The oft-repeated story is that Martin Luther once asked a bricklayer, “What are you doing?” And the bricklayer replied, “I’m laying bricks.” Luther then asked the worker beside him, “What are you doing?” And that bricklayer said, “I’m building a cathedral to the glory of God.” That response helped Luther to grasp the reality that every person serves in a holy calling with a holy purpose. In fact, he even said, “We ought to have ordination services for bricklayers.”
Because Christ is Lord of all, the work you do for him is holy before God. Abraham Kuyper, who was prime minister of the Netherlands and an influential theologian, once wrote: “There is not a square inch in the whole domain of our human existence over which Christ, who is Sovereign over all, does not cry: ‘Mine!’”
In the third chapter of Colossians, the apostle Paul writes: “Whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him” (v. 17). And just so we know that “everything” includes our workplaces, Paul says in verse 23, “Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men.” These verses remind us that in every place we go, we are on holy ground, being called to serve God’s purposes.
Our Work and Our Profession
How do we begin to see and act as though the work we do is included in the purposes of Jesus Christ? We begin by understanding that our vocation is truly our profession. In our work, we profess what we understand about the nature of our relationship with God and his relationship with us.
What are we actually professing in our work? Colossians 3:17 tells us: “Whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus.” If you do something in Jesus’s name, you represent him, and you promote him. Everything you do should be in the name of Christ. What that means in the workplace is that we should work as though we have the name of Christ upon us.
Reflecting Christ in Our Practices
When we are in the workplace, we bear the name of our Savior. And that has certain implications for every Christian. We recognize that we are representing his character and his care in our relationships.
Christ’s righteousness is to be seen in our practices. So our annual reports and reviews are honest. We don’t take advantage of customers in pricing or in billing. Because we represent Christ, we don’t cheat the boss on our time cards or on expense reports, even if others do. We don’t lie to regulators. We don’t lie to the IRS. Why? Because our Lord has written his name on us so that others can see him.
We represent Jesus in all we do. His character and righteousness are represented in our integrity. His justice is to be seen in our fairness. We don’t show favoritism, and we don’t ride the people we don’t like because we are representing Jesus’s love for all. We give others the benefit of the doubt and try to treat them as we would like to be treated because that’s how Jesus treats us.
Dick Halverson, the longtime pastor of Fourth Presbyterian Church in Washington, D.C., and at one time the U.S. Senate chaplain, spoke of a businessman who’d been converted in his church. The man wanted to make a difference in his workplace and reported to his pastor, “I have decided to give New Testaments to all of my employees and to all of my customers.” And Dick Halverson, who knew something of the man, replied, “Well, that’s wonderful, but it might be better if you gave them some respect.”
We bear the name of Jesus in how we treat people with dignity and mercy. We represent his character in such a way that his heart is seen in our compassion. So we give people second chances and opportunities to change. We provide help or coaching for those who are struggling. And we wrestle and weep over the hard decisions when we have to make them.
We are not calloused to people’s struggles. We represent the heart of our Savior. We are generous with God’s provisions, because we recognize that God’s people — and those not yet God’s people — need to know him through the ministries of the church and the work of missions.
Finally, to represent his character, his humility is to be seen in our humility. We don’t always have to have the first word. We don’t always have to have the last word. And we don’t have to have the credit.
Those of you who know a little bit about basketball may recall the most famous lesson that coach Dean Smith taught players at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He told them, “If you make a basket, you always point at the man who passed you the ball.” Strutting and showboating were not to be a part of that program. His players knew that they didn’t claim the credit; they gave the credit away.
Giving credit away in the workplace can be difficult for Christians because we recognize that even when we are reflecting Christ’s character, there can be advantages for us. After all, if your hard work and perseverance are a positive example to others in the office and on business trips, then you may be thought of as the kind of person who should get greater rewards or responsibilities. These are not bad things in themselves and can be aspects of God’s blessing upon our faithfulness.
Still, when there are opportunities to speak for the Savior, we should give the credit to him. We use our successes to point to his provision or to the people he has supplied. This is not mere posturing but recognition that all we are and do is a result of God’s provision. He enables our successes, and when we mess up, needing his forgiveness and aid, he provides abundantly from his grace what we most need to fulfill his purposes.
Christ should get the credit for what we do and who we are because apart from him we can do nothing (John 15:5). So, we seek to bring a godly example and ethics to our work primarily so that people can know our Savior, not so that they will think highly of us. Ordinarily, living for God brings earthly as well as eternal blessing, but even if godliness requires sacrifice, we offer it so that others can know him. This means, of course, that if we are to reflect Christ, then his character should be evident in practices that honor him even if they cost us.
Content adapted from Grace at Work by Bryan Chapell, ©2022. Used by permission of Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.