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It’s a pleasure to have a good employer. It’s a pleasure to have satisfying work. To make a heart commitment to work when conditions are good is fairly easy. On the other hand, it’s sad to see, or to be, people whose hearts aren’t in their work.
Either way, in favorable or unfavorable work situations, our approach matters to Jesus. He advised people not to overvalue material wealth because that can distort our priorities: “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6: 21). These words of Jesus can also apply if we become over absorbed or dominated by work situations that offer satisfaction and rewards. Alternatively, in unsatisfying work situations, people may work for money without much enthusiasm for the work itself. Others may take jobs below their skill level or outside their expertise because that’s the work available. Conflicts over ambition, personality, or promotion may take the gloss off a job.
Scenarios like these challenge the hearts of Christians and non-Christians alike. But for Christians, there may be a further difficulty if they’ve got the idea that their work life isn’t really important to God. Inputs that feed this idea include:
- Formal, organized ministry activities give Christians a place to work for God.
- Paid work – a job – isn’t worth much in God’s sight.
- Workplaces are ‘worldly,’ tainted somehow – and so don’t deserve our best efforts.
That kind of thinking has effectively weakened Christian influence in a big part of life where it’s needed most – the workplace. It denies the reality that Christianity is essential in every part of our lives. Although good things are done through organized ministry activities, they cannot achieve the full task God has for His people. To be most effective, God’s Kingdom has to operate like an invading army. Only invasive strategy and methods will take the message of Jesus and His Kingdom to places where it’s most needed. A lot of the need is found in work situations, and Christianity is very well suited to application in daily work.
God’s callings to us frequently involve our daily work and tasks in the world. (As Christians, we need to be clear that cleaning up our personal conduct is the only way that God calls Christians to reduce involvement in the world.) Through spiritual rebirth based on His Crucifixion for our sins and on His Resurrection power, Jesus Christ acts in our hearts to clean up our conduct and line us up with God’s permanent moral principles. Other than distancing us from ungodly conduct and thought, there is no way that God distances us from involvement in the world through daily life, daily work, and daily tasks and encounters.
In fact, as Christ cleans up our conduct and thinking, He wants us to get more serious about our work and other tasks. This is because Christ has a great plan going, to clean up and rescue the whole world – and we are His agents for doing much of the job, by invading the world as spiritual warriors immersed in His value set.
How this plays out has a lot to do with our hearts.
The bad, sad consequences of ignoring Jesus Christ can be significantly reduced by invading work situations with the message of His saving and transformative truth. Certainly work isn’t always appealing, interesting, pleasant or stimulating, but that’s where rubber hits the road. Realistically treating work as a key part of life is at the center of letting God lead our work lives. The principle involved also operates the other way around – when work is appealing and interesting, we can open up our hearts to God in gratitude. That, too, is at the center of letting God lead our work lives.
Have you thought of God as your real employer, even though He doesn’t hand you your pay? If you asked the Lord to help you get your job, it follows that He’s your real employer in that job. Even if you didn’t, He’s still your real employer because Christians are Christ’s privileged servants (Matthew 25: 21, I Corinthians 9: 19). Because we are accountable to God, putting our hearts into our work is only sensible. “Do not be grieved,” said the leader Nehemiah to the Jewish people who had just finished the tough work of rebuilding the wall around Jerusalem, and through that and hostile opposition had freshly encountered God’s holiness, “for the joy of the Lord is your strength.” Then the people celebrated, “because they had understood the words that were declared to them” (Nehemiah 8: 10-12). They got the idea. Wholehearted work led to wholehearted dependence on the Lord and enthusiasm about Him. The principle also operates the other way around – enthusiasm for the Lord makes it easier to do wholehearted work.
What about God being your real employer because without Him there wouldn’t even be work? The Bible explains that God invented work. If sin hadn’t spoiled things, our work would be free of the complexities that it has now. Despite its issues, we still owe God appreciation for the fact of work (Genesis 1 & 2).
What about God being your real employer because He sees everything that goes on? He really does – and as we can’t stop Him, we may as well enjoy it as we learn to accept Him as a helpful friend and companion along the way, and unlearn thinking of Him as a stern supervisor. Jesus said He came to bring us abundant life (John 10: 10), and because Jesus shows us what God is like, the way Jesus lived proves that God is more interested in helping than judging. God is gracious and merciful to people who try to live by His values. Guilt doesn’t have to be part of the party when He watches us.
