Encouragement for a lifelong journey of faith

Category: Work prayers (Page 1 of 2)

September 11, 2016 — Good business

Today’s Bible reading

For as the body is one and has many members, but all the members of that one body, being many, are one body, so also is Christ. For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free—and have all been made to drink into one Spirit. For in fact the body is not one member but many. — 1 Corinthians 12:12-14

Phillip and Samuel are two pioneer businessmen using their barbershop to plant seeds in South Asia.

More thoughts for meditation

To do business that is integrated with life in the Spirit our work must have a close relationship with our congregation. In Western capitalist culture, this has typically not been the case, leading to unfortunate results, including:

  • Business and money matters are largely private. It is fine to ask how many employees one has or what equipment, for example; it is not okay to ask about annual profit. We can say “How’s work?” but most people would rather you didn’t and would never reveal their salary.
  • People sometimes experience the business owner or manager quite differently in the workplace as compared to how they experience them among the church.
  • The business owner often makes major decisions quite alone or by following the advice of business coaches outside of the family of faith.
  • Business owners or agency executives may be given too much influence in church matters, or contrariwise, they may be viewed as unspiritual and their advice is spurned.
  • Successful people may become ensnared by the traps of wealth and their potential lost to the glory of God and the good of the church.

The contribution of the Christian business owners and managers to the church should be valued and affirmed. Since wealth, power, and greed are constant dangers in business, care should be taken for the spiritual welfare of the Christian in business or in upper management. This care is ideally experienced in one’s congregation and may include prayer, counsel, instruction, appropriate disclosure, and intentional interaction with other Christians in business or similar positions of authority.

For business people to integrate their business with the kingdom purposes of the church, it is necessary for the church to have clear vision. It is then necessary for the business owners or managers to cultivate connection with that vision and vice versa. A business person should be able to receive input from the church on questions such as:

  • What products and services are good for the community?
  • What boundaries may be necessary to set in providing a particular service or product (turning down a construction job, for example, because of its intended use)?
  • Should he or she expand or limit growth?
  • Should he or she or should he not borrow (more) money?
  • How should he or she think about personal lifestyle issues made possible by profitable business—houses, vacations, recreation, recreational equipment, etc.?

Opportunities for businesses working in support of the church include:

  • Providing a good place of employment for young people and intentionally cultivating leadership skills
  • Setting starting and closing business hours to best accommodate family needs
  • Funding church projects or activities
  • Providing entry level jobs for less employable people or for people who have never developed work skills
  • Targeting a specific need group such as former inmates, recovering addicts, or otherly abled people and making the workplace suitable for their abilities and needs.
  • Using business expertise and resources to enable others to set up and operate businesses for the good of the kingdom.

This sounds a lot like all our ideas for “good business” doesn’t it?

Suggestions for action

Pray: Inspire me to play my full part of the body. Make us your hands and feet.

You may not be a “business person” and may even despise them as some stereotype of “capitalist” you have. Try praying for the ones you know. They have a lot of responsibility they have taken on. You might consider taking some on yourself.

Pray for Circle of Hope to come up with a lot of good businesses as a church. We will need inspiration, intelligence and the right people to make them and manage them. Pray that we are an encouraging place for people trying to start and grow businesses. It is hard work!

September 10, 2016 –  Kingdom-centered business

Today’s Bible reading

But strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. —Matthew 6:33

Do not repay anyone evil for evil, but take thought for what is noble in the sight of all. If it is possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave room for the wrath of God; for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” No, “if your enemies are hungry, feed them; if they are thirsty, give them something to drink; for by doing this you will heap burning coals on their heads.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. — Romans 12:17-21

You have heard that it was said, “An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.” But I say to you, Do not resist an evildoer. But if anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other also; and if anyone wants to sue you and take your coat, give your cloak as well; and if anyone forces you to go one mile, go also the second mile. Give to everyone who begs from you, and do not refuse anyone who wants to borrow from you. — Matthew. 5:38-42

More thoughts for meditation

Jesus integrates all of life into a loving relationship with God – loving God with all our hearts and loving our neighbor as ourselves, and this includes the workplace. Our interactions in businesses and other employment are opportunities to publicly testify that every interaction deserves an eternal perspective and that following Jesus rather than the mindset of a materialistic society is imperative.

