When our work ethics become unhealthy
Work can give us great purpose, recognition and reward. After all, God created work. He gave Adam a job that comprised two main tasks; that was to tend to and to guard the Garden of Eden. God also assigned a helper for him named Eve.
Genesis 2:15 ISV The LORD God took the man and placed him in the Garden of Eden in order to have him work it and guard it.
It is amazing that Adam’s first task from God was to name every living creature. By giving Adam such a monumental task, God bestowed much honour on man. Adam was meant to be God’s “right-hand man” on earth.
Genesis 2:19 ESV Now out of the ground the LORD God had formed every beast of the field and every bird of the heavens and brought them to the man to see what he would call them. And whatever the man called every living creature, that was its name.
Power struggle in man’s first workplace
Sadly, Adam’s work ethics suffered. Satan, described as a serpent, took advantage of this and turned his workplace upside down.
- Slacking on the job – Adam didn’t guard the garden against the serpent.
- Office politics – Adam allowed Satan to play politics and turn Eve against God.
- Office gossip – Adam did nothing as the serpent gossiped and slandered God.
- Going against corporate values – Adam didn’t stop Eve from eating the forbidden fruit.
- Not owning up to mistakes – Adam refused to own up to his own mistakes before God.
Does this sound a bit like our modern day workplace?
Incredibly, both the earth’s original “supervisor” and his “personal assistant” submitted themselves to a creature they had authority over. (Let’s not forget that Adam was the one who gave the serpent its name!) Fortunately, the story doesn’t end there, because we know that God sent Jesus Christ to redeem mankind and return our rightful authority over all of God’s affairs on earth back to us.
The workplace today
When it comes to the workplace today, many of us still continue to allow Satan’s lies and insinuations to corrupt our views and understanding of our “job descriptions”.
Even though we spend a large amount of time at work, few would say that it is a joyful and meaningful way to glorify God. Like Adam, we don’t stand up for what’s right and pleasing to God at our workplace. Many Christians don’t do anything to address office gossip and politics. We don’t like to own up to our mistakes. We work on a Sabbath to “please the boss”. We often even hide the fact that we are Christians.
Isaiah 58:13 ESV “If you turn back your foot from the Sabbath, from doing your pleasure on my holy day, and call the Sabbath a delight and the holy day of the Lord honorable; if you honor it, not going your own ways, or seeking your own pleasure, or talking idly; then you shall take delight in the Lord, and I will make you ride on the heights of the earth; I will feed you with the heritage of Jacob your father, for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.”
What drives us to idolise work
We all need to work in order to earn a living. But work becomes our idol when we allow our jobs to take precedence over how we live our lives; influencing our decisions, relationships and priorities.
- Fear of the future – The cost of living continues to escalate, and it can become a source of great anxiety and insecurity. This can drive us to throw ourselves deeper into working hard to “secure” our futures, without realising that no one can control the future except God.
- To fill a void – We all need to feel honoured and affirmed. Work can become the main way for us to meet that intrinsic desire when we fail to be grounded in the honour that God has already given us.
- Sense of control – We may think that we can control the rewards we get from our labour, because “we will get what we deserve if we work hard”. The cold reality is that we have no control over our bosses, the economy and who the company hires or fires. Ironically, many of us trust our employers more than we trust God.
- Escape from other issues – Some prefer to work late because there are tough household issues they want to avoid at home. The workplace, instead of God, becomes a refuge. While this can serve as a temporary respite, it cannot give us real joy.
Some danger signs for Christians
In many places, work has been elevated to such a point that we readily accept the excuse that someone “has to work” and hence cannot be available for other people. Many families, church groups and societies suffer as a result. We are all in danger of missing the point about our God-given work and idolise our jobs.
1. Placing our faith in our own capabilities rather than God’s
We can believe that we are more capable of providing for ourselves than God is. The fact is, God never sleeps and is always working on the welfare of His children all the time. He is in control of the entire universe – even our next breath! He grants us favour at work and is capable to removing that favour as well.
John 5:17 ESV But Jesus answered them, “My Father is working until now, and I am working.”
Deuteronomy 8:17-18 ESV Beware lest you say in your heart, ‘My power and the might of my hand have gotten me this wealth.’ You shall remember the Lord your God, for it is he who gives you power to get wealth, that he may confirm his covenant that he swore to your fathers, as it is this day.
2. Succumbing to peer pressure
The dictionary defines management as “the process of dealing with or controlling things or people”. We all work under some form of management control.
What happens when these controls go against godly morals? What will we choose to do if we are pressured to tell half-truths or withhold information, cut corners, gossip about others, do unnecessary overtime just to appear to be a team player, procure sexual favours or participate in sex clubs as “business networking”, or work on the Sabbath?
It is only when we love God more than we love work that we can have the courage to stand up for what honours God first, and not compromise the integrity of our morals and souls.
Romans 12:2 NLT Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.
3. Valuing our plans over God’s
Professional job assessments will test us for our aptitudes for certain positions, but they cannot tell us what careers God has planned for us. We tend to decide on the jobs we want, based on the advancement opportunities or salary, and then ask God to bless our choices. We chase after a promotion for promotion’s sake.
The Bible says that God has prepared good works in advance for us. This includes what we do at our workplace. We can blindly walk away from God’s plans because we neglect to inquire what they are.
Psalm 128:1-2 ESV …Blessed is everyone who fears the LORD, who walks in his ways! You shall eat the fruit of the labor of your hands; you shall be blessed, and it shall be well with you.
