A few thoughts on Labor Day to answer a common question: Can I do the job I am supposed to do, can I think as I am supposed to think as defined by my employer and still be a Christian? Can I dare to serve Jesus without reserve and still have a normal job?
Yes. When we do our regular duties, they are made holy because God is with us in the process and we are in God’s world. We don’t do anything that does not matter. No matter what person or institution claims to own us, we know better; we are children of God.
We can go to work and receive whatever comes as full of possibilities. For from [Christ] and through him and to him are all things (Romans 11:36).
On the active side, we can do whatever we are doing at the moment to God’s glory, meaning we do it as an act or service, or obedience, or hope, or whatever. Whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God (1 Corinthians 10:31).
How can I be a Christian at work? Part of it has to do with how you see work. Are you God’s at work? Do you do your work with God in mind? Do you see the workplace like God does? It all makes a huge difference.
In Christ, work is no longer a necessary evil. It is now an opportunity, just like everything else. “Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father” (Colossians 3:17). The work doesn’t make me who I am, I make the work serve my deepest purposes, no matter what it is. I can be who I am in it.
Jesus is who he is in his work! When he was doing his work, he never “went to work.” All the various things he did were about being who he is and doing what gave him opportunity. Christ did everything his Father commanded until he could honestly say, “It is finished” on the cross. “My food,” said Jesus, “is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work(John 4:34-5)…. “My Father is always at his work to this very day, and I too am working” (John 5:19-21).
Does Jesus live to work or work to live? He does both. He was born to do his work. And he says he is fed by the work he does. We are called to share that ongoing work of re-creation in every generation. As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world (John 17:18 ). When we show up at our jobs, our cells, our PM Team rehearsal, our work day on the community garden we’re there to honor God in what we do and in how we do it — or not.
Three general ideas on how to be a Christian at work
Let your life speak
Go to work tomorrow or next month or next year and do your absolute best. Be the best employee, the best manager, the best counter person you can be. Be known as the most honest, most humble, most ethical, most competent person in your field. And do all that not to merely advance your own career, but to advance God’s fame. It makes every day worth living.
If you desperately want to make a difference in life, but you have a habit of not showing up to work on time, or you don’t return calls or complete assignments, people will not think God looks that great, probably, should you ever reveal you know Jesus. Being a slovenly worker is why some people never mention Jesus at work; they expect to give Jesus a bad name.
At the same time, don’t get crazy, thinking your work is all Jesus has going for him. But even though the Lord is not relying totally on your perfection, you matter — and you have the same job as Jesus! He probably would not have been a pastor or missionary the way we think of them; he probably would have been more like you. He probably would have worked at Target or Starbucks, since he would inevitably meet everyone on the planet there.
Look forward to problems
You might know some way-too-happy Christians who go to work thinking that since they love Jesus, everything is going to work out. It’s not. You might miss your quota. You might lose a client. You might get fired. You might have tensions with your boss or your co-workers. These things don’t mean that Jesus doesn’t love you or that God isn’t on your side or that God is punishing you for that sin you can’t forget. The problems are just the inevitable result of living in a sin-ridden world; thorns infest the ground. Work doesn’t always work the way it should. So have a big idea of how you are a re-creator with God but be realistic about sin, too. Jesus hasn’t come back yet.
Every problem is an opportunity to rely on Jesus to redeem it. Problems are what keep us redeemers in business. So if you work with problem people in a problematic place that might be the best of all possible worlds for the redemption project. If your work is hard, that might be an advantage to your deeper purposes.
Keep the Sabbath
Rest is crucial to work. Rest is the ying to the yang of action. It is part of how we work. I’m not talking about the bifurcated idea of work-life balance, or work and leisure. That’s one of those binary descriptions of things that got popular in the 1800s and we have not shaken off the definitions yet. We have a calling that is 24/7 and we express ourselves in various ways. We might rest from our labor, but that does not mean we are not generally at work. We don’t find ourselves in our leisure and do work to pay for it.
Resting is elemental to working and working is elemental to resting. Without rest we do not work right, without work we don’t rest right. Most of us are so tied up in our music, video, e-mail, social networks, entertainment, texts and general busyness that we tend to forget the art of resting. Maybe the best thing we can do for ourselves, for our employer, for our careers, and for the glory of God is to set apart one day in our week when we unplug — when the cell phone is off, when we don’t check email, when we take a really long nap, when we worship and pray, when we take a walk or watch a sunset.
If your work obligations don’t permit a 24-hour period of rest every week, then consider taking a personal day every month for solitude and silence and rest. Why wouldn’t you? Your co-workers will take personal days when a pet dies or when a girlfriend breaks up with them or when they are hung over from a long weekend. We don’t need to feel guilty for taking one day out of every 30 to refresh our souls through intimate communion with God.
God is with us in the process and we are in God’s world. We don’t do anything that does not matter. No matter what person or institution claims to own us, we know better; we are children of God. So here’s my blessing for you on Labor Day: Therefore, my beloved [family], be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your toil is not in vain in the Lord (1 Corinthians 15:58).