoted by God. In the end, Absalom was killed violently and the country was torn apart.
The spirit of the world is self-promotion. Everyone everywhere is trying to climb over their peers to get ahead. By trusting God to promote us and to honor us in the sight of others if it is His will, we break from the spirit of self promotion and it is a stunning, perplexing testimony to those around us.
My older brother’s first job was as a test technician working on a PC-board assembly line. As a board came off the line, he plugged it into a testing unit to see if it was functional. It was a menial and boring job. The more desirable job was re-work engineering – diagnosing and repairing boards that failed. The company always hired rework engineers from amongst the test technicians, which caused the technicians to fight for dominance, claiming credit for good work and blaming others for bad work, constantly bad-mouthing each other. My brother wanted a re-work job badly and did what everyone else did, tearing others down and promoting himself. But after more than a year he kept getting passed by, even though he was one of the best workers. Finally he decided to stop tearing down others and forget about the promotion. He started raving about the work of others, doing his best to help them succeed and look good. To his surprise, he was the next re-work engineer hired.
Written by Robert Fraser. Excerpted from Marketplace Christianity (New Grid Publishing) Used by permission. Content distributed by WorkLife.org > Used for non-profit teaching purposes only.