HOW GLORIFY GOD AT WORK
Transcript of Sermon by Timothy Williams
(audio read by a professional)
Now Joseph had been taken down to Egypt. (Genesis 39:1)
That’s what most of us feel like when we go to work. You know, you just enter the world and it’s not where you want to be. It’s a place of bondage, slavery, and debauchery. How are we to conduct ourselves? What kind of people are we to be at work?
…Potiphar, an Egyptian who was one of Pharaoh’s officials, the captain of the guard, bought him from the Ishmaelites who had taken him there. (Genesis 39:1)
Before you even begin the day at work, you have to be sure who is with you. It must be the Lord. It will have to be the Lord who gives you success, not degrees, not your talents, or whatever you’ve accomplished. You have to be sure that the fragrance of Jesus Christ, as Corinthians says, is with you. Again, verse two, “The Lord was with Joseph…” That’s what so important. When we go to work, is the Lord with us? That’s the all-important question because if He’s with you, He will be glorified and that’s the goal through it all. The goal is not to be successful or to prosper in business. In fact, we will see here in a moment that the man who prospers the most through this situation is not Joseph but his master.
When his master saw that the Lord was with him and that the Lord gave him success in everything he did, Joseph found favor in his eyes and became his attendant. Potiphar put him in charge of his household, and he entrusted to his care everything he owned. From the time he put him in charge of his household and of all that he owned, the Lord blessed the household of the Egyptian because of Joseph. The blessing of the Lord was on everything Potiphar had, both in the house and in the field. (Genesis 39:3–5)
We want people at work to realize the business is blessed because you are there. Now think about your prayer life for a minute. When you go before God, you should be asking the Lord that He is so with you while you’re at work that when things begin to succeed and go well, they’ll know it’s because you’re praying and giving yourself to God. It’s not because of your talent or your moneymaking abilities nor because of anything they did. Now think how that will humble them and put them to shame as well as glorify God. Think also how it will bring your life out into the light because you’re walking in saying, “Hey, God is with me in what I’m doing on this job.” You will testify to everybody else that when you go to work, school, or whatever, God is with you in what you are doing. They will look at your life for every fault and mistake you make. But praise God for that! That’s the kind of place you want to walk into because you will be purified. You will be made holy. You will see a lot of things that need to change because of that kind of environment. You ought to be thankful for the people who come to you about your mistakes. Maybe they come to you with hostility. Maybe they come with false accusations, but whatever the case, it will totally refine you.
So he left in Joseph’s care everything he had; with Joseph in charge, he did not concern himself with anything except the food he ate. (Genesis 39:6)
Now most of us would have a bitter attitude toward our boss in this situation. If his attitude was that he came to work to sit there and do nothing, what would we begin to do? We would begin to complain. We would become angry and bitter at the fact that all he does all day long is sit there and do nothing while I do all the work. And yet that’s your goal. Your goal is to be so entrusted with everything that your supervisor, your boss or anybody else doesn’t have to do anything accept trust you to do it. This is where it starts, by denying yourself and surrendering your life for other people. It begins at work. So, what will happen? Everybody will take advantage of you. Everybody will begin to give you the work to do. But that is your goal. Your goal is to become the slave of everyone. Scripture says Potiphar did not concern himself with anything except the food he ate. So all your boss is concerned about is what he will have for lunch today and whether he can leave early to go home because he is confident that you’re so much in control and taking care of everything. Let’s not become a bitter people at that. Let’s not draw the line here that says, “That’s not my job.” Let’s begin to lay down our life for people, starting at work.
I want to give you seven ways to glorify God at work:
1. SUBMIT TO GOD
Now, you know that sounds pretty simple. It sounds pretty basic. Number one, submit to God. Well of course, submit to God! But you would be surprised how few people really submit to God in relationship to their job. Most people decide on their own where they want to work. You know the old classic one, “You can sell Amway and preach the gospel at the same time.” There’s a guy on the computer bulletin board that wants to open up a BBS. The way he will glorify God is to sell Avon products and preach the gospel. Now think of what a slam that is in God’s face! Talk about dual motives. We don’t submit to God and ask Him where He wants us to be. We may have a master’s degree, and yet work at McDonald’s.
Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.” Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. (James 4:13)
We’re not even to be a people who say, “We’ll make money here and go there. We can sell Amway and do this.” Or, “This is a really good job, I know the Lord would have me to do this because it pays well, and I can also share the gospel and be around all these people.” You know all the flowery reasons people give for taking a certain job, no matter what the job is.
