What exactly does the bible say about how to work? Colossians 3:23 says, “Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men.” What does hearty work for the Lord look like in a secular environment that values performance above all else? I’ve found that answers lie in where we put our trust, and what we know about the fear of the Lord. This kind of fear is quite the opposite of being afraid. Fearing God is about the wisdom that comes from respecting, obeying, and submitting to Him – especially at work. The word hearty translates as work that comes from out of our soul. Let’s look closer at three ways to bring your soul to work.
1. Keep God first.
There are no accidental occurrences. God’s sovereignty placed you in this position, with these people, for this season. He’s working out His will for you in your job. Pastor Al Mohler points out God’s will for us at work is a standard of excellence that points to our faith and His glory. Don’t be “run of the mill anything,” as he put it. We won’t like every task we are asked to perform. It’s not about like, but rather an attitude that points back to Christ.
Situations at work call for bearing Fruit. Three common Fruits I practice bearing at work are patience, love, and self control. I’ve learned some of this the hard way. Once in an attempt to solve a recurring problem, I found myself getting worked up in a conversation with a boss. At first she listened to my appeals with an understanding ear. But as my words quickly morphed into a rant, she gently put her hands on my shoulders and said, “Okay,” signaling that was enough. Right or wrong, my words were not helping and my untamed tongue reflected a lack of self control.
This can be difficult on stressful days, and it hurts to recognize when I fall short. But I’m grateful that God knows this and that He grants us lots of opportunities to fail. Because even in our failures we learn to depend on Him, find the humility to fix what needs fixing, and do better the next time.
Learn to set boundaries to manage your workload. Excellence is about refueling so you can pour out with a Godly work ethic. Know when to say no. Clear up a weekend for much needed down time. Learn how much you can commit to when serving, both short term and long term.
I knew a friend who quit the church choir because it was too hard to practice on a week night and give her all to her students the next day. She found a place serving in Sunday school instead. Wise choice.
Sometimes it will mean saying no to a boss who asks you to work overtime, or on Sunday morning. I used to think saying yes showed commitment and counted as my ‘work witness.’ I fell into a performance based mindset. The world evaluates on performance, but the Lord doesn’t. A word to my fellow perfectionists – at the end of the day, I have to care less about what the world thinks and more about what God thinks.
2. Build people up. Look for ways to encourage people. Here are some practical ways I’ve tried to do this. Giving compliments – I look for places to tell co-workers that someone has done a great job on a project. Leave encouragement cards on desks when you know someone has put in a long week. Find out a colleague’s coffee order and grab one for them from time to time.
Make your boss shine. He or she may not always make the same decision as you would. God puts us under authorities in the workplace and He desires our submission to them – which essentially is obedience to Him. Plus it is good practice for other relationships. All of the above tips can work for a boss too. Nurture a servant’s heart, a loving and humble heart that knows its true Master.
3. Practice practice practice.
The workplace is a perfect platform to practice what God is teaching me. Right now He’s teaching me to abide in Him. I talked to a friend recently about feeling anxious at work and she told me to look for the flashes of glory, the hints that remind me God shows Himself in the details of the day. I tried this for a week and it made such a difference.
I kept track of the times colleagues reached out to me to help with a tough task, and I counted the emails from teachers who took time to show appreciation for my training, These seemingly minor events, when noticed and tallied, have a huge impact on my attitude about work. God is using my work to make me more humble.
I’m learning to admit fault without a string of excuses or reasons, and be the first to apologize over a miscommunication, even when the other person is at fault. When I do this, I look different. And it’s not really me they see, but Christ in me.
Expect that the Lord is using this environment to grow you. Learn your gifts, talents, and skill set- seek opportunities to practice using them on the job. You never know what God is doing now for later. He could be grooming you for another life role or another season. Recently I realized how the last five years at work prepared me to serve others in specific ways at church. It is mysterious and beautiful how God orchestrates the symphony of His sovereignty. Find the song and sing it!
Click here to see what John Piper has to say on the topic .
Renee is a single Christian woman who serves as mentor staff in the college ministry at her local church. She works as a literacy coach for a school district in San Ramon, California. Her hobbies include: boating, wake boarding, Zumba, riding roller coasters, and watching classic movies.