As a Christian, realizing your coworker has the same faith can be like finding a fellow countryman in a strange land—an instant connection.
But sometimes a coworker claimed to believe as I and hoped no one else knew. I remember one young guy I worked with who was often late, disappeared once for a few days (he said later he was sick), and was laughed at behind his back because he was lazy, stupid, and couldn’t be relied on to do his job well.
And then I found out he was quitting to go work at a Christian camp. I cringed.
Another time, a coworker was telling me a humorous story about another guy who used to work there who, while out in the field, would hide his vehicle and take a nap. My coworker caught him because he forgot to turn off the flashing beacon on the vehicle. He told me his name and my heart sank. I’d gone to Bible School with him.
Neither of these are isolated incidents in my short career.
It shouldn’t be this way. Christians should be the best employees. Why?
We are Ambassadors of Christ
“We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us” (1 Corinthians 5:20 NIV).
I’ve been drilled since childhood: we need to share the Gospel with our friends. But if we do not display the results of the Gospel in our lives, why should they listen to us?
Excuse me, but the fruit of the spirit is not laziness, tardiness, abrasiveness and irresponsibility. If we cannot be trusted, if the supervisor has to correct us constantly, if we take longer breaks than is our due, if we gossip and engage in political games, what proof of the Gospel is there? Faith without works is dead.
By being the example of an excellent employee, we build our platform for witness.
Work is our Divine Mission
Paul said to the slaves in Ephesus (a position more like the typical employee of our day and less like the North American slavery we are accustomed to reading about) that they should obey their earthy masters with respect and with sincerity of heart, “Not only to win their favour when their eye is on your, but like slaves of Christ, doing the will of God from your heart. Serve wholeheartedly, as if you were serving the Lord,” (Ephesians 6:5-8 NIV).
Do you see what he says? “Doing the will of God from your heart.” Your work—God’s will. We serve wholeheartedly, because God has given us a job to do, and he is our true master. Even before the fall of mankind, Adam was given work to do. Work is not a punishment, but a mission.
God is leading me to see my job as a sacred calling: yes, manufacturing pharmaceuticals, a divine appointment. Every day when I walk into production and look at the board for my assignment, it isn’t just my supervisor who has given me that task, but God—my true master. Whatever I am doing, I must do it well. Whoever I am working with, I must bless.
I like calling it an assignment. It makes me feel like a secret agent.
It’s far harder to do than to say, because by definition, excellence requires going against the current. And the current sure is strong in my workplace. It seems I’ve failed just as many times as I’ve succeeded. But it is fulfilling to know that my job in manufacturing is just as important as my job as a Sunday school teacher.
Your work is your mission field.
I hope to flesh this topic out further in the next couple of weeks, with the intention to write a more comprehensive ‘theology of work’. Dorothy Sayers wrote an essay on the subject, called “Why Work.” It is challenging, but incredibly affirming for those of us who don’t work in traditional Christian ‘ministries.’