The Christian in the Workplace
As God’s people we must obey His commands, living and acting in accordance with His commands in all aspects of our lives. This includes the way we respond to situations at the workplace. For this article, I have reflected on my own experiences at work over the past six years. For the majority of that time, I worked full time for a large financial services firm in a typical office environment.
In the past, my attitude in my job has been an area where I have made "bad" choices–choices that were sinful and going against God. For a time, I had a downright rebellious attitude about the job that God had purposely provided for me. I complained about my boss, co-workers, salary, and other working conditions. But, God commands us to give thanks in all things and tells us our circumstances are God’s will for us in Christ Jesus (1 Thess. 5). We also know that God’s will for us is a prosperous plan, filled with hope and a future (Jer. 29).
Disobeying God in this area, I have had several consequences. First, my performance at work suffered, which came out in my appraisal. On several occasions I got into trouble with my boss for not meeting deadlines and for the quality of my work. This sin diluted my witness and testimony to others in the workplace. Instead of seeing someone who was given over to serving, with a humble and thankful attitude of Christ, my co-workers saw a rebellious and resistant young man, who complained, argued and didn’t do a good job.
This is the complete opposite of what Paul talked about in Philippians 2 when he said, "do everything without complaining or arguing so that you may become blameless and pure children of God, without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the Universe." In my sinful state, someone who needed to accept Christ would not have seen in me that Christ could make a worthwhile difference in their lives. They saw no difference between me and the rest of the people in the workplace or in the world who are not saved.
A good friend pointed out my sin in this area at a conference one fall. Thankfully, I saw how ungrateful and rebellious against God my attitude had been and how much I had to be thankful for in my current job. For a starter, I actually had a job, which many people didn’t have where I was living at that time, and my salary was significantly better than many other people in the same situation as me. After realizing how sinful my attitude was, I began to fear for my job, but more importantly, I feared the thought of standing face to face with God and having to be accountable for my actions one day. I was convicted there and then to be different and was penitent about my sinful behavior.
Returning to work after the conference with a repentant heart and a thankful and humble attitude of service, Christ through me rapidly turned around my job performance. My boss and some co-workers commented about how my performance had improved and obviously saw a difference in me. The difference was allowing Christ to live out through me and as me.
Apart from my actual job performance, the social aspect of my job has been an area of sin and temptation for me. Peer pressure and a desire to be socially accepted has been an issue for me in the past that spilled over into the workplace. People sharing inappropriate jokes, complaining about their situations, talking badly about their bosses, having inappropriate and per-verse discussions, etc. These acts are biblical sin and are also completely inappropriate and unproductive in the workplace. For me, the temptation has been to be a part, although not contributing, in order to appear one of the group and be accepted socially. The book of Proverbs is great on this, telling us what happens to those who behave in this way and the rewards to those who choose to do differently and obey God.
For example, Proverbs 12:13 says that an evil man is trapped by his sinful talk, but a righteous man escapes trouble. Proverbs 14:3 say a fool’s talk brings a rod to his back, but the lips of the wise protect them. Proverbs 14:23 says that all hard work brings a profit, but mere talk leads only to poverty. As Christians, it is wrong for us to condone these kinds of actions and behaviors and this includes being strongly associated with people who are acting this way. This should apply to all situations, not just the workplace. As Christians we must also be prepared and willing to take a stand against people on some of these issues, where appropriate. Sometimes in a situation where I have been offended by the discussion, I have asked people to change the subject or let them know that I am offended by what they are discussing. Sometimes, I have removed myself from a situation if necessary to disassociate myself from the people and situation, ensuring that people do not think I am participating or condoning what they are doing.
Another socially related issue at work for me has been business trips out of the office, or lunch meetings, team building activities, and social activities (e.g. a team bowling night). For me, work-related social events present similar situations as those in the workplace with inappropriate discussion and jokes. But now, outside of the workplace, drinking, smoking and more explicit behavior are thrown into the mix. Team members would get drunk and become flirtatious with other team members, arguments sometimes broke out and people became offensive and disrespectful to team members, sometimes their boss. Outings wouldn’t just start out this way; they gradually became worse and deteriorated as the evening progressed. The longer I stayed the worse it got.
There came a point when I felt the Holy Sprit telling me that it was no longer appropriate for me to continue going along to such events. For a while, I continued to go along, which I knew was not the right thing to do. I felt disappointed that the team events were the way they were because I enjoyed getting together with friends, having a good time and enjoying a break from work. So, I made up excuses so that I would feel better about continuing to go along. One excuse that I kept thinking to myself was "maybe the next outing would be different." I knew the chances of that were slim at best, but that’s what I thought. I also used to kid myself into thinking that maybe I would be given an opportunity to tell someone else about Jesus Christ or give my testimony, explain why I had decided to stop drinking alcohol etc., and so it would still be ok for me to go. Once again, I was just trying to justify the wrong choice I had made to continue going to team social events. Bottom line, I knew this was being disobedient and as a result I put myself into compromising situations which could have had more severe consequences if I had continued to disobey God.
In the end, I decided not to attend these events unless I could be sure it would be a different and safer environment or venue. A couple of times I suggested alternative activities myself, such as roller skating or laser tag, that were much less likely to involve drinking or were at least not in a bar or nightclub. A couple of times when an outing started to get progressively worse, I excused myself and left to avoid putting myself in a compromising position or tempting situation.
Another area of obedience for me has been telling others about Jesus Christ at the workplace. As Christians we have to be prepared to often take the unpopular view, and appear to be the odd one out. There have been times when this has happened to me where I know I should have said something and have not. For me, this changed along with my whining attitude when I started being thankful and grateful for everything that God had blessed me with and given me. It was also a choice to believe that obeying God and carrying out His commandments and instructions is more important than trying to be popular. One of these instructions is to "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength" (Deut. 6:5). I know for me this meant letting go of my view of the importance of worldly things such as popularity and telling others about Jesus Christ when God presents us with an opportunity to do so.
More Articles from The Intercessor, Vol 16 No 3
- The Law: Stepping Stone to Man’s Exposure
- To Think About…
- Editor’s Note
- A Look at a Book
- Summer Camp 2000, The Adults
- Tape Talk
- Bible Study: God’s Law
- A Life Transformed
- Zerubbabel Focus: Computers
- Questions & Answers
- Spontaneous Living
- The Laugh of Faith
- Youth Camp Report
- On the Web
- The Christian in the Workplace
- Leadership in Music
- "One Died for All, Therefore All Died"
- God’s Restoration of Man
- Only Men Count
- Intercession In Action
- Faith Produces Deeds…
- Words to Live By…