The pressure of workplace values on our loyalty to God
Every workplace promotes a set of corporate values that it expects its employees to follow. Yet no matter how altruistic an employer’s values may be, it will always be in the company’s interest to promote some selfish ambition and greed. Greed may not have to be about money, it can include the pursuit of greater excellence and influence – all in the name of progress. Sometimes, religious establishments can also fall into this trap. One can always tell where the heart of an organisation lies by looking at what types of performance it rewards. Very seldom will it be about kindness, humility, patience, and grace.
James 3:16-17 ESV For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice. But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere.
Colossians 3:12-14 ESV Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.
Workplace commandments vs. God’s commandments
Our employers will set out annual performance targets for us every year. We are told what we need to do in order to advance in salary and position. When we are not careful, these can become our “work commandments.” They can lead us to behave like slaves to our workplace, rather than like people who have been set free from the shackles of this world through Jesus Christ.
- “I must build my professional reputation … so I can’t afford to be kind and merciful.” | James 2:13 ESV For judgment is without mercy to one who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment. What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him?
- “I must look good in front of my boss at all times … so I will hide the truth.” | Proverbs 19:1 ESV Better is a poor person who walks in his integrity than one who is crooked in speech and is a fool.
- “I must demonstrate that I add value … therefore I will take credit for work that I didn’t do.” | Ephesians 4:28 ESV Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labor, doing honest work with his own hands, so that he may have something to share with anyone in need.
- “I must meet my sales target this year … even if I have to sell products that don’t really meet our customers’ needs.” | Proverbs 11:27 NLT If you search for good, you will find favor; but if you search for evil, it will find you!
- “I must make my project look excellent … so I will work extra hours at the expense of my family’s and my own well-being.” | John 12:43 ESV For they loved the glory that comes from man more than the glory that comes from God.
- “I must outperform the other team this year … so I won’t help them, in case they outshine me.” | Philippians 2:3-4 ESV Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.
- “I must raise my corporate profile … so I will boast of my achievements.” | Jeremiah 9:23 Thus says the Lord: “Let not the wise man boast in his wisdom, let not the mighty man boast in his might, let not the rich man boast in his riches, but let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the Lord who practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth. For in these things I delight, declares the Lord.”
- “I must ensure this person approves of me … so I will agree with whatever he/she says.” | Hebrews 13:6 ESV So we can confidently say, “The Lord is my helper; I will not fear; what can man do to me?”
- “I must please my boss … so I will accept unreasonable demands.“ | Exodus 20:8 ESV “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy.
Our loyalties and identities eventually become tied to who we work for, rather than who we worship. We turn away from following God’s commandments and hide our identities as Christians at work.
Mark 8:38 ESV For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him will the Son of Man also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.”
Overcoming typical temptations at the workplace
Even if we don’t think much about God as we go about our jobs, He is present in every square inch of the workplace, every conversation, and every meeting. We can’t run away from His omnipresence, no matter how we may try.
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.”
Psalm 139:7 NLT I can never escape from your Spirit! I can never get away from your presence!
God hears the anxieties in our hearts and knows all our challenges at work. He lovingly reminds us in His Word that there is no workplace temptation He has not faced Himself. Have we been tempted to use our talents for our own benefit, instead of following God’s will? So has Jesus (Matthew 4:1-4.) Tempted to show off our abilities? So was Jesus (Matthew 4:5-7.) Tempted to bow before earthly masters who promised us money and power? So was Jesus (Matthew 4:8-11.) Jesus’ temptations in the wilderness give us a “prototype” for how to respond. At each juncture, Jesus strengthened His resolved by reciting Bible verses. We too can remind ourselves of what “the Scriptures say…”
1 Corinthians 10:13 ESV No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.
Matthew 4:1-11 NLT Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted there by the devil. For forty days and forty nights he fasted and became very hungry. During that time the devil came and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become loaves of bread.” But Jesus told him, “No! The Scriptures say, ‘People do not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”
Matthew 4:5-7 NLT Then the devil took him to the holy city, Jerusalem, to the highest point of the Temple, and said, “If you are the Son of God, jump off! For the Scriptures say, ‘He will order his angels to protect you. And they will hold you up with their hands so you won’t even hurt your foot on a stone.’” Jesus responded, “The Scriptures also say, ‘You must not test the Lord your God.’”