Instead, you ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.” (James 4:14)
So, the first basic thing is to submit to God and ask Him what He wants you to do. If you’re in school, you’re asking God what classes you are supposed to take. You don’t pick and choose what you want to do. When you go to work, you ask God what you are to do, not what you want to do. You say, “If it is the Lord’s will I’ll do that.” You don’t even get up in the morning and say, “I will work today.” You ask the Lord what you are supposed to do.
As it is, you boast and brag. All such boasting is evil. (James 4:16)
The minute someone begins to say, “We’ll go here and do this. We’ve got this activity to do.” Or “I’ll do this over here to make money,” the boasting becomes evil and demonic.
2. THIS IS MOST IMPORTANT: NO GOSSIP
There should be absolutely no talking about anybody else. Especially to the world! Why would you ever talk to the world about somebody else in the first place? You may talk to your brothers and sisters who would encourage you to pray and reach out to those people, but absolutely no gossip or conversation about anybody else in the workplace. Now think about it. If you resolve not to gossip, how radically different you will be. When you sit down like everybody does at the lunch table to eat, what does the conversation always get around to but gossip. They will begin to feel very guilty because you’re not talking and joining in on the conversation. They will start leaving you out of the conversation. They will wonder what’s wrong with you because that’s what the world discusses. They especially like to talk about their bosses.
With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in God’s likeness. (James 3:9)
This is particularly true in relationship to your boss. Who does everybody like to badmouth and put down but the boss? Now think about your reaction. Your heart is like Joseph’s with Potiphar. Everybody sits around talking about how bad the boss is and you say, “Well, we should look for ways to really serve him.” They will complain about how he doesn’t do any work and you’ll say, “Well, that’s the way it should be.” Think about how you can be salt and light.
Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers, this should not be. Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring? My brothers, can a fig tree bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Neither can a salt spring produce fresh water. (James 3:10–12)
Verse nine says that with our tongues we praise God. “Oh, I’m a Christian. I belong to Jesus Christ.” Then over here we curse our fellow workers. That cannot be. On the one hand we talk about church and sermons and all the religious things we do. Then over here we talk about how bad the boss is. First of all, how do you expect your pagan boss to act anyway? He will act like a pagan. It is not your business to discuss it with anybody else at work. Absolutely, positively, without a shadow of a doubt—no gossip.
Proverbs 26:22 talks about how the temptation to gossip is strong. You will find yourself drawn into, discussing and saying it. Your mouth will run wild because gossip is a very tasty morsel.
The words of a gossip are like choice morsels; they go down to a man’s inmost parts. (Proverbs 26:22)
He loves it. He loves the flavor and the aroma. He likes to savor it. Have you ever seen gossip in formation? The gossip doesn’t end quickly, does it? Everybody drags it on as long as they can. They look for every little thing they can possibly find to talk about concerning this person. All you have to do is state one sentence and watch it go. It will drag out to the very dredges of that glass because it is a choice morsel. People love to talk about other people. So think for a moment, what would happen if you decide to totally stop talking about other people. Simply do your job for them, reach out to them, lay down your life for them, and never say anything negative to them. They certainly will ask what’s different about you. They may think you got out of the institution not too long ago because nobody behaves like that at all. It is so important that no one hears us talk about anybody else at work.
Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. (Ephesians 4:29)
There are a lot of people listening to conversations. You know how everyone stands at the desk to hear what everyone else is saying. Let your conversation be holy and pure, clean and lovely so that it benefits everybody else who is around. Certainly, talk about church, sermons, and how the Lord is working, but don’t mix in slander about other people. Let no unwholesome talk come out of your mouth, but only what is beneficial for building other people up. Ask what will benefit them. What is best for them? Always think of what’s best for them, in every circumstance, especially at work, because that is a tremendous place to shine and to be different. At work our worst comes out and our best comes out. We’ll be refined and purified—our weaknesses, our irritations, and everything will come forth. Let’s get into the light. Let’s begin to lay down our life for other people. Let our conversation be sweet.
Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business… (1 Thessalonians 4:11–12)
What other people do is just none of your business. It’s none of your concern. Unless it’s important enough to go talk to the other person, you need to keep out of it. “Make it your ambition,” that means you have to get up and say, “This is my goal for today. That is, I will mind my own business and lead a quiet life and serve Jesus Christ.”
…and to work with your hands, just as we told you, so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders and so that you will not be dependent on anybody. (1 Thessalonians 4:11–12)
Show that you can do the work that you have been given to do. Demonstrate that you can be fully trusted in everything you do. The respect of other people will be won when nobody else concerns themselves with anything but lunch. People will trust you when they know that in no way are you slandering or gossiping about anyone else. They can come to you with any problem knowing that you won’t go behind their back. They know they can say anything to you, and it won’t be repeated. But you will have to clamp your mouth shut. You will have to pray the Lord will put a guard over your mouth like Psalms talks about because it is so natural to gossip. It is a choice morsel that we like to eat. It is difficult to tame the tongue, but it can be done. Look how it will glorify God.
