The gospel flips the way we think about the people with whom we work. Once you realize you work for Jesus and your first responsibility is to follow him, then you realize your job isn’t just about you anymore. Your job becomes an arena in which to worship and bring honor to God. And guess what? The second most important way you do that—right after loving God—is by loving other people, according to Jesus. What does it mean to be a faith-fueled servant in the workplace? We can identify several marks of a worker whose service is defined by faith in God and the good news of the gospel.
Mark #1: Determination Not to Complain
It is a rare and powerful witness not to complain at work. Complaints tend to be the common coin of the realm of the workplace. So when someone comes along who doesn’t speak Complaint as their native language, the effect can be astonishing. Look at what Paul writes in Philippians 2:14–16: If you refrain from complaining or quarreling, you will “shine like stars in the sky”! You’ll “hold firmly to the word of life”! Those are some astonishingly grand outcomes for doing something as simple-sounding as not complaining. None of this is to say that holding back your complaints is easy. It’s not! It’s incredibly hard. We naturally want to let others know when our own circumstances are uniquely bad and therefore especially worthy of complaint. But faith-fueled service in the workplace means we will be marked by a spirit of dogged determination not to grumble, not to complain.
Mark #2: Unfeigned Humility
More than a few of our problems at work stem from feeling that something we’ve been asked to do is beneath us. I shouldn’t be asked to do that, we think. I’m so much more valuable than that! Really? What place does that kind of thinking have in a Christian’s life? After all, if we are followers of Jesus, don’t we have to expect that we will find ourselves doing a lot of things that aren’t exactly commensurate with our “status”? Isn’t that what Jesus himself did? Think about how Paul describes Jesus’ work in Philippians 2:5–8. Once you take up the cross to follow Jesus, status just doesn’t hold the value it once did. When you find your worth in Christ’s work and your identity in him, you realize you are free to serve in whatever role and capacity he may have for you. You can be confident he knows exactly what he’s doing with your time and talents. In the end, it simply can’t be beneath you if it comes from the hand of the King. Faith-fueled service in the workplace means we will be marked by unfeigned humility that leads us to follow in the self-emptying footsteps of our King.
Mark #3: Godly Competitiveness
As Christians, the gospel frees us from the need to compete in ungodly ways with our peers. It rearranges and resets our ambitions. Instead of being driven merely to make much of ourselves, we’re driven to make much of Jesus in everything we do. Does this mean we should never compete against others? Let’s be clear upfront. Competition is not a bad thing. Being a Christian doesn’t mean we just have to curtsy and make way for everyone to pass us up. It’s not competition the Bible forbids, but rather the world’s playbook for competition—the cutthroat mentality that says the only way for you to go up is for everybody else to go down. Our goal as Christians is to compete with and love our coworkers all at the same time. How do we do that? We compete by working at whatever we do with all our heart, not by undercutting and sabotaging the efforts of our coworkers. Compete, but compete with honor. Win by running faster, not by tripping all your competitors. Even more, encourage them to run faster too. Help them see where they can improve their work, and congratulate them when they advance. Faith-fueled service means having a spirit of godly competitiveness, working hard before the Lord rather than taking others down.
Our workplaces can be gloriously sanctifying places for us. Conflict, difficult authority figures, and competitive coworkers are just some of the things God uses to mold and shape us into the Jesus-reflecting people he wants us to be. Don’t resent it if he’s put those things in your life right now. Figure out how he wants you to respond to them in order to become more like Jesus. Remember, you are in your job not just to pay the bills and not just to advance your career. You’re there to serve Jesus. Learn to serve and love others—whether they deserve it or not.
— Sebastian Traeger and Greg Gilbert, The Gospel at Work: How the Gospel Gives New Purpose and Meaning to Our Jobs (Updated and Expanded)
How to Use This Book
The Gospel at Work (Updated and Expanded) would make a great group study or discipleship resource. You’ll find gospel-rooted answers to some of the toughest questions that Christians have about their work:
- What factors should matter most in choosing a job?
- What gospel principles should shape my thinking about how to treat my boss, my co-workers, and my employees?
- Is full-time Christian work more valuable than my job?
- Is it okay to be motivated by money?
- How do you prioritize – or balance – work, family and church responsibilities?
Each chapter includes reflection questions to encourage group discussion. Pick up a copy today and see if it would be a good fit for your small groups or discipleship efforts.
The Gospel At Work
Sebastian Traeger and Greg Gilbert