Can You Take God to Work?
Sometimes, what goes on in the workplace can seem like the epitome of evil. That's right: Sin takes place in the workplace, just as it does everywhere else in the world. In fact, nothing we human beings do is immune to the plague of sin that was set loose in the Garden of Eden, but God still desires for us to work and to gain enjoyment and satisfaction from our productivity and labor. Therefore, it is a mistake for a Christian to leave God out of the details of work and/or employment.
Sin and disobedience to God takes place in the workplace all the time. The fact that this is a true statement does not mean that work and/or employment is evil, but it does mean there are sinful people in workplaces just as there are sinful people everywhere else in the world. As the world becomes more and more against the teachings of the Bible, and as more people join the movement away from God and the Bible, the more we will witness worldly and sinful ways of living replacing God’s ways in our lives.
Work and God? What About Separation of Church and State
In our society, “we the people” have agreed it is a good idea to separate church and state. In fact, I think we’ve taken it a bit further than the state, and what we really have in popular culture and society today is something closer to separation of church and everything else. There is a growing “attitude” that there is something wrong with mixing God or church-related thought with other activities, and it now has many people believing there is no place for God in the workplace—or in the mall, the park, at the movie theater, the zoo, or any public place, building, or facility of any kind. As a result, evil is running rampant in all these places, and in all aspects of life. In fact, it seems like where and when God’s wisdom is not welcome; the devil begins to feel right at home.
The Bible is God's word, and God's word is our only defense against sin. But God did not create religion. Mankind did. The work done by the Apostle Paul in trying to speak to various groups representing different forms of religion demonstrates that God is indeed concerned about how mankind is using religion as a means of further separation from Him. In speaking to the church at Corinth (1 Corinthians 1:10), Paul said: “Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment.”
Work, God, Religion, and Worldliness ...
Religion is fraught with the contention and problems of the world, because religion is worldly. For this reason, I am among the staunchest supporters of the notion that religion and work need to be kept separate. Religion is often a respecter of persons, and it can create little “dynasties” among groups of church members. Many times, some worshipers are seen as being “better” or more important than others. There are also a lot of people who use religion as a worldly “cover” for their commitment to a life of sin. They hide a multitude of sins behind a cloak of righteousness by attending church, working in the church, and sometimes, by leading a church.
And then there are the church money issues. There are a lot of people in a lot churches, hiding behind religion, doing all kinds of things with church funds, and expecting everyone in the church to turn a “blind eye” to these things. Why? Because those committing the wrongs are in fact the leaders of the church. And just as there are lots of churches where there is very little evidence of the presence of God within the hearts, spirits, and work of the people who run them, there are also religions that seem to move people further away from God, instead of closer to Him. And therein lies the rub. If we cannot keep God and His ways in our minds and spirits while we are inside the church, and within our religion, it is no wonder we don’t want to bring Him into the workplace either. A lot of the problems we encounter at work would only be made worse by bringing religion into the picture.
Still, just because the workplace has become a sanctuary for sin, that does not mean that employment is inherently bad. In fact, just the opposite is true. It is not only good to work, it is godly to work.
The Bible tells us that God worked to create the world and everything in it. He was the original worker, and when He was done with the work of creating everything, God looked at what He had done, and said it was “good.” That means not only is it good to work, it is also good to be productive, and to take pleasure in productivity.
Remember, it was God’s work that created the world and everything in it. And it is God’s work that keeps anyone able to work and to have the choice to do or not to do His will every day as they work. Even though many people today are choosing not to do God’s will while at work (or at home, but for now, I’m talking about work), God still loves and cares for us all. Jesus said in John 5:17: “My Father worketh hitherto, and I work.”
Taking visible representations of faith out of our workplaces and out of our leisure-time spaces, officially, does not mean you and I as Christians, or anyone of any faith, has to leave God at home. Separation of church and state is a political strategy designed to keep religion and politics separated. And even though I am a devoted follower of the Christian faith, even I can see the merits of that. Mankind—as a whole—still has not learned to use religion and faith practices to become filled with godly wisdom and goodness. Instead, religion is still a means of separation, and—too often—it’s another word for confusion and sometimes even hatred and war. But practicing religion and choosing to love and to serve a loving God are different things.
