There are people who serve in the shadows. People who don’t have any fancy titles or accolades but continue to do their work faithfully. People who allow God to entrust them with destinies that seem far greater than their own and pour their all into them. People who allow others to stand on their shoulders and be in the spotlight even if it means they never get any recognition for it.
This is probably why I find it interesting that when most people talk about their dreams and desires in life, there’s an element of recognition attached to their definition of success. How many of us go about our days believing that what we say and do will only matter when we get to point X, with title X and with X people who know us?
Yet, just because someone has a high level of influence doesn’t mean that there is no contribution that you, who doesn’t have their title or their influence, can make in their life. I’ve come across a dime a dozen stories in which people of great influence share significant moments in their journeys where God used a nondescript person to pull them out of a pit they were in. It makes me wonder – what if these ordinary people disregarded the role God was asking them to play because they believed they don’t matter?
Equally, just because a person has the same level of influence as you do doesn’t mean that there is no difference you can make in their life. Neither does someone who has less influence than you, deserve less honour and sacrifice from you.
What does this look like in the workplace?
Preach the gospel at all times. When necessary, use words.
– St Francis of Assisi
When we remember people are more than just numbers in our targets and to-do lists, we don’t merely transact with them for money (whether it comes as a salary, a commission or a business income). There is far more love and consideration given to one another when we remember the love of Christ – a love so great and vast He was willing to stake His life for us because of it. As our love for God grows, so does our love for people.
I’ve become increasingly cognizant of how a business serves me as a consumer impacts me; which, has in turn, made me more conscious of the impact I have to those around me. The business has little to do with the bricks and mortar and everything to do with the people in it that I interact with. Their impact has nothing to do with how many Scriptures they cite to me. It has everything to do with things that unsurprisingly fall under the category of fruit of the Spirit:
- Love: Am I more than just a customer number to you?
- Joy: Does my interaction with you add to my joy or take away from it?
- Peace: Does dealing with you fill me with angst and anxiety or do you leave me better than you found me?
- Patience: Am I a bother to you or do you see the value in serving me (beyond the money you get from me)?
- Kindness & Gentleness: Is there any thoughtfulness in how you speak with me and treat me?
- Goodness: Does what you’re selling to me and how you’re selling it to me add genuine value in my life?
- Faithfulness: Does what you deliver to me live up to the promise you’ve made me as a consumer/client; and how do you take ownership when it falls short for whatever reason?
- Self-control: Will you exploit the power you have as a business employee or owner to gain more traction and get more profit at the expense of my personal well-being?
Some of us care more about how many likes we get more than how much like God we’re becoming.
– Christine Caine
Borrowing from this train of thought – many of us care more about the number of zeroes in our bank account at the end of the month than the number of lives we’ve made a difference in within the same period. That’s why the illustration of the fruit in the workplace will bother us. It asks us to give more of ourselves than we’re willing to.
If I’m to be brutally honest – as believers, we tend to be a selfish lot in the marketplace. We go into our work lives and careers thinking – what’s in it for me? We want everyone around us to pay the price to give us the best but we’re not willing to do the same for them.
The issue with this ideal is that our service becomes dependent on our compensation – financial or otherwise – rather than our revelation of God’s will for us in a given situation. And we show up in church on Sunday with the same attitude that says to God – I’ll live for you to the degree You bless me. What should be primarily relational becomes primarily transactional.
It’s no wonder we have such a hard time making a difference in the marketplace as believers. Our stance is no different from non-believers. As kingdom representatives, we’re inadvertently propping up the wrong kingdom. What makes it sadder is the reality of how much time we spend doing so, because our work tends to take up a good chunk of our lives each week.
Fame and visibility are not the hallmark of success in the kingdom. Neither is a healthy profit margin or personal gain. To be praised by human beings and industry peers doesn’t automatically mean you’re on the right path. The world can cheer you on right into a ditch, at which point, their support turns into scorn within seconds.
Because we’ve grown up in a world that not only uses these measures of success but trains us to do the same from a very early age, it’s not automatic that we see ourselves and our input the way God does.
It’s a daily journey to intentionally remind ourselves of what it means for us to be believers in the marketplace. The more we dwell in God’s presence and submit our work ethic to Him, the more we become like Him and live our lives – even our work lives – as we ought to.
Does this mean that it’s wrong for us to desire affirmation and recognition for the work we do? Or that we should be broke Christians in the name of being good believers? No. But bear in mind that whoever we look to to meet these needs in us we give power and influence over us. As a believer, would you rather have that be the world or God?
So here’s to everyone deep in the trenches. Though the world around you may be fully oblivious to the sacrifice you make each day, God is well aware. May your eternal reward be found in Him.
Find ways to express the fruit of the Holy Spirit as you go about your work this week.