Witness at work
One gets the impression sometimes that Christian believers consider work to be a necessary evil rather than a blessing from God. This is both bad theology and bad psychology. Remember that work was given to man in his perfect state – before the Fall and not after (Genesis 2:15).
Work is an integral part of life. Paul declares that if a person will not work, he should not eat (2 Thessalonians 3:3). There is honour and blessing in labour: ‘Six days thou shalt work, but on the seventh day thou shalt rest. In earing time and in harvest thou shalt rest’ (Exodus 34:21). It is a joy and privilege for the redeemed to labour with their hands for the glory of the Lord.
Emphasis is often placed on resting one day out of seven, but notice that we are commanded to work for six days just as surely as we are commanded to rest on one. The seventeenth century English Puritans saw secular work as having spiritual significance – in glorifying God and contributing to the good of society. It is an opportunity for Christians to witness to God’s sovereign grace.
In the Old Testament, work was highly honoured, especially when skilled labour was involved. People who had the ability to make things – such as silversmiths, stonecutters, carpenters and clothmakers – were specially respected as they laboured to serve and glorify God (Exodus 35:21-35). The Old Testament also condemns laziness and commends honest hard work, and every believer should follow this pattern.
Solomon says, ‘He also that is slothful in his work is brother to him that is a great waster’. And again, ‘Slothfulness casteth into a deep sleep and an idle soul shall suffer hunger’. And yet again, ‘Go to the ant, thou sluggard, consider her ways, and be wise: Which having no guide, overseer or ruler, provideth her meat in the summer and gathereth her food in the harvest’ (Proverbs 18:9; 19:15; 6:6-8).
These admonitions have a current application – diligence and a high quality of work should characterise the elect of God in the midst of this economic recession.
The New Testament exhorts us, ‘whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not unto men’ (Colossians 3:23). It calls us to be responsible and industrious stewards, providing for the physical well-being of our families and giving a good testimony to our Christian beliefs (1 Timothy 5:8).
God is sovereign and he provides for our needs (Philippians 4:19) – but his normal way of doing so is by blessing our honest labours in our place of work. We are to be light and salt, effective witnesses to our colleagues and a testimony in the workplace (Matthew 5:16).
Paul says, ‘Ye are our epistle written in our hearts, known and read of all men: Forasmuch as ye are manifestly declared to be the epistle of Christ ministered by us, written not with ink, but with the Spirit of the living God; not in tables of stone, but in fleshy tables of the heart’ (2 Corinthians 3:2-3). In essence, we are living or walking Bibles before our fellow men!
No fear, no favour
In Colossians 3:23, the Apostle reminds us to do all things to the glory of God, without fear or favour towards men. We are to be competent in our work, accountable and submissive to authority, and not rebellious or indolent employees.
Good demeanour and speech go a long way to witnessing for Christ – including our attire, our cheerful and productive labour, and our cultivation of a cordial relationship with fellow workers, superiors and subordinates.
We are to beware of worldly temptations and influences, not conforming to or compromising with the fallen standards of the world. Paul sums it up thus: ‘I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God'(Romans 12:1-2).
In the midst of the current economic recession, if you are an employer, be a fair and just one. Respect others and reward good work. Colossians 4:1 says, ‘Masters, give unto your servants that which is just and equal; knowing that ye also have a Master in heaven’. We are to pay our staff their wages promptly and fairly and not to deceive them. Nor must we embezzle company funds in dishonest dealings.
We must have good moral and ethical principles and practices. We are to be reasonable, equitable and tactful in dealing with our staff – motivating them to work hard for the company to the glory of God.
Keep away from unnecessary office politics and any bad-mouthing of others, for such things are unedifying. God is sovereign, so leave all things to him and, as far as possible, be at peace with all men (Romans 12:19).
The apostle exhorts us: ‘study to be quiet, and to do your own business, and to work with your own hands, as we commanded you; that ye may walk honestly toward them that are without, and that ye may have lack of nothing’ (1 Thessalonians 4:11-12). Ill-discipline and slothfulness should never be the marks of a born-again believer in the workplace.
We need to set good examples to our colleagues if we are to earn the right to invite them to attend gospel rallies, Christian services or special outreaches. Do not be ashamed of the gospel of Christ. Paul said, ‘I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth – to the Jew first, and also to the Greek’ (Romans 1:16).
If there are opportunities for gospel witness, we should not miss them, but rather share the message of Christ and everlasting life with our colleagues as the Lord enables us. Paul lived this out in his own testimony: ‘And when they had appointed him a day, there came many to him into his lodging; to whom he expounded and testified the kingdom of God, persuading them concerning Jesus, both out of the law of Moses, and out of the prophets, from morning till evening’ (Acts 28:23).
Tracts can be a powerful aid to evangelism, both in the workplace and out of it. We give a tract to local petrol-pump attendants who fill up the church van. A Malaysian BP Minister tells how he came to know the Lord through a tract given to him. Never belittle what God can do with little things done with faithfulness and perseverance.
Work competently, witness and glorify God, and be a good example to all men. This we should do in the workplace as everywhere else. Be known for your moral and ethical integrity, not for questionable behaviour or immorality. Be honest, reasonable and a good employee, that people might praise God for you. Jesus says, ‘Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father which is in heaven’ (Matthew 5:16).
Finally, there are intrinsic blessings and reward for godliness and honest hard work. Proverbs 22:29 says, ‘Seest thou a man diligent in his business? He shall stand before kings; he shall not stand before mean men’.
The apostle Paul says, ‘I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called’ (Ephesians 4:1). As Christians, let us be mindful of our primary vocation as Christian witnesses and workers wherever the Lord has put us – to testify of his sovereign grace and saving mercy.
We should pray and ask God to help us to be ‘light and salt’ to those around us, for then we shall see the advancement of the gospel and the cause of Christ – before our time is up and eternity begins.
Work is more than just earning a living or getting a pay package every month (although there’s nothing wrong with that!). It is glorifying God above all.