Why Christians Should Make the Best Employees

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.’  


My Life as a Zoo Animal

This must be what it feels like to be a bear in a zoo, or an ape or something.

A group of gaping tourists stand outside my doors, goggling through the big windows. A lady in a white lab-coat waves her hands and says: “Observe, a female of the species ‘Coateris Pharmeceuticalis’.”


So I make sure I’m doing something ‘coater-like’–i.e. looking over my paperwork. But as soon as they’ve passed by, I return to my original posture–slumped in my chair, deep in thought, or with my nose pressed up against the window of the coating pan, watching the guns spray, lulled into a stupor by the soothing sounds of, say, two industrial mixers running full tilt!

(Coateris pharmaceuticalis have been observed with peculiar bits of chartreuse foam in their ears. It is suspected this is to dull the noise of the roaring mixers)

I spend many a day in a box-shaped room, alone. My companions are a huge machine called a coating pan, tanks, mixers, and various other implements I need to do my job. But most of the time I don’t use them. The pan runs on it’s own, and I just take readings every quarter-hour.

So I pace: round and round and round. Every now and again, my zoo-keeper/supervisor will stick his head in and ask if I need something.

Coffee. I need coffee.

No coffee for coateris pharmaceuticalis!


I’ve considered bringing more of my life into the coating room. Back in the day I’d write blog posts on paper towels, but I found out this was strictly verboten and was forced to cease and desist. They can’t stop me from composing them mentally, though, along with grocery lists, to-do lists, menu plans–heck, even monthly budgets.

I also thought about working out while the pan was running (after all you can do squats anywhere). But the thought of being observed by a troop of people in white lab-coats while performing a set of lunges was a bit too far to stretch my imagination.

Pacing it is.

The good news is that I have plenty of time to contemplate the deep mysteries of life–like, if I was a zoo animal, what animal would I be?

After much thought, I decided I was an ape because I could totally see an ape (in blue scrubs) doing my job (while whistling).


The difficulty would be the hairnet…

I know there is life outside the process room, and if some ninja-penguins or PETA activists would just bust me out, I’d see it. So tell me: what zoo animal are you, and what does your habitat look like? Then when I’m stuck pacing in mine I’ll have something to think about.

And how do I get them to bring me coffee?

Time Isn’t Cheap

“I feel thin, sort of stretched, like butter scraped over too much bread,” said Bilbo Baggins. I don’t have the One Ring, but I think I know how he feels.

I feel I am, white-knuckled, on the very edge of life’s merry-go-round, about to be flung off. My plates are wobbling, my ducks are rebelling in their row.

It’s not that I’m complaining… exactly. I DID sign myself up for this–two jobs, plus a writing career, etc. I guess I just wish I could accept it, move past that frantic feeling and get down to business. I don’t have time to panic.

Funny thing: about a year ago my boss lectured me on becoming more efficient. If we had an ‘efficiency contest’ now, I’m damn sure I’d win. I know there are people who work far more hours than I and still get more done, but still, I pride myself in my time management. I can fit any task into the bite size pieces of time I have between work and work and work. I’m writing this on my phone on my lunch break. I’ll finish it on last break, and post it when I get home.

I’ve eliminated so much time waste from my life, but I still don’t have time.
I don’t want to be efficient. I want my time back.

Time is more valuable than money. You can replace a dollar, but you can’t replace time once it’s gone. Its a shame that we sell our time so cheaply. I sell my Saturdays for fifty bucks each. Fifty bucks! That’s almost volunteering. Yes, I do it to survive, but if I valued my time at it’s true price, would I leave it at that?

I’ve got no grand moral for this story. I’m just angry, just frustrated with how long it takes to get ahead. I will get ahead. I will! I just hope I can hold it together that long.

Post Script: I found this in my drafts today. I can’t remember why I didn’t post it–maybe because I was too pissed in the moment (not a good time just to throw your thoughts online). I think that this represents the tension between where we are and where we could be, and this is healthy–as long as it remains in proper perspective and we don’t give up. Here’s to following our dreams.