Matthew 4:8-11 NLT Next the devil took him to the peak of a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. “I will give it all to you,” he said, “if you will kneel down and worship me.” “Get out of here, Satan,” Jesus told him. “For the Scriptures say, ‘You must worship the Lord your God and serve only him.’” Then the devil went away, and angels came and took care of Jesus.
Worship God at work
All employers expect their employees to pledge their allegiance to them. Reward systems, employee policies, peer group pressure, and subtle threats are geared towards compelling their staff to comply with how they think and the results they want. People are subtly moulded into their company’s image.
As followers of Jesus Christ, however, we are called to swear our allegiance only to God. When we stay faithful to God, He will reward our faithfulness. It may take time to see the results but as long as we remain close to God, He will not allow His children to be crushed.
Isaiah 45:23 ESV … ‘To me every knee shall bow, every tongue shall swear allegiance.’
Psalm 18:25-30 NLT To the faithful you show yourself faithful; to those with integrity you show integrity. To the pure you show yourself pure, but to the crooked you show yourself shrewd. You rescue the humble, but you humiliate the proud. You light a lamp for me. The Lord, my God, lights up my darkness. In your strength I can crush an army; with my God I can scale any wall. God’s way is perfect. All the Lord’s promises prove true. He is a shield for all who look to him for protection.
When we align our hearts with God’s heart and commit our work to Him, He will grant us favour and success.
Psalm 90:17 ESV Let the favor of the Lord our God be upon us, and establish the work of our hands upon us; yes, establish the work of our hands!
Proverbs 16:3 ESV Commit your work to the Lord, and your plans will be established.
1. Fear the One who decides our eternity, not only our salary
We typically give in to workplace pressures because of fear – fear of ridicule and rejection, fear of loss of income, fear of punishment, fear for our reputation. Such fears give those we work with leverage to manipulate us. If we live to please people at work, we can’t truly live free to experience God’s joy, peace, and hope. In fact, we may even displease Him because we have allowed our employers to become our idols and gods.
Galatians 4:8-9 ESV Formerly, when you did not know God, you were enslaved to those that by nature are not gods. But now that you have come to know God, or rather to be known by God, how can you turn back again to the weak and worthless elementary principles of the world, whose slaves you want to be once more?
Proverbs 29:25 ESV The fear of man lays a snare, but whoever trusts in the LORD is safe.
Galatians 1:10 For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ.
Every disciple of Jesus needs to decide who we will consistently revere seven days a week, not just Monday to Fridays and not just on Sundays. Will it be people – who have no right to determine the course of our lives or the fate of our souls – or God who does? Work pressures from Mondays to Fridays can sometimes tip our loyalty to God off balance.
Luke 14:33-35 ESV So therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple. “Salt is good, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is of no use either for the soil or for the manure pile. It is thrown away. He who has ears to hear, let him hear.”
Matthew 10:28 ESV And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.
1 Corinthians 1:31 NLT Therefore, as the Scriptures say, “If you want to boast, boast only about the LORD.”
Let us therefore pause and check ourselves often. Who is on the throne of our hearts at work right now? Are we more prone to boast of the companies we work for or boast of God’s goodness? Are we slaves to our work commandments or free in Christ? Are we joyful and thankful or weary and grumbling? Are we even in the jobs that God has prepared for us or are we holding on to our current positions out of fear? Regular check-ups such as these will be vital to keep us spiritually alive. When our hearts are right before God, there is will be a deep sense of peace and clear knowledge of our purpose even when we face difficult circumstances.
Ephesians 2:10 ESV For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.
2. Work diligently but not at the cost of our bodies or souls
God’s Word encourages us to be diligent and honest at our work, but this shouldn’t be at the expense of our bodies or souls.
Proverbs 13:4 ESV The soul of the sluggard craves and gets nothing, while the soul of the diligent is richly supplied.
As believers, we are entrusted with God’s Spirit who lives in our bodies as His temple. God’s temple is sacred. No one will get away with desecrating or overworking it. There will always be consequences.
