For the final post in this series, we will consider some practical applications for our work lives. We will first address employees, and then we will address employers.
Employee Application #1: On how to choose your work
First, if you have the luxury of options, choose work that you can do well. Choose the job that fits your talents, capacities, and passions. You will generally do work well when you are both gifted for it and personally interested in the work itself.
Second, choose work that benefits others and serves the common good. By working for this company, will you be using your time and talents to serve the common good? (You need to think through this, because not all lawful jobs are legitimate jobs for Christians, such as a receptionist at a clinic that provides abortions.)
I want you to notice that I did not say that the salary or the social status of the job should be the main factors. That’s because as Gospel-believing Christians, you are free to take a job that pays less or is less prestigious because you are not defined by your work, but rather the work of Christ in you.
What I am saying is very countercultural for many, especially Asian Americans. For our whole lives, it has been about chasing and achieving the American Dream — getting a well-paying, respectable job to live financially secure and comfortable lives.
We were influenced by our parents, who immigrated to America looking for a better life for themselves and us. That’s why they programmed us to only consider those jobs that paid well and offered a life of financial security: doctors, lawyers, engineers, and businesspeople. Following their footsteps, we have also chased the American Dream, and now, we want our kids to pursue that dream too.
Because the Gospel changes us and frees us, we can approach how we choose our work in a way that is beautifully different from our culture that obsesses over financial security and social status.
If the job pays well and is socially respectable, that’s great. But those things are not the most important things anymore! You are now free to consider the work itself — and not just be a slave to the compensation package that comes with it.
It is okay and good to pursue the work of doctors, engineers, and lawyers. But don’t pursue them because of the lifestyle that they afford. Pursue them because you’re gifted for it and because that’s how you want to contribute to human flourishing!
Employee Application #2: Dealing with difficult co-workers and bosses
In 1 Peter 2:18-19, the Apostle Peter says, “Servants, be subject to your masters- not only to the good and gentle, but also to the unjust. For this is a gracious thing, when, mindful of God, one endures sorrows while suffering unjustly.”
It is easy to submit to and work for a boss who is kind, respectful, and wise. But when your boss is a jerk or incompetent, how you respond to him and treat him will reveal whether you are working for Jesus or for him.
Remember, behind your “bad boss” is your “good Lord.” Even if your boss is difficult, you are called to serve him because that honors Jesus.
If you work with a difficult co-worker, you are called to treat that co-worker with kindness and respect. Again, it is not because he or she deserves it, but because you want to obey your Lord and Savior, He has told you to honor everyone and to do good to everyone — and that includes your difficult co-workers.
So, don’t treat your co-workers as they deserve; treat them as Jesus wants you to treat them. The power to do that comes from seeing that Jesus loved you when you were difficult, and now, you can begin to love and serve difficult people because of the love of Jesus that you have received and experienced in your own heart.
Employee Application #3: Submit to your boss, but only insofar as you can submit to Christ
Although we are called to submit to our bosses, as a Christian, you are not to obey your boss if it means that you have to sin and disobey Christ.
Your submission to Christ’s authority is a higher priority than submitting to your boss’s authority. Even if refusing to obey your boss may negatively impact your career, or even cost you your job, it is better to be fired than to disobey Christ.
And if you suffer because you are obeying Christ, don’t worry. As Peter said, “For this is a gracious thing, when, mindful of God, one endures sorrows while suffering unjustly.” God will provide for you and take care of you.
Don’t make your job so important to you that you’re willing to sin to keep it. As Christ-followers, we are to submit to difficult bosses, but we are never to submit to bosses who ask us to disobey Jesus.
Employee Application #4: Love your neighbor as yourself
Obey the Second Commandment — love your neighbor as yourself — in the workplace. As a Christ-follower, you must see to it that you treat everyone with dignity, respect, and kindness — no matter their race, gender, sexuality, appearance, religious beliefs, political leanings, or cultural preferences. Honor the image of God in them.
That means that you never bully, harass, mistreat, or shame people. If you do, then you need to be quick to repent and ask for forgiveness.
But your obedience to the Second Commandment goes beyond how you treat people. It also includes your responsibility to do what you can to ensure that everyone is treated fairly and justly.
That means that if you see someone being mistreated, harassed, or treated unjustly, then it is your responsibility as a Christ-follower to do what you can to help that neighbor and to promote mercy and justice in the workplace, even if it costs you your reputation or your job.
When a true Christian man or woman walks into a room, everyone in the room should feel safer. Not only because a Christian will treat everyone well, but also because a Christian will not quietly sit back and do nothing when someone is being mistreated.
In light of how often women are sexually harassed in the workplace, we Christians, especially Christian men, must see to it that sexual harassment never happens in or around our presence. Have the courage to stand up and say, “Stop it. This is not right” — even if it costs you.
If we took the Second Commandment more seriously, it wouldn’t just make us more loving, it would also make us more courageous to stand up to the injustices perpetrated against our neighbors. Be a courageous Christian.
Now, let us look at applications for employers.
Employer Application #1: Make sure your company, organization, or business serves the common good and promotes human flourishing
Business owners and heads of companies: Your company does not exist primarily to make maximum profit for yourself, partners, and shareholders. Your organization exists to serve the common good and to contribute to human flourishing. So make decisions that promote human flourishing, and don’t make decisions that you know will harm the common good just because it will be profitable.
If you have the power and authority to shape the vision and mission of your company, organization, or business, shape it so that it serves the common good and contributes to human flourishing. Make it so compelling that thoughtful Christians would want to work for your company because they know their work is for good.
Employer Application #2: Treat your employees justly and fairly
Treat your employees with respect and dignity. Pay them their fair wages and just compensation. Provide them with benefits to help them take care of their families.
Don’t see your employees as just units of production, but see them as people that God is calling you to lead, love, and serve. Treat them the way that you would want your son or your daughter to be treated if they worked for another employer or company. Create a workplace culture where your employees feel valued, cared for, and loved — not used.
When you treat your employees well, it pleases your employees, but more importantly, it pleases your Master in heaven.
Employer Application #3: Don’t let maximizing profit be the ultimate goal. Be counter-cultural
In our business culture, it is all about the bottom line. But you have the opportunity to be beautifully different! As a Christian, you can lead your company, your organization, your practice, and your business in such a way that it serves the common good and treats your employees fairly and justly — even if it means making less profit.
That would make you a countercultural leader, and it would make your company a countercultural company. It would be refreshingly different!
By the grace of God, be the kind of employer that every employee would love to work for because they know that you love them and care for them. You have a kind and gracious Master in heaven; therefore, be a kind and gracious boss to those under your authority.
As Christians, you are called to be faithful to Jesus in every sphere of life, including the workplace. So, by God’s enabling grace, seek to be faithful to Jesus wherever you work, and do your work to contribute to the common good, all to the glory of God.
Let us end with one last question: As you go back to work, what changes in your attitude, speech, or actions do you want to make so that you might be more faithful to Jesus in your workplace?
Owen Lee serves as the Senior Pastor of Christ Central Presbyterian Church in Centreville, VA. He received his BA in Rhetoric at U.C. Berkeley and his M.Div at Westminster Seminary, CA. Before his call to serve as the Senior Pastor of Christ Central in 2012, he served as the English Ministry Pastor of New Life Mission Church in Fullerton, CA from 2000 to 2002, and then as the church-planting pastor of New Life Mission Church in Burbank, CA from 2002 to 2011. He is married to Margaret, and they have 3 children together- Abby, Caleb, and Lizzy.