Christian Work Ethics


Over the years I’ve had a number of opportunities to mentor and be mentored in the development of a work ethic. Sometimes I’d get into a situation where I didn’t take a job seriously– maybe because it doesn’t pay a lot, perhaps other jobs are easily available or “it’s not what I’m going to do with my life, I’m just doing it until something better comes along.” If God didn’t exist, I might have a valid point. But as Christians, we have to look at things differently.

Jesus tells us in John 16:10-12,
“Whoever is faithful in a very little is faithful also in much; and whoever is dishonest in a very little is dishonest also in much. If then you have not been faithful with the dishonest wealth, who will entrust to you the true riches? And if you have not been faithful with what belongs to another, who will give you what is your own?” (NRSV)
This isn’t how we naturally think, but I guarantee you, Jesus knows us better than we know ourselves, and you can take what he says here to the bank. The trouble is we all assume we’re different from everyone else. Even if we make compromises in small areas, we reason, we’ll come through when it counts. Don’t sweat the small stuff, right? Some people who would never rob a bank or steal money from a friend rationalize that it’s okay to sneak food out of a buffet restaurant or “borrow” office supplies from work. And stealing cable TV or illegally downloading music doesn’t really “cost” anyone anything, so they figure surely God doesn’t have issues with that.

Do you see the problem here? When we base our honesty or our work ethic on our own perceived value of something, we’re not showing real character. We’ve set up a false system where we’ll “be good” only if it’s worth our time. Even pagans do that!

But for years, I read these verses from John and subconsciously told myself that they didn’t apply to me.
“Lord, when I make more money, I’ll tithe, but right now, I can’t afford to.”
“This is a low paying job. I can goof off some. My employer is getting what they pay for.”
“It’s okay to be rough on a rental car. Everyone treats rental cars like junk.”
But that line of thinking doesn’t fly in the kingdom of God. The small stuff does matter, because God knows that if we’re faithful with the small stuff, then we’re basing that faithfulness on principle. Think about it. God doesn’t even have to test someone who tithes at the poverty level. He already knows what they’ll do with a million bucks.

Perhaps you’ve been praying for a promotion, more money, more ministry opportunities or more responsibilities, and you’re wondering why you’ve hit a roadblock. I tend to believe that we’re the obstacles to our own prayers. Keep praying for those things, but also ask yourself, “How can I be more faithful with what I have?” Listen for the voice of the Holy Spirit and make some changes if you feel him leading you in that direction.

Prayer:  Dietrich Bonhoeffer
Lord, while we may wish for simple answers and quick solutions, we thank You that Your grace is with us in the complexity and struggle of our life of faith. Amen.