Our calling is to

  • Do our work in a way that enhances our revelation of Jesus.
  • Do our work as a blessing and to support the church and its mission.
  • “Go the second mile” with difficult customers and co-workers.
  • Offer goods and/or services that bless the community.
  • Be especially helpful to the poor or destitute.
  • Forgive and forebear those who take advantage of us in business, rather than immediately using force or legal means.
  • Value the kingdom of God above personal profit — souls over sales. Avoid driving hard bargains and instead have a testimony of generosity in business.
  • Resist the pressure to make leisure, recreation, and early retirement the motivations for business, and instead appreciate the innate goodness of productive work that is aligned with the character and intentions of God. On the other hand, avoid the trap of becoming absorbed in work as an end in itself.
  • Avoid using good practices such as giving to the church and funding mission work as justification for using shady, harsh, or coercive methods in business.
  • Provide a workplace that is relationally, emotionally, physically, financially, and spiritually healthy for workers.

Suggestions for action

Pray: Help me do my work according to the radical love you show me.

Many of us are subject to the ungodly business practices of others and our small contributions to our workplace seem very meager. We are easily overwhelmed and susceptible to practicing workplace morality at work and following Jesus elsewhere. Be comforted. Be inspired.

Even if our employers subject us to immorality, we have our own “business” to run. We are working with Jesus. In a real sense, we are the Lord’s apprentices. The church is a worldwide enterprise. Circle of Hope, is in itself, a large “farm.” There is a lot of room to be the antidote to the godless practices in the world by being an owner, an entrepreneur, a skillful manager of the family business we have inherited by faith. Inspire. Comfort.

Check whether your work is being used for the kingdom of God. You can at least give a healthy chunk of the income you acquire to our common work of building the church. Even more, how are you acting like an owner? What is your role, right now, in making the enterprise work the best it can?

September 9, 2016 – Profitable for everyone

Today’s Bible reading and an excerpt

Read Titus 3

I desire that you insist on these things, so that those who have come to believe in God may be careful to devote themselves to good works; these things are excellent and profitable to everyone. But avoid stupid controversies, genealogies, dissensions, and quarrels about the law, for they are unprofitable and worthless. After a first and second admonition, have nothing more to do with anyone who causes divisions, since you know that such a person is perverted and sinful, being self-condemned….And let people learn to devote themselves to good works in order to meet urgent needs, so that they may not be unproductive.

More thoughts for meditation

The Bible tells us a lot of practical things as we become acquainted with all the people who make up the stories and accounts. But more, the Bible strengthens our hearts as we learn about the character of the people who bring honor to God through their work. The world and its work keep changing, and it is no wonder that the Bible does not give us the specific directives we sometimes want concerning what to do or where to do it.  But the virtues of honesty, diligence and trust are never made redundant, and the Bible instructs us in cultivating these virtues at every turn. They are the soulful tools that make what we do “profitable for all,” which is the goal of our love.

Biblical instruction about living as Jesus calls us to live must be applied in the workplace.  Life and work are not separate, but rather work is a part of a whole life.  Like our proverb says:

Life in Christ is one whole cloth. As we participate in and love “the world,” we bring redemption from the Kingdom of God to our society. Jesus is Lord of all, so we have repented of separating “sacred” and “secular.”

When Jesus says, “Let your light so shine before [all] that they may see your good deeds and glorify your father who is in heaven” he is not limiting this to life “at church” or in the family.  It is the whole of life, including our work.  We are who we are in Christ wherever we are.

When Paul says to Titus, “Our people must learn to devote themselves to doing what is good,…” (3:14) this also applies to our daily work.  Paul is also quick to note how our character will be exactly what brings us trouble in our daily occupation. The Lord seeks to create a people who will bear the image of God and display the Spirit’s glory in all the creation, at work and at play. Transforming grace works powerfully in us through the Spirit, and we are given many ways to discern how to live this new life in the world. We learn our devotion, day by day, and one of the ways it is honed to profitability is by constant friction with “stupid controversies” and “quarrels about the law” and people who cause “divisions.” The people who cause these things are in the workplace and in the church, perhaps in your family. The work of multiplication, reconciliation, healing will all be especially opposed.

The Psalmist says that God’s word is a light to his path. Much of our path lies in labor; we are grateful that light shines there as well. We need to attend to how we attend to the light, in all the ways God reaches us.

Suggestions for action

Pray: Stir my devotion. Make what I do profitable for all.

