How many hours will you work in your lifetime? Studies indicate[i] that the average person will spend between eighty to ninety thousand hours at work. Research also suggests that up to eighty percent of people are dissatisfied with their jobs.[ii] Twenty-five percent of employees indicate that work is their main source of stress with forty percent describing their job as “very” or “extremely” stressful.[iii] Sound familiar? Unfortunately, it is all too easy to become stressed and dissatisfied with our employment and respond in a way that does not glorify God. As revealed in passages such as 2 Corinthians 5:15, being a Christian means that we no longer live to benefit ourselves but rather our Lord Jesus Christ. Since work plays such a significant role in our lives, let us take a moment to consider what it really means to work for Jesus.
Work With a Sincere Heart
“5 Bondservants, obey your earthly masters with fear and trembling, with a sincere heart, as you would Christ, 6 not by the way of eye-service, as people-pleasers, but as bondservants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart, 7 rendering service with a good will as to the Lord and not to man, 8 knowing that whatever good anyone does, this he will receive back from the Lord, whether he is a bondservant or is free” (Ephesians 6:5-8).
Although Ephesians 6:5-8 applies to modern day servants, employees, and even volunteers, Paul was writing to people who were earthly slaves. Slavery is quite possibly the most restrictive, confining, and harshest work situation a person can endure. Paul taught people in this situation to obey from the heart and render service with good will, as workers for Christ. The rest of us (who are not earthly slaves) are to work for our employers and leaders with all of our heart, as to the Lord.
What if Jesus was the principle at the school we attend, or the manager of the plant we work at, or the mayor of the town we live in? Would we work and follow the rules differently if Jesus was our earthly boss? Some people work diligently when the earthly boss is looking and then slack off when the boss is not around. Would we treat Jesus like that?
As Christians we are to live for Jesus and part of what this means is we must “obey our earthly masters with fear and trembling, with a sincere heart, as we would Christ.” In practice, this means we need to strive to make a conscious decision to remember who we ultimately work for and then choose to work sincerely from the heart.
Work is Called Work for a Reason
Work is not play, vacation, or rest. Work can be difficult and repetitive. In many cases we work for people we do not always wish to obey. We might submit to rules that seem arbitrary, stifling, and silly. We may not like our employers. We might be miserable. We may be tempted daily to be rebellious, contentious, lazy, and only do what is required of us and nothing more.
This is where Christians and non-Christians are supposed to respond differently.
- Non-Christian response: “My boss is harsh and difficult. Therefore I will work to collect a paycheck but I will not obey the rules and intend to complain every chance I get.”
- Christian response: “Even though my earthly boss is harsh and difficult, I realize that I ultimately work for Jesus. As such, I daily choose to thrive, excel, and work diligently with a sincere heart for my employer.”
As Christians, we are often called to be counter-cultural, and our response in the workplace is no exception. Furthermore, our attitude towards our work indicates where our priorities truly lie.
Our Work Ethic Communicates What Jesus Means to Us
“In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 5:16).
People tend to watch Christians to see who Jesus is and what He means to them. If we are lazy, constantly complain, and do not collaborate well with others, then our poor work ethic will not bring any glory to God. However, people will give glory to our Father when they observe that we:
- Work with our heart (Colossians 3:23)
- Honor and obey our employer (Ephesians 6:5)
- Collaborate well with others (Ecclesiastes 4:9-10)
- Treat others like we want to be treated (Luke 6:31)
- Consider the needs of others as more important than our own (Philippians 2:3-4)
What will others see and hear about Jesus when they consider our work? Do you want to change your heart about your work and your employers? Pray for them (1 Timothy 2:1-3), and work “as for the Lord.”
“23 Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, 24 knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ” (Colossians 3:23-24).
by Scott Hafer