Every morning hundreds of men and women go off to work in offices, stores and other places of employment. Does being a Christian make a difference? As a Christian should you act, look or speak differently? Has God placed you in the position you hold for a reason?
The definition of an employee is one hired by another usually for wages or salary and in a position below the executive level.
Most of us would fit into that category as office workers, clerks, sales persons, and the many other jobs we do to earn a living and that put us under the authority of an employer without the perks and benefits of executive status.
While the word employee is not specifically used in most versions of the Bible, there are many principles that can be applied to employees.
As children of God, it is our responsibility to obey His commands and live by His principles. This is true in the workplace as well as anywhere.
What does it mean to succeed?
We all want to be a success in our jobs, the question is what does that success look like and what are we doing to succeed?
In our current culture success means to get ahead (usually at the expense of others). It means to continually strive to do what someone else expects of you (even if deep down inside it is not what you think you should be doing). It means to always be concerned with how you look, how you sound, how you act. It means concentrating on you.
This type of success is not lasting and does not accomplish much.
God's way is to concentrate on others and let Him take care of you.
As Christians our goal should be to hear Jesus say, "Well done, good and faithful servant." Our ambition should always be to accomplish God's plan.
Slaves and Servants
Throughout the Old Testament God's people were instructed on how to treat those who were less fortunate; the oppressed, the poor, widows, orphans, slaves and servants.
In the Bible a slave could be one who is actually in bondage or enslaved by another as when people were taken by a conquering army and put into service to the conquering people; or one who was in bondage as punishment for a crime.
Jews who were unable to pay debts were often "enslaved" by their fellow Jews. However, they were to be considered hired workers until their debts were paid.
The Old Testament also refers to slaves as bondservants and there were laws governing the fair and humane treatment of slaves with punishment for those who treated their slaves harshly.
God's care and rescue of Hagar is an example of His compassion and love of those enslaved by another. (Genesis 21:14-19)
Servants were usually free men who were hired to work for someone as an administrator of their household or as a scribe to write letters or other communications (a secretary).
As employees we can look at portions of scripture that focus on slaves in that we are working for someone who determines what our work is and we must follow their rules and procedures. We can look at portions referring to servants in that we are hired to work for an employer and are under their authority and direction.
Jesus as Servant
"For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve others and to give his life as a ransom for many." (Matthew 20:28-NLT)
If Jesus' mission was to serve and give His life for others, as His disciples it is our mission also.
Jesus ministered to all who came to Him.
As Christians we are in the workplace to serve. We serve God by serving others; our co-workers, our customers, anyone we come in contact with in our daily work.
We give our lives by putting aside our desires, our plans, our feelings in order to minister to and serve others.
Instead of looking for what we can get from our employers, we can try to find ways to serve them. In learning how to do this and in redirecting our focus in this way we develop humility, compassion, patience, faithfulness (loyalty) and forgiveness. We see all of these qualities in Jesus.
As Christians it should be our goal to live as Jesus lived; to follow Him; to obey His commands.
God is constantly building the character of His children. He has placed us in whatever position we now hold. He tells us to serve others as a general command. If we view our employment as an opportunity for service and look to God to show us how, we will be following Jesus' example and teachings.
What Should We Do?
There is much in God's word that speaks to how we should conduct our daily lives whether as employees or in any other capacity.
Some principles that apply to employees are:
Always do your best work and keep on doing what is good. (1 Corinthians 15:58)
Don't be discouraged or easily give up because of lack of results. (Galatians 6:9)
Persevere and let nothing distract from the purpose; the mission; doing God's will; accomplishing His plan. (Hebrews 12:1-3)
Some characteristics of Godly employees are:
Respect for authority-All who are under the yoke as slaves are to regard their own masters as worthy of all honor so that the name of God and our doctrine will not be spoken against. (1 Timothy 6:1-NAS)
Loyalty-Slaves must obey their masters and do their best to please them. They must not talk back or steal, but they must show themselves to be entirely trustworthy and good. Then they will make the teaching about God our Savior attractive in every way. (Titus 2:9 & 10-NLT)
Obedience-Slaves, obey your earthly masters with deep respect and fear. Serve them sincerely as you would serve Christ. (Ephesians 6:5-NLT)
These are not popular principles in the workplace. You will not find seminars on how to develop these characteristics. There are no motivational speakers encouraging you to act this way in order to further your career. What you hear and read will totally contradict these principles; these characteristics will be scoffed at and rejected by most.
Our choice as Christian employees is whether to listen to those around us and strive continually to be a success on our own or to "lay down your life" and obey and follow Jesus' example, which leads to blessings now and stores up treasures in heaven for the future.
God's word makes it clear that He does not look on His children as slave or free, but all are equal in His sight. This is our promise and comfort that God loves and cares for each of us individually no matter what our position in life or in the workplace.
It is our responsibility to reflect His presence in our lives no matter what our individual circumstances.
It all starts with a good attitude (a good way of thinking).
We should, like Jesus, joyfully serve the Father's purposes.
Hebrews 12:2-3 says, "We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, on whom our faith depends from start to finish. He was willing to die a shameful death on the cross because of the joy He knew would be His afterward. Now He is seated in the place of highest honor beside God's throne in heaven. Think about all He endured when sinful people did such terrible things to Him, so that you don't become weary and give up." (NLT)
Here are a few practical suggestions that you can try the next time you enter your workplace:
Arrive on time, dress well, speak politely and smile readily.
Don't indulge in gossip or complaining.
Develop the art of listening.
Be kind, compassionate, forgiving, loving, patient (demonstrate the fruit of the Spirit who lives in you).
Pray - for your co-workers, your boss, your company, your customers.
Ask the Father to show you how to be the employee He wants you to be.
Does being a Christian in the workplace make a difference?
Try some of the suggestions above and see the reactions for yourself.