We need to equip people to live out Christian discipleship in the workplace. Small-group leaders are especially suited for this because they minister to laypeople every week in their groups. Most think about Christian discipleship as something that happens inside the church. Committing to Jesus means volunteering in the church nursery, attending a small group, being a greeter, going on a mission trip, serving at the soup kitchen, or giving money to the church. Work, on the other hand, is simply a necessity that must be endured to put bread on the table. God's primary interest in our jobs, it seems, is that we tithe our salaries.
Is it possible, though, to make our work "Christian"? Unfortunately, when we think about people who try to do this, all kinds of disturbing images come to mind:
- Opening a beauty salon called "A Cut Above" or a coffee shop called "He Brews"
- Defiantly saying "Merry Christmas" rather than "Happy Holidays" in the checkout line
- Sneaking "Have a blessed day" into a salutation or in our e-mail signature
Perhaps you remember the 2004 incident of an American Airlines pilot who, in his pre-flight announcements, asked all the Christians on board the plane to raise their hands. He then suggested that during the flight the other passengers talk to those people about their faith. Understandably, it freaked a lot of people out. The pilot of your airplane probably shouldn't be talking about whether you're ready to meet Jesus just before takeoff.
While we might think it's a nice idea to combine our work and faith, we have a hard time believing we could do it and keep our jobs. But the Bible actually has a lot to say about our work. For instance, the majority of the parables that Jesus told had a workplace context. And of the 40 miracles recorded in the book of Acts, 39 of them occurred outside of a church setting. God seems as concerned with displaying his power outside the walls of the church as he does within it.
Five Qualities that Make Work "Christian"
As I've studied what the Bible says about this, I've found five qualities that make work "Christian." These five qualities are only possible if our work is done as a response to God through Christ.
When God placed Adam in the Garden of Eden, he told him "to work it and take care of it" (Genesis 2:15). And that was before the curse. Work was not a punishment inflicted on Adam for his sin. It was part of God's original design. The Hebrew word abad, translated "work," means to prepare or develop. It shares the same root word as "worship." Adam was put in the Garden to be a co-creator. He was to take the raw materials of the earth and develop them for the glory of God and the benefit of humans. Just like contractors take the raw materials of sand and cement and use them to create buildings, and artists take color or music and arrange them into art, we are called to take God's good creation and make something even better with it. When we do this, God is himself at work through us.
If our work is done for God, it should be done according to the highest standards of excellence. Paul writes, "Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance as your reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving" (Colossians 3:23-24). In other words, we serve a higher boss than our employer; we work for a greater reward than our salary. In everything we do, we put on display the worthiness of our God.