“I Owe, I Owe, It’s Off To Work I Go,” is the attitude of the average person in America when it comes to working. In the typical work week, we spend more time wishing than we do working. We figure it’s a good day if we did nothing but still got paid.
What a contrast to what the apostle Paul teaches in 1 Timothy 6:1-2. As Christ followers, we should be the very best employees. If we fail to give our best efforts on the job, we risk the credibility of our faith and we rob our employer of possible blessings.
This passage is not the easiest to understand. Paul lived in the first century and we reside in the 21st century. He wrote from the Roman Empire and we read it in Massachusetts in the USA (at least I do). Paul addressed slaves and we are employees. We need to discover the principles that can serve as a bridge between our two cultures.
The principle we discover in this passage is that we are to work hard and treat our employers with respect and honor. Rather than viewing work as a curse, we need to remember it is a sacred duty assigned to mankind in the Garden of Eden (Genesis 2:15). In addition, all of us are called to serve regardless of our social, educational, economic, racial, or gender status (Galatians 5:13).
While the principle is clear, it raises two questions as to implementation. “What if my employer is an unbeliever?” is the first question that comes to mind. The answer is that we need to remember that regardless of whose company logo and signature is on our paycheck, we are serving Jesus Christ (Colossians 3:22-24). Whether your supervisor is as devious as Mr. Burns, as dimwitted as the pointy haired boss in Dilbert, or somewhere in between, we are ultimately serving Christ. Because they are in a position of authority, we need to honor our employer, regardless of how he or she treats us (1 Peter 2:17-18).
When we don’t work hard, when we don’t give our best efforts on the job, when we choose to dishonor our boss or employer, we put our faith at risk. Paul says we are to honor our employers so that “the name of God and the teaching may not be reviled.” If we are as lazy, disrespectful, and indifferent as everyone else we work with, they have the right to conclude that Christ has not made any difference in our lives. That’s a sobering and scary thought.
“What if my employer is a believer?” is the second question Paul addresses. Because we are both part of the family of God, we cannot afford to treat our boss with disrespect. Rolling of the eyes, talking back, rude gestures, pinning their face on a dart board, derogatory nicknames—none of these should be part of our vocabulary or practice. Instead, we should seek to be a blessing so that our supervisor and/or employer can receive all of God’s blessings.
Here are a few ideas of how to practice faith@work. Be the most: “on time” employee; respectful; hardest working; caring/loving; dependable; cooperative; productive; and servant hearted. Pray for: your supervisors; the company owner; your coworkers; the company to be profitable; and God’s blessing on the company.
This is the synopsis of a message preached at First Central Baptist Church in Chicopee, MA, on April 27, 2014. It is part of a series in 1 Timothy. Please click on the link to download a copy of the sermon notes.