4. Loving the money and the status
Money can buy many pleasures, but it cannot buy everlasting joy, hope and peace. Neither can it buy health. Have you noticed how those who work for the love of money are seldom satisfied, joyful or content? The apostle Paul warns in 1 Timothy 6 that people can pierce themselves with many types of pain because of their lust for money.
1 Timothy 6:10 ESV For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs.
Another type of work-related lust is the desire for honour and respect. Companies can assign fancy job titles to people, and we can end up lusting after titles or prestigious positions. We envy others when they receive a well-deserved bonus or promotion. What a contrast that is to Jesus, who considered Himself our servant!
Mark 10:45 ESV For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
5. Participating in politics and “kingdom building”
There is political manoeuvring in every company. People will try to build their own “kingdoms” by using fear, coercion and manipulation. This is hardly anything new. In one of the three temptations Satan presented to Jesus in the desert, the devil offered the Son of God His own “little kingdom” on earth. Jesus knew better than to compromise His eternal reward for temporary ones on earth.
When we succumb to office politics and start taking sides with people, we separate ourselves from God’s love for all people; whether they are high achievers or our weaker colleagues.
Acts 20:35 ESV In all things I have shown you that by working hard in this way we must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’”
6. Worshiping our reputation
Do we end up doing certain things at work so we look good? Do we take pride in the reputation we have built for ourselves? It is easy to take the credit for every favour God has granted us at work and think we are the ones who have built ourselves up. With such an attitude, we seldom choose to honour God’s reputation first, because our focus is first and foremost on our own reputation.
Colossians 3:23 ESV Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men,
7. Allowing our bosses to be our lords
It can be very challenging to work for unreasonable bosses who like to control, oppress and humiliate those they supervise. Most people simply put up little resistance against such bullies because they fear for their jobs. This type of “fear of man” is a trap that enslaves us to a human tyrant, rather than release us to the care of a loving Heavenly Father.
Proverbs 29:25 ESV The fear of man lays a snare, but whoever trusts in the LORD is safe.
8. Hoarding our incomes for ourselves
The poor and the needy are not supposed to suffer in God’s “economy”. Those who produce more are meant to keep an eye out for those who produce less. When God first set out the laws for work, which primarily comprised farming, people were meant to leave some of their harvest for the poor to collect on their own.
Leviticus 23:22 ESV “And when you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not reap your field right up to its edge, nor shall you gather the gleanings after your harvest. You shall leave them for the poor and for the sojourner: I am the LORD your God.”
We are not supposed to hoard all the rewards of our work to ourselves. The rich are not supposed to get richer while the poor, poorer. When we don’t devote ourselves to good works and help those in urgent need, we are “unfruitful”.
Titus 3:14 ESV And let our people learn to devote themselves to good works, so as to help cases of urgent need, and not be unfruitful.
9. Failing to rest from our work to honour God
Some people continue to work even after they have left work. They find it hard to “switch off” and stop thinking about their work. Thoughts about work keep circling in our minds and lay heavy burdens on our hearts.
Hebrews 4:10 ESV For whoever has entered God’s rest has also rested from his works as God did from his.
Checking our hearts
Most companies will say that they value their people, though this is often far from reality. Once profits are on the decline, most companies will retrench people to save themselves. It is only God who truly values us. After all, He sent His son to die for us. No employer in this world would sacrifice himself or herself to save us.
The ultimate test of whether we idolise work is whether we choose to commit all our ways to God, especially when it comes to tough decisions at work. Are we loyal to God alone – or ourselves, bosses and colleagues?
Proverbs 16:3 ESV Commit your work to the Lord, and your plans will be established.
God watches over our every action at work
You may have heard people say that we should “bring God with us to work”. This is really a wrong concept. God is with us all the time. If we consciously remember that God watches over us and can be grieved by our thoughts, words, actions and decisions, how will our work ethic change?
Deuteronomy 31:6 ESV Be strong and courageous. Do not fear or be in dread of them, for it is the Lord your God who goes with you. He will not leave you or forsake you.”
Our work is meant to be a holy sacrifice to God
Our bodies and our lives are to be used to glorify our Almighty God, as our way to worship Him. How can we honour Him through all the works of our hands, the words of our lips and the thoughts of our hearts while we are at work?
Romans 12:1 NLT And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice–the kind he will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship him.
We will give an account to God one day
Every one of us will have to give an account of our lives one day. God will ask us how we used our work to worship Him. How will we answer Him?
Romans 14:ESV So then each of us will give an account of himself to God.
Our choices can bring people to God or drive them away
Finally and perhaps most importantly, the workplace presents us with the most potent platform to witness for God. It is our God-given “mission field”, where we are to be living ambassadors for Jesus Christ.
Our bosses and colleagues may never pick up a Bible to read but they can learn about God’s truths by the way we live our lives. When Christians truly honour God first at work, people will see the difference between godly humility vs. pride, godly generosity vs, greed, godly courage vs. fear, godly kindness vs. selfishness, godly care vs. cruelty etc.
We can either draw people to God through our testimonies at work or we can be hypocritical Christians who drive people further away from the God who loves them unreservedly! Let us not be an obstacle to faith.
2 Corinthians 6:3 ESV We put no obstacle in anyone’s way, so that no fault may be found with our ministry,
May we go to work with joy and anticipation for what God will do through us!
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