Recognizing God in the workplace
Who’s the boss of our lives? For most of us, the answer is obvious – God. Who’s the boss of our everyday work? The answer may not seem so obvious.
For those of us who write for a living, our boss can be the reader, the editor, or even the owner of the publication. We try not to offend our owners because they hire us and give us our paycheques; editors affect our livelihood if they’re not satisfied because they decide whether our manuscripts are publishable; readers are the targets of our writing, so if they’re not interested, it’s going to be hard for us to make a living.
A similar series of bosses, clients, colleagues, and supervisors exist for all different professions and occupations. All these people influence our work and serve as authorities over many of our tasks. They have the power to determine whether our service is fitting and whether there’s a market for it. For example, the theory of Total Quality Management, which was prevalent about 10 years ago, promoted the concept of putting customers first in order to achieve business success, making customer satisfaction the “boss” over many people’s workplace efforts.
It’s hard to succeed in a career if we don’t understand the psychology and influence of these bosses.
The relationship between God and work
As Christians, we realize our lives are in God’s control. Ultimately, he’s the boss of our lives. But does he have a substantial place in our everyday lives and workplaces?
For many of us, God and work may not be related at all: the cashier in the supermarket, the server in the restaurant, the clerk in the bank, the gardener looking after the backyard, the stock broker in the brokerage firm, the programmer in the computer company – what does their work have to do with God? Whether their performance is good or not, it will probably not affect the church.
However, some people believe that if they can bring convenience and benefit to others, they’re serving God. Imagine this: if there were no one working for the retail or food industry, our lives would surely face many inconveniences. Jesus said, “And if anyone gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones who is known to be my disciple, truly I tell you, that person will certainly be rewarded” (Matthew 10:42). The workers in these professions are putting the teaching of Jesus into practice.
Others believe that all this work is only a side job – our main occupation is to spread the gospel of the kingdom of God. Therefore, we must take the opportunity to tell everyone we meet at work about the saving grace of Jesus. The reason God places us in different professions is to preach to people in these areas.
I believe there’s no conflict between these concepts. Christians need to provide high quality service in their professions and, at the same time, spread the gospel and introduce more people to Jesus.
More importantly, God is the ultimate boss of our work. It is he who hired us to serve in these professions and it is he who gives us our paycheques. These are his gifts to us (Ecclesiastes 2:24; 5:19). God evaluates our work performance every day and will reward us at the right time, but not necessarily in monetary terms (Proverbs 12:14). Our work isn’t only accountable to customers, colleagues, or supervisors, but also to God. He knows when we slack off, misbehave, or steal materials at work; he also understands and applauds when we work hard (Luke 10:7) and strive for improvement.
Material remuneration is undoubtedly an important element of work, but the purpose of work for Christians shouldn’t focus on money. It’s obvious that Jesus strongly opposes people driving themselves into the ground to accumulate wealth, especially if it causes them to stray from faith (1 Timothy 6:10). In reality, a person doesn’t need much for living. God wants us to learn to be content in any situation (Philippians 4:12).
When we have enough food and clothing, it’s worth considering whether we can let go of what we currently do for a living and work towards a new mission that God wants us to accomplish, which others cannot. Remember, God is the boss and might have a different assignment for us.