Communities often ask, what difference does it make for one to be a Christian at work. How does Christian faith affect a professional at his or her line of work?
There are different opinions to this seemingly simple question, but just like any other paradox in life, the real answer of how Christian faith influences work is found in the bible. In Colossians 3:23–24, Paul wrote to the city of Colossae, “Work willingly at whatever you do, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people. Remember that the Lord will give you an inheritance as your reward, and that the Master you are serving is Christ.”
The first interesting observation is how the master-slave relationship was depicted in the book of Colossians. Colossae is within the region of seven churches, where members had incorporated pagan elements into their worship. Through his letters, Paul declared and re-iterated Christ’s supremacy, to encourage Christians in upholding godly living.
This brings us back to the phrase “…working for the Lord rather than for people”, which means that Christian faith should give you an inner compass that will keep you from being overthrown by either 1) success, 2) failure, or even 3) boredom. The three states are very common in everyday professional living, and they could be considered as ungodly temptations that could distract our focus from working for Christ.
Christian faith should give believers a new spiritual power that places our identity not in our accomplishments or failures, but in who we are in Christ. The gospel should be used as a yardstick to measure success—whether we are wholeheartedly working to bring glory to Christ – regardless of what outcome the world throws. This means doing the right thing, even when it is economically unwise to do so. This means making a decision that goes within biblical conduct, even though it was a hard call.
Some jobs seduce us into over-work and anxiety, others tempt us to surrender to hardship, to the point that some of use are just doing what is necessary just enough to get by. Again, this is deeply challenged by Paul in verse 22, “Slaves, try to please them (your earthly masters) all the time, not when they are watching you.”
Secondly, Christian professionals should understand that work is a means that expresses God’s love to the world. The Bible depicts the Lord as a father who provides. Did any of us bother to ask how He planned to do just that. It is through human work, which covers all aspects from farming, to the truck driver delivering wheat and rice to local grocers. God has the power to feed and provide us directly, but He chooses to do it through work.
This also leads to three profound fundamentals that should shape our view when it comes to work:
- Our work, even the simplest and most menial tasks, has great dignity. And God values every kind of work just the same, regardless of status and compensation.
- We are God’s hands and fingers in sustaining and making the world a better place. To please God, we just need to do our work really well.
- Christian professionals must have deep appreciation for all kinds of work done by skillful workers, even if they do not share the same faith.
Last but not least, good work exemplifies character. To understand specifically how our work contributes for the purpose of human life, we need to be closely intertwined to the gospel. By allowing the words of God to affect our mind, will, and feelings we will able to not only appreciate the work done by non-believers and believers alike, but it will also guard our heart in giving our best and performing the fullest in the task that we are given.
Our true calling is not to “compete” in bringing home more dollars than our neighbors and friends, but it is found in the calling to serve God and extend his love through the work that we are doing. So when someone asks you, as a Christian, of whether one should work or serve God, the answer is simple. One can not serve God without work.