What about God being your real employer because work is a fabulous context in which to live out the great commandment, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind” (Matthew 22: 37), and Jesus’ instruction to “Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness” (Matthew 6: 33)? Life’s “School of Experience,” which we attend whether wanting to or not, is both preparation for life and part of life itself. For Christians, work is meant to be a top-tier “School of Application.” In that school, loving God, and injecting His love into tasks and people, have the effect of putting the Gospel into practice, growing us in Christ, and providing experience and wisdom for the rest of life.
What about God being your real employer because He shows up anywhere you ask Him to? We serve the Living God, with unlimited power to intervene anywhere at any time. God completely fills that huge space outside the church walls. He hears when His people call His name. He’s interested and concerned about what’s happening to them.
What about work and ordinary daily tasks being favorite places for working-out your calling and salvation? This can be through paid or unpaid work. God wants all we do to be worship, giving glory to Him. When we do something, let’s do it in a godly way that God can accept. That’s what Paul is getting at when he says, “present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship” (Romans 12: 1).
Work tugs at our heartstrings to God.
“Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Many texts throughout the Bible emphasize that our heart alignment to Him is extremely important to God. Few things matter to God more than this. “Every way of a man is right in his own eyes, but the Lord weighs the heart” (Proverbs 21: 2). Realizing that God originally made work as a pleasant bond between Him and us tugs invitingly at our heartstrings, drawing us towards wholeheartedness. Wholeheartedness suggests willingness to put one’s shoulder to the wheel, or trust that God will put sense into a situation. Being divinely watched because God loves us and we respond accordingly is an invitation to friendship and trust. The schools of experience and application called “work” and “life” plunge us into being and doing; learning and passing it on; growing or shrinking; giving or keeping back. That’s heart stuff! Throughout, we remain responsible for lining up our hearts with Jesus Christ and His ways, or not.
When our heart isn’t in something, losing touch with it is quite easy. For healthy living, though, we need the house of our heart to be divided as little as possible. What’s the difference between these two thoughts? –
“Another day, and I have to go to work.”
“A new day, and I get to go to work.”
The first one is resigned to tiresome routine. The second one recognizes the possibility of freshness (“new day”) gladness, and gratitude (“get to go”). It would be frivolous, of course, to claim that we will always approach every day in the spirit of the second thought. Someone whose work is distressing or boring, or who worked late last night, isn’t likely to leap enthusiastically out of bed. Even so, here’s rubber hitting the road again. At each point, Christ is present to help us. His Word, the Bible, shows that we perceive and process situations according to the vision of our hearts.
The heart anticipates the will.
Our hearts have vision in the sense that they determine how our will plays out. There is an excellent example of this in Joshua 14: 7-8. After fear-filled delay, the people of Israel have finally occupied land that God gave them. Now Caleb speaks up; he’s noteworthy as one of only two scouts who hadn’t been scared to go into the new land long ago. Most of his companions had reported back with such fear that everyone refused to go further. Now Caleb looks back on that. See what he says about heart, and how his trust in God directly influenced his will because he’d allowed God to build confidence in his heart:
“I was forty years old when Moses the servant of the Lord sent me from Kadesh-barnea to spy out the land, and I brought Him word again as it was in my heart. But my brothers who went up with me made the heart of the people melt; yet I wholly followed the Lord my God.”
So let us examine our hearts in the presence of our Lord, knowing He is happy to help us into wholeheartedly living our work lives for Him.
A caution as we end:
Wholeheartedness about our God-given calling to work is not permission to be over-busy, or to take on more than we can handle. God gives clear instructions about rest. He wants us to rest. He made us people, not machines. The systems and structures of modern life crowd in on us. If we add to that the inclination to squeeze in one more thing, the result is likely to be more rush and urgency, less rest, and less desire to make time for God, finally putting wholeheartedness out of reach. Christ calls us to receive His love, to love Him, to enjoy His ways, to serve Him with pleasure, and to advance His plan for the world. He does not ask us to kid ourselves that over-busyness honors His call. When it claims to validate our Christian service, over-busyness is one of the lies of our times.
Written by Dr. Richard Bouch. Used by permission. Content distributed by WorkLife.org > Used for non-profit teaching purposes only.