1 Corinthians 3:16-17 ESV Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you? If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him. For God’s temple is holy, and you are that temple.
Work pressure can push us to go beyond what is healthy for our hearts, minds, and souls. We find it hard to say no to unreasonable deadlines, to demanding bosses, to workplace “doctrines” that we know aren’t pleasing to God, to speak up for the weak or bullied, and so forth.
1 John 2:15 ESV Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.
John 12:25-26 NLT Those who love their life in this world will lose it. Those who care nothing for their life in this world will keep it for eternity. Anyone who wants to serve me must follow me, because my servants must be where I am. And the Father will honor anyone who serves me.
3. Clarify our boundaries and stay firm
We owe it to ourselves to take the time to seek God and decide what is the bottom line for our ethics, beliefs, time, and health – and not let another human being decide that for us. When we don’t make our principles known at the workplace and stick by them, we can’t blame others for pushing our boundaries. The responsibility for our souls lies with us. Our employers pay us for our talents and abilities but our souls are not for sale. Let us be prepared to respectfully walk away if any human being or organisation pressurises us to obey ungodly demands. God will honour our decisions, even if people don’t.
Matthew 16:25-26 ESV For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul?
4. Rejoice and give God the credit
God is the source of all our talents and jobs. Let us rejoice at whatever work God has chosen for us to do and do it willingly for Him. Money and recognition from people in the workplace last only for a while. Glory in heaven with God lasts forever.
Colossians 3:23-24 ESV Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ.
Let us ensure we don’t end up arriving in heaven in rags or worse still, stumble so badly along the way that we don’t even make it there, having fallen for many “senseless and harmful desires” at work. That’s much too high a price to pay, no matter how good the pay packages or privileges are now.
2 Timothy 4:7 ESV I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.
Proverbs 23:4-5 ESV Do not toil to acquire wealth; be discerning enough to desist. When your eyes light on it, it is gone, for suddenly it sprouts wings, flying like an eagle toward heaven.
1 Timothy 6:6-9 ESV But godliness with contentment is great gain, for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world. But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content. But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction.
5. We are the church in our workplace
Whenever the word “church” is used in the Bible, it refers to an assembly of believers, not a building or a denomination. It’s simply wherever Jesus’ followers are. God sends us, His church, into ripe harvest fields to shine like “bright lights in a world full of crooked and perverse people” in different companies and industries.
Philippians 2:15 NLT … Live clean, innocent lives as children of God, shining like bright lights in a world full of crooked and perverse people.
Matthew 9:36-38 ESV When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.”
Many of our co-workers do not know Jesus. Perhaps they have never experienced Godly grace, forgiveness, integrity, or love firsthand. Our Heavenly Father has great compassion for the people we work with. He sees beneath their workplace personas and knows that they are feeling “harassed and helpless” inside and calls us to be their very first exposure to Jesus Christ. For them, we ought to be the living church that is a “model of good works” who points them to their living Saviour.
Titus 2:7-8 ESV Show yourself in all respects to be a model of good works, and in your teaching show integrity, dignity, and sound speech that cannot be condemned, so that an opponent may be put to shame, having nothing evil to say about us.
Matthew 5:16 ESV 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.
God’s Spirit will give us the wisdom and partnerships with other believers in the workplace to be the church in our jobs – if we ask Him for such provision. God will equip us with “the desire and the power to do what pleases Him.”
James 1:5 NLT If you need wisdom, ask our generous God, and he will give it to you. He will not rebuke you for asking.
Philippians 2:13 NLT For God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases him.
Let us keep in mind that we will see every single person we have ever worked with again; if not at a company reunion, then certainly at the end of our lives. Would they have reached the narrow gate to life or the wide gate to destruction? Will we be relieved that we followed God’s prompting to gently and respectfully share about the Way, the Truth, and the Life with them or moan the missed opportunities? Let us ensure that we don’t allow our workplace commandments to override God’s commandment to love our neighbours as ourselves.
Matthew 7:13-14 ESV “Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.
1 Peter 3:14-17 ESV But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame. For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that should be God’s will, than for doing evil.
John 14:6 ESV Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.
Mark 12:29-31 ESV Jesus answered, “The most important is, ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”
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