In his helpful book Mastering Monday[i], John Beckett identified five themes which should be considered in our attempt to demonstrate God’s kingdom in the workplace. They are Purpose, Values, People, Stewardship, and Serving. These all are nurtured by the Gospel.
The Gospel gives us a clear purpose for our work; we serve Christ and extend his kingdom through what we do.
The Gospel gives us an ethic centred on love, and this guides all the steps we take and the decisions we make.
The Gospel reveals that people are God’s priority (and should be ours, too). It was for people – sinful, broken people – that Jesus hung on the cross and died.
The Gospel reminds us that our lives, skills, and talents belong to God. We are simply stewards. So as we clock in at the office, apply our minds to a problem, or contribute to a project, we are offering back what God has given to us in trust.
Finally, through Christ’s teaching and his atonement, we are taught to lay down our lives for others through serving (John 15:13).
We will briefly focus on the two themes of People and Serving.
The Gospel will lead us to value people above profits. Whether we work in risk management, financial planning, or customer service, it is people, ultimately, whom we are serving. Sadly, the ambition and drive in most workplaces inclines us towards the opposite. The lust for power and prestige means that people are often trampled upon. In a bid to be seen as ‘performing’, managers will exhaust their subordinates. In a bid to cut costs, organizations will refuse or delay payments to vendors for services rendered. And even employees will offer shoddy service to customers. Likewise, the daily pressure to thrive in a competitive environment often leads us to focus solely on the ‘bottom line’, without regard for the humans who are involved in shaping it. It helps to remember that without people, whether as employees, customers, or vendors, there would be no business.
John Chapter 13 is a remarkable chapter of the Bible. We have a stirring message proclaimed not merely in words but through vivid action. Shortly before his crucifixion, as he gathered with his disciples to celebrate the Passover, Jesus inverted the social pyramid. He took a towel and a bowl of water and washed the feet of each of his disciples. Contrary to social custom, the teacher became a servant to the student. Then he instructed them to do likewise.
We are called to serve others through our skills and talents. As Peter wrote, ‘As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace’ (1 Pet. 4:10).
In the words of John Beckett, ‘Serving is integral to how God wants his kingdom on earth to function.’ And we see this in Jesus’ instruction to the disciples in Mathew 20:26:
“Whoever wants to be great among you must be your servant”
In a city like Lagos, with its craze for prestige and lust for wealth, the message of Christ is profoundly counter-cultural. Lagosians seek to be recognized and celebrated. We want to move up the ladder of career success, not pick up a servant’s towel. But that is precisely what the Gospel implies. In light of the death and resurrection of Jesus, to work is to serve.
So how do we go about this? Perhaps we can start by noting the following:
As an employer, I should serve my employees, helping them to become their best selves. For we both have one master, which is Christ.
As a trader, I should offer goods of good quality to my customers and treat them well in the process.
As an executive within an organization, I should realize that I am serving the company by offering my skills and talents.
The Gospel leads us to understand that, ultimately, it is not my CEO or the customer whom I am serving but Christ.
[i]John D. Beckett. Mastering Monday: Experiencing God’s kingdom in the workplace. Inter-Varsity Press, 2006.