Listen to the commentary
Dear Marketplace Friend,
I hope you’re enjoying some time for yourself today – with your family and friends – as the last gasps of Summer are enjoyed doing something that refreshes your body and your soul.
Are you going back to work tomorrow? “Summer break” is no longer a big deal for people who have clocked-out forever (the classic American “retirement”). For them, vacations and holidays have become functionally meaningless; they’ve traded their timecard for a scorecard; this one’s not for them.
My working assumption this morning: you’re still on-the-job, and your faith is the foundation on which you build your life. Given those commonalities, my question expands: if you are going back to work tomorrow… Why?
We’d better have some solid answers; if your life aligns with your American working peers, you’ll invest 100,000 hours of your adult lifetime in your career.
There are two possibilities: 1) you work for someone else; or, 2) you work for yourself. Pick a lane; neither is more righteous, but both hold particular imperatives for the followers of Jesus.
If you work for someone else, here’s your breakthrough biblical paradigm: your career is, in fact, an aspect of your ministry: “Slaves, obey your earthly masters in everything; and do it, not only when their eye is on you and to curry their favor, but with sincerity of heart and reverence for the Lord. Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.” (Colossians 3:22-24). Your career is an essential part of your ministry.
First Century slaves are the 21st Century’s employees; the parallels are spot-on. Tempted to go to work with an attitude that only declines through the day, Paul’s counsel calls us to a higher plane: commit to uncompromised fulfillment of your supervisor’s expectations; work with passionate, righteous engagement and have confident expectation of future compensation. Your day-in, day-out labors have more-than-meets-the-eye value: “It is the Lord Christ you are serving.” Like a missionary in a frontier gospel desert, you’re wearing the Christian label; make sure you honor your Sponsor.
Perhaps you don’t punch a time clock; instead, you own the time clock, and the people who use it. After years of effort and boatloads of risk capital, the buck – and the bucks – stop with you. Are you at the top of the professional food chain in your career environment?
Here’s your biblical viewpoint: your business is a mission. Tax status doesn’t recognize your eternal responsibilities: there are non-profits (even faith-based entities) whose efforts don’t show up on God’s tally sheet. At the same time, the for-profit nature of your business doesn’t disqualify it from being listed among God’s highest-performing investments. How do you get in that line-up?
Paul’s model stands tall, though preceding our lifetime by two millennia. While giving his highest productivity years to expanding the footprint of the Kingdom into two continents held in Roman dominance, he conducted his tent business as a companion effort to his Calling.
When he landed in Corinth with the intent to stay long enough to establish the church, “There he met a Jew named Aquila, a native of Pontus, who had recently come from Italy with his wife Priscilla, because Claudius had ordered all Jews to leave Rome. Paul went to see them, and because he was a tentmaker as they were, he stayed and worked with them. Every Sabbath he reasoned in the synagogue, trying to persuade Jews and Greeks.” (Acts 18:1-4).
Why did he do that? He revealed his continuing strategy later to the elders from the church in Ephesus: “I have not coveted anyone’s silver or gold or clothing. You yourselves know that these hands of mine have supplied my own needs and the needs of my companions. In everything I did, I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’” (Acts 20:33-35). His positive cash flow from his business fully covered the cost of his ministry team, allowing them to work in the community without the need to raise money from the fledging congregation.
If you have a boss, here’s your shift: your real employer is Jesus, and your service is to Him.
If you own your business, you’re holding it in-trust for its real owner: God owns your enterprise, and it’s your mission, given to you to serve His purposes.
Happy Labor Day; tomorrow, make sure you head-back to work with the right understandings. We’re different than the folks who are just there for the paycheck, and who don’t have the hope we have.