Religion is not necessarily concerned with people who are intent on keeping God’s ways in all aspects of life (Jesus’s parable about “The Good Samaritan” being a prime case in point). So while I am all for keeping religion and work separated, I’m not at all for keeping God’s wisdom and work separated. Just as God’s wisdom needs to be in politics (inside the politicians) in a big way, I think it also needs to be in the workplace in a big way as well.
Who's Who, Who's God, and What's What at Work
In Matthew 7:15–20, Jesus taught us that we will know a tree by its fruit. A healthy tree, He said, cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit.
“Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus you will recognize them by their fruits.”
Psalm 19 teaches us that God reveals Himself to us through His work. That is how we are to know that how we approach and think about our work reveals something about each of us. While it will not create your character, it will definitely reveal it. It will show, ultimately, your skills/abilities, motivation, character, and your personality traits, for better or for worse. God created human beings for His own glory, and that means anything we do, including our jobs, should glorify God (1 Corinthians 10:31).
Are you glorifying God at work every day? Just because sin can and does occur, rampantly, inside the workplaces of the nation and the world every minute of every day, it still doesn’t mean you have to leave God at home; he is allowed at work. But, the only way He can be there is if you take Him there inside of you—allowing His wisdom and His ways to guide you in all you think, say, and do.
Don’t be naïve enough to think sinfulness in the workplace begins or ends with the Bernie Madoffs and Jerry Sanduskys of the world. They’re simply some of the ones that got caught. There are CFOs, CEOs, corporate board members, and staff/employees of all ranks and titles that are doing wrong in one way or another, in all corners of corporate America.
Don’t forget, work is still one of the most popular places on earth for cheaters and adulterers of all varieties. A recent study conducted at the University of Washington found that, for those who cheat on their spouse, 46 percent of women and 62 percent of men cheated with someone they met at or through work. One study says the workplace is the number one place where a married person meets the one they end up cheating with.
God, Religion, and Politics
There is a saying that you should never talk about religion or politics in the workplace. The reason this is probably a good idea is that we all feel very strongly about the things we feel strongly about. There are just some things in life that people will never agree about, and it is probably not a good idea to try to impose our religious beliefs (or lack thereof) on people in the workplace.
We’re too weak-minded, as humans, to truly respect EVERY individual’s right to disagree with us, or to have an opinion that is different from our own. Most have not learned how to “live and let live,” so we allow our feelings about people and what they believe or don't believe, to color decisions we make with regard to them in the workplace.
Therefore, to keep peace in the workplace so that we can work, it seems that it might be best, in the interest of harmony, to just keep things related to religion and politics out of environments where we earn our income. Why? Because we are not necessarily speaking to or surrounded by “like-minded” individuals. And, since we all want our religious and personal beliefs and doctrine (or lack thereof) to be respected at all times, it may be best to leave discussions related to these things out of the places where we have to work together to achieve work-related goals.
Yes, You Can Take God to Work—Inside You
With that said, I also have to say that I think the best way for God to be in the workplace is for each of us Christians to carry Him there inside of us. In our minds, in our souls, in our hearts and in our spirits. We can carry God inside of us, allowing His ways to direct and guide how we talk to others, how we treat others, and how we make decisions concerning what we do for and to others, in the workplace. If each one of us would carry God’s wisdom and His ways into the workplace as our primary employee handbook, there would be no need for anyone to try to force religion into secular or worldly concerns.
As individuals, as Christians, we need to be more concerned about the God in us. We need to check to make sure our minds, our spirits, our intentions, our motives, our predispositions and prejudices, and our souls are vehicles for the wisdom and the ways of God. If we would put God within the fine details of our lives, inside and outside the workplace, everyone—employers and employees alike, would benefit greatly.
© 2012 Sallie B Middlebrook PhD