Bible+Theology, Work

Living “Beyond Me” in our Work

Work. For many of us, it’s where we spend most of our days. What does the Bible have to say about it?

Well, quite a bit, but the challenge is that many of the passages on work are set in a context far different than our own.  

The Bible was not written to us, but for us. Nowhere does this feel more evident than in the New Testament passages firmly entrenched in the culture of the first century (such as Ephesians 6:5-9) in which work was set in the reality of slave/master relationships.  

Just the word slavery alone makes our skin crawl. So why doesn’t the Bible speak more strongly against it? And how can I get anything out of this passage when that question is staring me in the face?

To be able to understand how these passages speak into our reality today – particularly in our work settings – it’s important to understand how the Bible addresses an issue like slavery. During our “Good Work” series, we produced a “Cutting Room Floor” video on this topic. Take a look:

Cutting Room Floor

 

Back to our work. The jobs I’ve held over the years range from paperboy to construction worker, custodian to student, parent to pastor. How could Paul’s words written back then influence the way we perform our jobs now?

We may not be the boss at work (remember even most bosses have bosses), but all of us experience privilege and unique opportunities – even if only through being at a job longer than others around us.

Paul challenges those in Ephesus to be willing to follow the example of Christ through loving and serving one another – whatever their position.
What does this look like in the work we currently do (whether that is paid work, at home with kids, retired, looking for work, etc.)? Here are some prompts that have helped me…

  • When I am at my job, and find myself in a position of privilege, seniority, greater experience or expertise – what is my attitude towards my co-workers?  How and with whom can I leverage that – not for my own sake and success – but for those around me with less experience or tenure?
  • Are there jobs in my work setting that, if I am honest with myself, seem beneath me?  Can I move towards greater openness to serving others when those opportunities arise?
  • What is the culture in my workplace? Who is under-represented in the decision-making process? Are there opportunities for me to grow in shaping the culture so my workplace better reflects God’s good intentions for work?

Ephesians 6:5-9 may have not been written to us, but as we take the time to reflect on what being Christ-like (and thus counter-cultural) in our work settings today looks like, we can begin to see how much there is here for us.  As we do our work, not merely for our own gain, but from a place of serving Christ in all we do, we will find that living “beyond me” can lead to a life – even in our work – that is “beyond measure”.

 


About the Author: Craig Gartland
Craig is Pastor of Spiritual Formation at Blackhawk and oversees Adult Ministries. He completed his Master of Divinity at Fuller Theological Seminary and spent over two decades of his career in campus ministry. He is married to Sharon and they have four children. His passions include cycling, listening to jazz music, photography, and the writings of C.S. Lewis.