We often avoid thinking about our troubles. We don’t want to “go there.” But often naming them is the first step in the kind of attending that allows us to be attended to.

Start with the workplace. Name the places and people where your character as a Jesus follower rubs up against things that are not of the Lord. Don’t try to solve all your problems, right now, don’t be your own answer. Present them to the Lord and listen. But, for sure, be untroubled in the presence of Jesus.

If you are involved in multiplication, reconciliation, healing or some other soulful work, name the opposition. They are people. Naming is not damning, it is just acknowledging what is happening. Again, don’t immediately solve the problem. Present these people to the Lord and listen. Read Paul’s words to Titus again and listen.

September 8, 2016 – The Lord’s work

Today’s Bible reading

Jesus left there and went to his hometown, accompanied by his disciples. When the Sabbath came, he began to teach in the synagogue, and many who heard him were amazed.

“Where did this man get these things?” they asked. “What’s this wisdom that has been given him? What are these remarkable miracles he is performing? Isn’t this the carpenter? Isn’t this Mary’s son and the brother of James, Joseph, Judas and Simon? Aren’t his sisters here with us?” And they took offense at him.

Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor except in his own town, among his relatives and in his own home.” He could not do any miracles there, except lay his hands on a few sick people and heal them. He was amazed at their lack of faith. — Mark 6:1-5

More thoughts for meditation

Jesus apparently worked at a “secular” job for most of his young adult years. As was customary for boys in that day, Jesus was probably apprenticed alongside his father Joseph.  His former neighbors knew Jesus by his previous trade: “Isn’t this the tektōn?” (Mark 6:3). Tektōn has been rendered as “carpenter” since William Tyndale’s English Bible translation (1526). Yet “builder” may be a more accurate translation. In first-century Israel, the tektōn was a general craftsman who worked with stone, wood, and sometimes metal in large and small building projects.

Although Jesus knew as a boy what his ultimate business would be (see Luke 2) he was probably apprenticed at the customary age of twelve. He then spent at least eighteen years as a builder, six times as long as his public ministry. Tradition suggests that his father Joseph died a few years prior to Jesus entering public ministry. During that time, then, Jesus would have headed up the family building business, implying Jesus’ primary responsibility for financially supporting the family (Matt 13:55-56). Only artisans or other craftspeople had the ancient equivalent of small, independent businesses. They constituted a minority of the labor force. For Jesus’ family to work in a trade indicates they were in the lower middle-income class of that day.

Almost 50% of Jesus’ parables have a “business setting.” Perhaps some aspects of these stories had a personal connection. For example, when teaching on the cost of discipleship, Jesus mentions one should have the funds at the start to complete a tower (Luke 14:28). Might Jesus have built a tower for a customer but never have been fully paid?

Can we conclude Jesus understands the business world as an insider? He probably worked as a sub-contractor alongside other artisans, completing projects, and handling finances—negotiating bids, purchasing supplies, and contributing to family living expenses.  For those many years Jesus worked with his hands in masonry and carpentry, in good and bad weather, getting paid and not getting paid. Jesus can identify with the ups and downs of a business workday. For a few years, he had responsibilities for day-to-day operations of running what we’d call a small business. And consider that this day job—where he spent a good part of his young adult years—contributed to Jesus’ character formation to become the kind of person we read about in the Gospels.

Jesus was involved in some sort of carpentry or masonry work during his life, but that doesn’t mean “following Jesus” must involve stone or wood work. How then can we tell when something is intended as an example? As always, we will need to listen carefully to what the passage itself seems to be saying. If there are clear signs in the text that a given person is deserving of praise or blame, we have warrant to think about how those praiseworthy or blameworthy traits might play out in the contemporary workplace.

Watching Jesus at work, realizing what he came from and where he is going is a great example of the best way to work. We see God’s own Son incarnate and in action, working hard to further God’s kingdom through teaching, healing, exorcism, feeding, and a host of other activities. We may not do exactly the things Jesus does, but we can trust that he is providing us of a model of how to go about our business.

Suggestions for action

Pray: May I be about my father’s business, no matter the opposition.

So many people put Jesus in some “other” category and assume he can’t relate to their work. How about you? Try reading the first five chapters, or so, of Mark and see Jesus doing his “business.” What is he going for? How is he going about his work? What traits do you see him exercising that you could develop in your own work, both in your everyday job and in your deeper vocation as a member of the body of Christ?

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