Holiness in Work
We began this series on holiness by noting that holiness begins with a declaration by God. 1 Corinthians 6:9-11 teaches us that when we respond to His grace by being baptized into Christ He declares us to be justified (not guilty) and sanctified (made holy). We are at that time viewed by God as saints; i.e. we are set apart as His special people (1 Peter 2:9,10). However, God expects those He has declared to be holy to increasingly be transformed to become a more and more special people who perfect or complete their holiness. “But as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, because it is written, ‘Be holy, for I am holy’” (1 Peter 1:15,16). “Therefore, having these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God” (2 Corinthians 7:1).
In two previous articles we have looked at some practical implications of holiness as it relates to our speech and our morality, and in this article we want to think about how the principles of holiness should apply in our work. The Bible has a lot to say about the importance of work and though it says little in a direct way about the employer-employee relationship, it does provide us with much helpful instruction through its teachings on the master-servant relationship. How does the concept of holiness impact the Christian’s responsibilities toward work? How does his unique holiness distinguish him from other workers?
Let’s begin with the realization that being a Christian is our full-time profession. Seven days a week, twenty-four hours a day, we are saints of God who are expected to “let [our] light so shine before men, that they may see [our] good works and glorify [our] Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:16). On the job, in the field or the factory, employee or business owner, we are to conduct ourselves at all times in a manner worthy of the calling with which we are called (Ephesians 4:1). Though such conduct is not limited to the job, in the workplace we should be distinguished by our kindness, gentleness, helpfulness, forgiving spirit, clean talking, respectful conduct, purity of behavior toward the opposite sex, etc. On the job, as everywhere else, let us make certain our light is not hidden under a basket, but is brightly shining from the lampstand (Matthew 5:14,15).
If we are to be the people we ought to be at work, it is important we begin with a proper appreciation for work. As children of God we ought not view work as a “four-letter word.” Though the sin of Adam may have increased the difficulties of our labors (Genesis 3:17-19), man was expected to work even before the fall (Genesis 2:15). Though few people relish the thought of crawling out of bed on a Monday morning to go to work, the fact is that we will probably still want to eat, and unless we are willing to work we are not qualified to eat (2 Thessalonians 3:10). However, when we accept the responsibility of work we are entitled to the enjoyment of our daily bread. In addition to satisfying our own needs God expects us to provide for our families and if the difficulty of works keeps us from that we are worse than an unbeliever (1 Timothy 5:8). But beyond the fact that work is critical to providing for the basic necessities of us and our family, working enables us to do other good things in God’s service. Through our work we are able to give to others (Ephesians 4:28) and contribute our part to the church’s collection (1 Corinthians 16:1,2). As we go off to work, it is good to think about the fact that our labors that day will feed and clothe our families, contribute to the good of our nation (Romans 13:7), assist needy saints, help preach the gospel, contribute to the edification of the church, and many other good things.
Once we are at work we are to conduct ourselves in such a way that “the name of God and His doctrine may not be blasphemed” (1 Timothy 6:1). In Ephesians 6:5-9; Colossians 3:22—4:1; 1 Timothy 6:1,2; Titus 2:9,10; and 1 Peter 2:18-25 we find instructions regarding the master-servant relationship, and if we study these passages carefully we learn that we have the following responsibilities.
Work with enthusiasm as if giving service to the Lord (Colossians 3:22,23). The sign at one business read, “Fifty per cent of our employees work here.” While we may get a chuckle out of such a sign, the Christian employee will be a true worker. He will not merely give eyeservice when the boss is looking, but will work as well unsupervised as he does when under close scrutiny.
Respect the boss and do not talk back to him (Titus 2:9). Our culture so conditions us to “stand up for our rights” that we may forget that saints are to avoid “answering back.” In 1 Peter 2:18-25 servants are exhorted to be obedient and willing to suffer a wrong without doing evil in return. Is it easy to be that kind of worker? Certainly not, and that is why Peter exhorts us to look to the example of patient suffering set by Jesus.
Do not steal. Such seems obvious, but how many employees take home a few supplies, lift a few tools, pad expense accounts, etc.? Remember the exhortation of Titus 1:10 not to be guilty of pilfering, but instead to show all good fidelity. It may not be a big item, but if it is not ours, it should not become ours.
Those who work in supervisory positions must remember that they too have a Supervisor over them (Ephesians 6:9; Colossians 4:1). Treat those you oversee with respect or as it is put in Ephesians 6:9, “giving up threatening.” Make certain you always treat those under your supervision with fairness.
The Holy One has called us to holiness (1 Peter 1:15,16) and we need to make certain that this holy conduct which should govern every aspect of our lives is made to specifically include our work.
John R. Gibson
All quotes taken from the New King James Version, copyright 1994, Thomas Nelson Publishers.