[Nov 09]—Work: A Four Letter Word? Part Two

Genesis 39:1-10; Daniel 6:1-10

            I’m well aware that for most people, their job isn’t fun. There’s a reason why someone has to pay you to do it, right? It’d be nice if someone paid you to sit in front of a TV and snack on potato chips all day, but that’s not likely to happen.
            But for us as believers, our job isn’t just a way to pay the bills. Or at least it shouldn’t be. As I mentioned before, the first worker was God when he created the universe and then rested. Our first parents were given the 100% pleasant task of maintaining the garden in which they lived. Please note that even in a perfect, sin-free environment, everything wasn’t just handed to them with no effort required. As created in his image, we were made to work, to be creative and productive. Sin didn’t bring work into our experience: It only brought futile and frustrating work into our experience. We were created to improve our environment through physical effort. And if someone was actually willing to pay you to sit on the couch and watch TV, would you really want a job like that? Really?!
            And as believers we know (or should) that the way we work should be glorifying to our Savior. So how do we do that?
            Well, right off the top of my head, followers of Jesus should be marked by integrity in their work. Let’s look at a couple of examples.
            Joseph and Daniel had a couple of things in common. They were both kidnapped and forcibly carried away from their home by a foreign power and were given “jobs” by ruthless powers that held despotic power over them in a nation not their own. Neither of them applied for the “jobs” in which they had; they weren’t there by choice at all. If anyone would have an excuse to do a half-hearted job, they would.
            But they didn’t. Both men were raised to positions of power and authority within the regime in which they found themselves. Why?
            Well, the ultimate theological reason is “God gave them favor in the eyes of their masters.” And that’d be absolutely correct. The Bible’s clear on that score. Both the Egyptians and Babylonians tended to be prejudiced against Hebrews/Jews, and would be far less inclined than normal to promote them to positions of authority and responsibility. But the Lord sovereignly overcame any innate biases against them, and—without doing violence to human free will--inclined their hearts towards these men. At least that’s the best explanation I’ve heard.
            But did the Lord give them favor in their masters' eyes in spite of their personal behavior? Were Joseph or Daniel lazy, incompetent, dishonest workers and God just overrode that and made their masters promote them in spite of that? NO! The same Bible that says that the Lord gave them favor in the eyes of their masters also makes it crystal clear that their behavior merited every bit of that confidence.
            Take Joseph for example. Leaving aside all the theological mystery about God’s sovereignty and free will, what was the bottom line? Potiphar promoted Joseph because “the Lord was with him and that the Lord gave him success in everything he did.” In other words, Potiphar noticed that the more he put Joseph in charge of, the more money he (Potiphar) made. Potiphar’s only decision to make every day was what to eat. Every other decision he left in Joseph’s very capable hands.
            And both these men are noted as being diligent and honest. Joseph was tempted by his employer’s wife who was blatantly coming on to him, and exhibited loyalty to his employer (really his master) who’d been so good to him. He made the right choice.
            What about Daniel? The king had promoted Daniel, and was thinking about promoting him even further. The other satraps were threatened and jealous, so they “tried to find grounds for charges against Daniel in his conduct of government affairs.” They granularly looked for any incompetence or dishonesty or negligence or corruption, even something they could credibly make up about him, and they could find nothing. They finally came to the conclusion that they’d “never find any basis for charges against this man Daniel unless it has something to do with the law of his God.” In other words, the only way they could bring a charge against him was by making his faithfulness to God an issue.
            My friend, if my enemies did “opposition research” on me, I hope and I wish and I pray that the only thing they could find was “He loves Jesus too much.”
            Look, I’m well aware that both these men were sinners like I am. They weren’t perfect, and although Scripture doesn’t record any big flaws, I know that if we knew enough about them, we’d find something. But in the record we have about them, they provide an excellent example for us to follow. If we want to bring honor and glory to our Lord in the workplace, this’d be a great place to start, right?

Father God, I’m not where I need to be on this. If my employer looked hard enough, he could find plenty of fault in me. I know my value is found in you, not in my work, but I need to honor you and bring glory to your name in how I do that. Please help me with that. 

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