Work is a huge part of our lives. Often our jobs are what define us and give us purpose and identity, in addition to providing us with the means to take care of our own needs. Christians believe that to work is to fulfill part of God’s design for humanity. For the Christian, work is a divine calling. In the Garden of Eden the Bible records man being given his first job, which was to care for and tend to God’s created world. In doing work, Christians are not only fulfilling one of their core purposes, they are also taking part in the ongoing story of creation begun by God thousands of years in the past.
Since Christians believe that work is a divine calling, and that each one of us is made with purpose and design, they also believe that God equips individuals with talents, interests, and fine skills with which to realize their purpose. For some it might be athletic ability, for others it might mean the ability to empathize with hurting people, for still others it might mean a strong memory and keen mind that can understand complex mathematical and scientific problems.
This is in keeping with the overall biblical theme of God calling people to play specific roles in the world and equipping those people to complete the work he had assigned. Solomon was wise, Sampson was very strong, Isaiah was a bold preacher, Joseph was good at administration, Paul was learned in the law, and on, and on, and on. Each one of those people played a very important role according to the abilities with which they had been blessed.
It follows then that a Christian employee will most likely be well equipped to do their job, if it is the job God designed them for. What’s more, if they have not yet learned to do the job but it is the job they have been made for then they probably already carry the basic skills and have the ability to further develop, refine, and harness those skills fairly easily.
Okay, so now that we’ve looked at what Christians generally believe about their individual design and identity as people who work, we should look at some of the more specific traits of Christian character that directly impact how they live out their role as either employee or employer. First, let’s look at what you should be able to expect of a Christian employee and then we’ll get into Christian employers.
Christians get their standards for living, working, playing, loving, serving, and worshipping from the Bible, first and foremost. That is not to discount the ways that experience, reason, and tradition contribute to their overall lifestyle, but those things are always informed and supported by the Bible, and the Bible has a lot to say about how Christians should conduct themselves in everyday life, including in the workplace. Here are some of the major traits that committed Christians should be exhibiting which have a direct impact on how they handle being an employee.
One of the defining traits believed by Christians to be inherent in all of them as God develops them into the kind of people he wants them to be is their having a servant’s heart. One of Jesus’ common themes was that in order to be first, one must become last and the servant of all. Completely committed followers of Jesus are not focused on trying to look good. They are trying every day to live into the lifestyle attributes Jesus taught. The servant’s heart trait comes out in the way Christians deal with fellow employees who are in line for a promotion, with the way that they take orders from those above them, and in the way they serve a client who calls with a specific need or problem.
Christians understand that all are subject to the authority of God, just as some are subject to those who have authority in earthly things. For this reason a Christian can work in a lesser position without always questioning why they should have to do something, or feeling as though they should be the one calling the shots. They should be the least apt to have negative feelings over the fact that their boss has a higher income, a better car, and more apparent freedom in their daily life.
Another trait that should define a Christian is their honesty and integrity. Christians are not given to thievery, be it a box of pencils from the supply room, fuel on the company fuel card, cash from the cash drawer, information, or anything else that can be wrongfully taken. More than that, they view dishonesty as the same as outright stealing, so a Christian should be prone to completing reports with precision and truthful figures. In the case of a serious problem or a catastrophic incident, a Christian should be the one who gives an accurate accounting to why a part was scrapped or how a coworker was injured, even if reporting these things would cast them as the one who caused the scrapped part or the injury. A little white lie is still a lie, plain and simple. For a Christian it is wholly inappropriate.
It may be hard to believe, and it may even be refreshing depending on what you see from day to day, to know that Christians are not given to gossiping, backbiting, or arguing, either. In fact, their view of fellow employees and their employer should cause them to be real team players, even filling the role of peacemaker, confidant, or encouraging friend from time to time. Their concern for the people around them and for the well-being of the company they work for should be obvious. Christians who take what they believe seriously are likely to be taking their concerns for coworkers, bosses, and company operations to God in the form of prayers on their behalf.
Christians generally tend to take good care of themselves physically, as well. As a result, they are less likely to straggle in late after a night of drinking or watching the big game, less likely to fail a drug test, and less likely to have related health problems that can drive up healthcare costs and workplace injury statistics.
They should be dependable because Christians have a biblical belief that they should do everything with the same devotion and care that would be given if they were doing it for God himself. They believe they are always representing God in the world. Christians should be the most likely to arrive on time and not call in sick or take personal days without legitimate cause.
If you have watched any news at all, you have probably seen occasional reports about the social stances taken by the Christian owners of certain businesses. One fast food restaurant that specializes in chicken sandwiches has been the center of attention several times. Christian employers are bound to look a little different from non-Christian employers, and this should not be surprising at all. Christian business owners believe that their faith must be present in every area of life, including their business life, so they try to operate by a set of standards that are in line with the teachings found in the Bible.
If you work for a Christian business owner you may not understand why they operate the way they do. Perhaps they expect you to be on time and accountable and to take responsibility for your own or your team’s actions. That falls right in line with the idea that all people are accountable for what they do or lead others to do, especially before God. Perhaps they refuse to cut corners, even when it would be easier or would save money or time. That aligns with the Christian idea that we are to do everything as if we are working for Jesus himself. Perhaps you have watched a Christian employer take down a skin calendar from the lunchroom wall. Christian people strive to keep their thoughts, conversations, and motives pure and that includes removing influences that might cause them to fall off the wagon and into sin.
Employers who are also Christians should be dependable and honest, conducting business in a way that does not call their integrity into question. To do so could call into question their very commitment to God, the integrity of the church, and to some, maybe even the integrity and reality of God himself.
Because a primary Christian attribute is to have a servant’s heart, employers and supervisors who are believers should be less likely to think they are above having to get dirty or having to do menial tasks. In fact, in the Christian worldview there are no menial tasks. They are also likely to be encouragers of their employees, forgiving when things go wrong, yet being just when it is necessary, even if it means they have to let someone go. Christian employers often make it a priority to pray for their employee’s needs, worries, joys, personal struggles, family issues, successes, and more.
Unfortunately, the work lives of some Christians, either as employees or as employers are pure hypocrisy when compared to the kinds of things Jesus taught in the Bible. It is helpful to remember that Christians are no different from anyone else. They just recognize that they have a higher source of accountability. They are susceptible to falling short, screwing off, slandering, swearing, cheating, or committing any other blatant sin just like the next guy or gal.
The difference is that Christians should be striving to honor God by trying not to do these things, and when they do mess up, they seek forgiveness for their actions. That is not to make excuses for wrong actions. There is no excuse for wrong actions in the Christian worldview. Wrong is wrong. Period. It is only to say that doing wrong is not the end of the road, nor does it necessarily permanently define the wrongdoer.