[Nov 10]—Work: A Four-Letter Word? Part Three

            Today we’re wrapping up our short series on work. Obviously, the word “work” literally is a four-letter word, but I decided to cute it up a bit. For a lot of people, work is a swearword. The only reason they do it is because it’s either that or starve. It’s not necessarily that they’re lazy: If someone offered them an opportunity to get paid for nothing, they’d (hopefully) have too much self-respect to take it. But the work they do is monotonous and soul-deadening. They work day after day performing repetitious actions, or with a boss who’s difficult to work with (to put it mildly), or with coworkers who drive them crazy, or in a really stressful position. They don’t see any room for advancement in their line of work, and going back to school is not an appealing or feasible option. I’ve been there.
            Now, if I was talking with non-Christians about this, I’d tell them that their attitude is perfectly reasonable. If this life is all you have, and you spend most of your adult life in a cruddy job that you hate, that would be soul-crushing. Someone once told me that when I see a lost person, I need to remember that (barring their coming to Christ), this'll be the only heaven they’ll ever see. Wow. That’s pretty depressing, isn’t it?
            But for believers, we were made for something more. Look, I’m going to have to be frank here: You have no excuse to be joyless in your job, to see it only as a way to pay the bills. If you go to your job and dread and hate every minute of it, something is wrong, and—again, I have to be frank here—that something has to do with you.
            Before you write me off as being cold and heartless, please hear me out. I can just hear all the angry responses: “You have no idea what I have to put up with! My boss is the worst in the entire world! My job has killed my dreams! That’s easy for you to say!”
            Remember what I said when I was telling wives to submit to their husbands, the same thing I’d tell fellow Christians who were being persecuted? Yes, I’ve lived a relatively easy life here in America in the 20th and 21st century. I’ve never been persecuted, and you wouldn’t have to look hard to find folks who’ve had lives much worse than mine. But when I teach the Bible, it’s not an issue of what I’ve experienced. The only thing that matters is what God is saying to you.
            That’s why I point you to today’s passages again. Paul (under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit) is telling slaves to obey their masters. Not with the typical obedience of a slave, doing just enough to avoid punishment. No, he’s telling them to “Serve wholeheartedly, as if you were serving the Lord, not people,” and “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters,” and “to be subject to [your] masters in everything, to try to please them, not to talk back to them, and not to steal from them, but to show that [you] can be fully trusted.” He’s telling this to slaves. Not people stuck in a dead-end job with a bad boss and who aren’t getting paid what they deserve. I promise you, your life working for your boss is not nearly as bad as a slave in the 1st century, or in any century for that matter.
            Now, one of the rules of hermeneutics is context. Context, context, context. You could make a case that he’s not addressing employees in a freely contracted job. That’s true:  Literally he’s not addressing anyone in that situation. But I ask you: If he’s telling this to slaves, how much more does this apply to non-slaves in a freely contracted job? I don’t think I have more of an excuse than a slave did; I have much less.
            So I need to be the most honest, most diligent, employee my boss has ever seen. If there’s a nonbeliever in my company who cares more about the company’s interests than I do, something’s wrong with me. I shouldn’t be the type of employee who constantly needs a supervisor looking over their shoulder; quite the opposite. Whether my boss is looking over my shoulder or not, my work should be the same.
            Why? Because whether he’s looking over my shoulder or not, my Lord is. He sees all and knows all. When I take an extra-long break when I should be working, he knows it. When I shade the truth in order to make myself look good, he’s well aware of it. When I come in late or leave early and think I’m getting away with it, I’m not. I’m not getting away with anything. He’s always watching me.
            But let’s focus on the positive side of this for a moment. If I’m the most honest and diligent employee my boss has, there’s a side-benefit to it besides my Savior’s smile (although that should be enough). Read the last verse of the Titus passage again. When I’m the employee I need to be, there’s a huge bonus: I make the teaching about God my Savior more attractive. That means I’m letting the beauty of the Message about Jesus shine through me. My non-Christian coworkers and boss will notice. And—unfortunately—if I’m not the model employee I’m supposed to be, they’ll notice that too. And then instead of making the teaching about God my Savior more attractive, well, you get the idea.
            But again I want to focus on the positive. Maybe my job is tedious and repetitive and/or stressful. But if I’m doing it for my Savior, I have no excuse for it to be dull. I’m doing it for him. When I clean the toilets, I’m doing it for him. When I deal in a patient and compassionate way with that customer who’s trying to step on my last nerve, I’m doing it for him. And if I’m not getting credit for the hard work I’m doing, if my boss doesn’t appreciate what I do for him, that’s OK: My Lord is watching, and “[I] know that the Lord will reward [me] for whatever good [I] do.”
            Do I put this into practice all the time? Am I constantly working in the light of these truths, that my Lord is watching me? I wish. Way too often I’ve put forth the least effort I could get away with. I’ve been guilty way too often of goofing off when I’m supposed to be working. And I’ve let myself get really upset over not getting the recognition I think I deserve. But by his grace, I’m trying to be better. Ultimately, no matter what job I’m in, I’m working for my Savior. And he deserves absolutely nothing but the best from me.

Lord Jesus, help in this area. In my work, I want to make the Good News about you as attractive as I possibly can. And by your grace, I intend to. 

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