When is it Time to Let Go?

I’d just quit my job at the meat packers, and was off to college in a couple days. My sister and I were in the car on the way to the city for some shopping. Suddenly I sat up straight. “I forgot to pack the pork chops”. I sat, suspended like that for a moment, and then said “Well, I guess that’s not my problem any more.”

Sometimes, it’s time to let it go.

You know how when you’re writing a college paper, you do your research, write your best logic, edit, check and recheck, and then you print it off? Don’t you always see a mistake as soon as you’re carrying it to hand it in? There’s always something, but the paper is due. You’ve got to let it go, let it fall into the mail slot. It’s the prof’s problem now.

I lost my job in April. And I tell you, I hashed and rehashed every conversation, every mistake–what did I do wrong? How could things have gone so badly? I wasted so much emotional energy on one lousy job I didn’t even have any more.

I’ve got to let it go. It’s holding me back.

I’ve come to the end of a theological debate, carried on over the course of three weeks. I began it out of concern for a colleague who claimed the same faith as I, but was teaching beliefs incompatible with our faith as I know it. I’d hoped, at least, that he would question his beliefs. But both of us are equally convinced of our rightness and, I think, a little sick of each other. So, I believe it’s time to quit.

I spent the last 24 hours decided what my final statement would be. I have so much I’d still like to say, so much to question. Well, I can’t do it all. It’s time to let it go.

I am not the end all, be all of the universe. I cannot carry the weight of every decision, every bad thing that has happened, and everyone else’s problems. I cannot pack all the pork chops. I’ve done what I can.

It’s time to let it go.

“One cannot collect all the beautiful shells on the beach” -Anne Spencer.

The Art of Mess-Making

I’m a lousy athlete, lackluster violinist, average writer and an adequate singer, but I’m a pro at making a mess.

Legendary, actually.

Yesterday, after falling off my chair and causing my coach to erupt in a fit of giggles, I forgot to switch off the pump before removing a spray nozzle, which caused coating suspension to spurt everywhere. I sprayed water on my coworker, spilled water on the floor, and (to add insult to injury) botched the paperwork.

My aptitude for disorder is fairly uniform. If I paint, they’ll be as much paint on myself as on the object being painted. If I garden, I’ll be dirt up to my ears. If I cook, there’ll be vegetable parings, bowls, and knives scattered all over the kitchen. Culinary masterpieces require these things—I could’ve just made hotdogs.

Probably woulda made a mess doing that too.

I could shuffle this predisposition off on sheer clumsiness. Or maybe I just don’t give a damn. But, I’d rather look a little deeper—maybe find some admirable reasons for making a mess. So here it goes.

I do things with gusto!

I’m not afraid have fun and get dirty. Case in point, my students and I took advantage of the warm weather to get out and do our favorite thing: play tag. The lawn was slippery. I was barefoot in an attempt to keep my shoes clean (oh irony). As I raced across the grass, a seven-year-old hot on my heels, I skidded, fell, and ended up with mud up and down both legs. By the time class was done it was a toss-up who was muddier—teacher, or students.

It’s tough to keep clean while giving it your all at a game of toilet tag.

I try new things.

Three of the aforementioned messes were made because I’m new at work and I didn’t know what I was doing. But I was doing it. I made a mess changing the spray nozzle the first time, but my coach gave me a couple pointers, and I did it perfectly the next time.

How do you learn new things without making a mess?

But it’s not all good.

If I think of all the messes I’ve made over the years, some of them were relational. Those aren’t as easy to clean up as potato peels and spoons in the kitchen. I wish I hadn’t made them.

I also consider the messes I’ve made because I refused to take counsel, or shot when I should have asked questions, or just didn’t have a coach and acted in ignorance. Those have been costly.

So, what to do?

Like the old adage of lost love being better than never loving at all, better to make a mess in a daring attempt than to attempt nothing. But messes are opportunities to learn, to reflect, and to be mentored. And then, if you can, you clean up.