This is a continuation from Tuesday’s post. Below are the last three qualities of what makes business Christian.
Christian work is Holiness-Reflecting
If Christians work for God, that should inherently make them work with excellence. But knowing that God sees everything we do should also make us with integrity. Work that is “Christian” will conform to the highest standards of ethics.
Paul goes on in Colossians to explain that everything we do is done with respect for our watching Master in heaven to whom we will give an account. That means, Paul says, even when our boss is a jerk (many of the people to whom Paul is writing were literally owned by their boss!), Christians do their work unto God. Our work ought to make it obvious that we serve a God of justice and kindness. This means that Christian bosses ought to be less concerned with what they can get away with and more concerned with the fact that they are accountable to a heavenly Master. Christian employees ought not to cut corners or lie about how much work they have been putting in. Business ethics really matter because in them we mirror the character of God. God says that “unjust balances,”-cut corners, fudged balance sheets, skimped time cards, and etc-are an abomination to Him (cf. Prov 11:1). Poor business ethics are no trifling matter.
Christian Work is Redemption-Displaying
If Christians were to act in their jobs with equity and fairness, that alone would set them apart. But those who have been touched by the gospel do not merely attempt to hold to high ethical standards: They live lives with a radically altered perspective of gratitude. What Christ has done by redeeming us to the Father produces a natural response of grace towards others.
I recently heard a story about a young college graduate who landed a job on Madison Avenue, in one of the advertising world’s most prestigious firms. Shortly after she got there, she made a mistake that cost the company $25,000. Madison Avenue is not a world defined by grace, and she expected to be fired by the end of the day. Her boss, however, went before his board of directors, convincing them to allow the blame for her mistake to fall on him instead. When this young woman heard what her boss had done, she came to him crying. In tears, she asked him why in an atmosphere as cutthroat as that of Madison Avenue advertising, he would choose to cut his own throat for her. He answered by sharing how 15 years earlier Jesus had done a very similar thing for him, stepping in the way of the wrath that he deserved. Because of the great grace that Jesus had shown him, he felt to do that for others when he could.
When we work to display redemption, we no longer angle for position, shrewdly networking so that every relationship we have and every activity of our day serves our bottom line. In fact, Christ’s grace changes our desires so that we seeknew bottom lines. If truly touched by grace, Christians in business begin to leverage their resources to bless those in need. If truly touched by grace, Christians in business consider ways to use their work in taking the gospel to places where it is not known.
Some Christians may object to a perspective like this. Grace is something that applies in the spiritual realm, they may say, but not in business: “I worked for what I have-I earned it!” they might say. A person may certainly feellike she has earned everything that she has, but where did she get her tough-minded work ethic? Her intelligence? These were the grace of God. By whose decree did she grow up in the United States instead of in a Brazilian favela? Certainly not by her own-this also was the grace of God. The very air she breathed and food she ate were provided to her as gifts of grace. Jesus taught that the kingdom of God belongs to those who are “poor in spirit”-who recognize that all they have is a gift of grace. The “middle class in spirit”-who believe they are merely reaping through fruit of their labors, will know nothing of the Kingdom of God, because they have no concept of the magnitude of the grace of God in their lives. When someone understands how much they are indebted to grace, they will begin to see every situation they are in, whether in business or the church, as a place not to be served, but to serve.
The call to leverage our lives for the Kingdom of God is not the special assignment of a sacred few. All disciples of Jesus are called to see their lives as seeds to be “planted” for God’s kingdom. Jesus said that if our lives were a party, it should be thrown for those who can’t pay us back. Sometimes I think we’ve invented this whole language of calling to mask the fact that the majority of people in our churches are not living as disciples of Jesus.
Christian Work is Mission-Advancing
Work done by disciples of Jesus should be done with a view toward the Great Commission. In Acts we see that God used business people to get the gospel around the world even faster than the Apostles could. Luke seems to go out of his way to make this point. He notes that the first time the church “went everywhere preaching the word,” the Apostles were not engaged (Acts 8:1). He also notes that when Paul finally arrives in Rome to preach Christ there, he is greeted by “hospitable brothers,” who seem to have been there for quite some time (Acts 28:7). As Steven Neill notes in his classic History of Christian Missions, of the three great church planting centers in the ancient world (Antioch, Alexandria, and Rome), not one was founded by an Apostle.
In the same way, Christians in the marketplace today are able to gain access more easily to strategic, unreached places. Globalization, revolutions in technology, and urbanization have given the business community nearly universal access.
Secular skills are needed to give Christians access to countries that would otherwise swiftly reject their presence. The countries most in need of a gospel presence-those in the so-called “10-40 window”-are devastated by poverty and joblessness. These places need both the words of the gospel and the tangible reflection of God’s love that businesses can provide. Millions in this region are without work and without the knowledge of Christ.
One example, though dozens could be provided, is the nation of Iran. As a country, Iran is an unreached area in desperate need of the gospel. As of today, there are 10 million seeking employment in Iran, a number that could eclipse 20 million within the next 15 years. How are places like this to be reached? Iran can be reached through the efforts of average Christian businesspeople taking their skills and expertise overseas. This may not be the path for every Christian, but perhaps God is challenging you to consider leveraging your work for his mission-advancing purposes.
Not every Christian, of course, will be led to perform their business in an unreached people group. But disciples of Jesus should always do their work with a view toward the Great Commission. A “missional vision” for Christian work is to do it well, and to do it, if at all possible, somewhere strategic. Proverbs 22:29 says, “Do you see a man skillful in his work? He will stand before kings; he will not stand before obscure men.” Believers who do their work well can be greatly used in the work of the Great Commission; their excellence in business can give them audiences with the “kings” and influencers of the most unreached peoples in the world.
God is interested in how Christians do their work, and He wants to be involved in it. Your work can make an eternal difference in the lives of those you work with, those you work for, and those you serve through your job. Allow the transformation of the gospel to change the way you look at and do your work. You were redeemed by grace-now live out that grace in the context of your job. You may never look at work the same way again.