2 Oct 2014 by Adeline Lum CM-
On 20th of September, more than 60 people attended the workplace ministry session, The Bible and Work, at St Mary’s Cathedral.
Bible College professor John Woodhouse from Sydney was the speaker that evening before the event ended with a Q&A session with Woodhouse, legal advisor Janice Chia, and lawyer Jeffri Chiam.
Since more of us spend about or more than eight hours a day in work, work is a big part of our life.
In light of the meaning of work, Woodhouse shared the meaning of work in the first few chapters of Genesis.
THE ORIGINAL DESIGN OF WORK
Firstly, God’s purpose for human beings is to work. Why? This is because even before God made Adam, He was already at work in creating the world. And every time He completed His work, He saw that His work is good. (Gen 1:3; Gen 1:10; Gen 1:12; Gen 1:18; Gen 1:21; Gen 1:25; Gen 1:31)
Because God created Adam in His likeness (Gen 1:27), humans are also meant to work like God as well. That is why after creating Adam; God placed him in a garden to work it. (Gen 2:15) Also, because God delighted in His work, God intended us to delight in our work as well.
Secondly, God placed Adam in the garden to ‘care’ for it or basically to protect his environment, not to destroy it. To care also meant to selflessly serve others and not selfishly exploit or hurt others for our own benefit.
Thirdly, although God intended our work to be delightful and fruitful, our work became painful when sin came. Because of sin, God cursed the ground to produce thorns and thistles, which make work painful and laborious. (Gen 3:17-19) Not only the ‘ground’ or work became hard, the sin in us and other people cause a lot of pain. That is why we experience rejection, selfishness, jealousy, anger, and apathy.
2 WAYS WE CAN FAIL AT WORK
There are two big ways we can fail in work.
Firstly, work can become an idol in our life, where it replaces God in becoming our source of security, significance, and provision. It is easy to make our work an idol because we spend a lot of our time in it.
But idolizing work is not the same with working diligently under a lot of pressure. A litmus test to see if we made work an idol is to ask ourselves, “Does everything else has to give way to the demand of my work?” For example, must family always fit into work but work never fits into family?
Secondly, we can become idle in our work but idleness is not consistent with God’s way. That is why Paul urged some believers in Christ to work hard like him to earn for their food and not rely on other people. (2 Thes 3:13)
7 For you yourselves know how you ought to follow our example. We were not idle when we were with you, 8 nor did we eat anyone’s food without paying for it. On the contrary, we worked night and day, laboring and toiling so that we would not be a burden to any of you. 9 We did this, not because we do not have the right to such help, but in order to offer ourselves as a model for you to imitate. 10 For even when we were with you, we gave you this rule: “The one who is unwilling to work shall not eat.”
11 We hear that some among you are idle and disruptive. They are not busy; they are busybodies. 12 Such people we command and urge in the Lord Jesus Christ to settle down and earn the food they eat. 13 And as for you, brothers and sisters, never tire of doing what is good.
14 Take special note of anyone who does not obey our instruction in this letter. Do not associate with them, in order that they may feel ashamed. 15 Yet do not regard them as an enemy, but warn them as you would a fellow believer.
(2 Thes 3:7-15 NIV)
5 THINGS THAT MAKE US DIFFERENT AT WORK
…Yet we urge you, brothers and sisters, to do so more and more, and to make it your ambition to lead a quiet life: You should mind your own business and work with your hands, just as we told you, so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders and so that you will not be dependent on anybody. (1 Thes 4:10-12)
Woodhouse shared that when Jesus is our Lord and Savior, it changes everything in our life including how we perceive work.
He shared that being a Christian is more important than being promoted, being noticed, and being successful. That is why Paul advised the church with the paradox of making it our ‘ambition’—as in make an effort—to live a quiet life, mind our own business, and work with our hands. (1 Thes 4:11)
Firstly, a quiet life characterizes a contented life that is free from self-centered ambitions, so that we can care for others.
Secondly, minding our own business meant attending to our responsibilities without controlling other people’s responsibilities.
Thirdly, Paul also asked the church in Thessalonica to work with their hands because the Thessalonica believers tend to look down on manual labor and see them as undignified. But Paul said that they should not use that perspective as a reason of idleness.
Fourthly, Paul urged the believers to live in such a way that would win the respect of outsiders. However, he shared that some Christians underperform or skip their responsibilities at work to fulfill their commitment to the church and ministry. But if we work as such, how can we win the hearts of our nonbelieving colleagues, staffs, and bosses?
Woodhouse stressed that we win the respect of the people in the workplace not by the world’s rules, but by integrity, honesty, contentment, and selflessness. There is a hidden charm in a person who works unselfishly in the marketplace.
Lastly, Paul urged the church to be dependent on no one, especially when our goal is to help others in the workplace.
Q&A SESSION: APPLICATION IN REAL LIFE
How do we prevent idleness and idolatry of work?
Janice Chia shared that she tends to switch between idleness and idolatry in her work life. To avoid idolatry, she fixes her eyes on God to remind herself that everything she has comes from Him. To avoid idleness, she will spend time with her colleagues or friends. During those times, God would either change her heart to be passionate of her work or change her work environment.
Because of her faith, she realized that there is a slight distinction in the risk she takes at work and the effort she makes in rehabilitating others, compared to working for herself. At the end of the day, what she does, speaks about her heart.
She also shared when she engages daily with God; she finds that her workplace becomes more exciting as she sees more and more of God at work.
To Janice, following Jesus’ way is counter-culture because all the books about leadership do not seem to fit into the equation. Serving others is more important and comes naturally to her when God is at the center of her life.
How do we keep our heart right before God?
Jeffri shared that he knows that his heart is deceitful. Hence, he will always check his heart to see if he is working hard to glorify God or glorify himself.
Do all Christians need to serve in church even though their vocation does not permit?
Woodhouse shared that there are no hard rules for deciding whether one should serve the church or not, but it comes in a case-by-case basis. He suggested a good aim will be going to church every week. But as to involvement in serving, it depends on the vocation of the person since there is no sacred-secular divide.
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