3. REJOICE ALWAYS
You have to rejoice always. How many of us rejoice when we go to work?
Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. (Philippians 4:4–5)
Now think about it. You go into work every day rejoicing. They will think something is strange. They will wonder what kind of drugs you are on. You rejoice always, and you let your gentleness be evident to everyone around you. You don’t become easily irritated. Your feathers don’t get ruffled. You’re busy doing other people’s job as well as your own job. You’re not talking bad about anyone else and on top of that, you’re happy about all of it! You have a confidence that other men do not have. You have a peace that they do not have. Rejoicing always is one way that people will see that. Again he repeats it in verse four: “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!” He says it as if to emphasize to us again the importance of doing that. Why? We only have God, the Holy Spirit, and Jesus on our side. That’s the only reason you have to rejoice, right? God has sanctified you, delivered you from sin, and is making you holy. He will provide all of your needs. He’s been in your life granting you grace. If you die tomorrow, you go to heaven. I can’t think of any reason to rejoice, can you? You have every reason to rejoice! And that’s why it a shame in God’s sight when we begin to be downcast at work, no matter what the reason. Let us rejoice always.
4. DO EVERYTHING YOU’RE TOLD TO DO AND BE HONEST
Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose. Do everything without complaining or arguing. (Philippians 2:12–14)
Now look at verse fourteen. Look at how you work out your salvation with fear and trembling. There is just one thing that you can do. “Do everything without complaining or arguing.” No matter what they ask you to do, don’t complain, or argue, don’t debate, or say that it’s for someone else. You don’t have a downcast face. Nothing about you indicates that you’re irritated that you’ve got to do the job. Verse fourteen, “Do everything without complaining or arguing.” Again, you are becoming an awfully strange person. You come in to work happy. You do other people’s work happily. You rejoice in the Lord. They will begin to ask you to do things that nobody else wants to do because—I guarantee—if you begin to have that kind of attitude, they will go to you because you are easy to go to. You won’t complain or argue. You won’t put up a fight or say, “That’s not my job.” You will start getting all the dirty work, but you will do all of that without one word of complaint or argument. You don’t think you’ll look a little different?
So that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe… (Philippians 2:15)
We want to pray. We want to fast. We want to sing. We want to dance, give, and serve. We like to do outward religious things. But one way to become blameless and pure is to do everything without complaining or arguing. Try it. Try it! Say, “Lord, I’ll do everything this week, no matter what you allow to come my way, no matter what anybody asks me to do, and I won’t offer one complaint or argument about it.” You will indeed become blameless and pure. You will begin to see the sins of irritation, the sins of laziness, the sins of not wanting to serve other people that are in your life. You will begin to see all of these sins materialize, won’t you? The flesh will be rubbed like it never has been rubbed before.
So that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe… (Philippians 2:15)
I often compare this to a school situation. The teacher gives an assignment for a report and everyone moans except the Christian children. They say, “Hallelujah!” Right? Don’t you think they will shine like stars in the universe? They won’t complain or argue. They will say, “Thanks teacher, I really needed that. It crucifies the flesh. It causes me to seek after God.”
Do everything without complaining or arguing and you will shine like a star in the universe. Then persecution becomes real persecution at work instead of just arguments about doctrine like it is now. Then what you say has credibility. It has life to it. It really does mean that you have something different, doesn’t it? So much that is called persecution is not persecution. It is people arguing politics about Jesus Christ. One person says, “Jesus means this,” another says, “No he means that,” and they all decide who will vote for which interpretation. But where are the workers who labor without complaining and arguing while wearing themselves out and being honest before God? There is credibility and life!
…as you hold out the word of life—in order that I may boast on the day of Christ that I did not run or labor for nothing. (Philippians 2:16)
Now I want you to look at what the concern is here. Most people are concerned with the evangelism team within the church, the current project, and how many people they can bring in for visitation day. Paul is concerned with how well they behave at work. He wants to boast before Jesus Christ that he didn’t preach for nothing. He wants to testify to the statement that he labored not in vain, but with purpose and direction because he did everything without complaining and arguing. That’s what will testify to the grace of God in your life. It’s not how many people you bring in for baptism day or how many certificates you win for a church, but how well the people in your church do everything without complaining and arguing and shine like stars as they hold out the word of life. That, Paul says, will allow me to boast before the throne of Jesus Christ that my preaching did have purpose and was a success. We have our priorities all wrong.
Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every authority instituted among men: whether to the king, as the supreme authority, or to governors, who are sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to commend those who do right. For it is God’s will that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish men. (1 Peter 2:13–15)
Scripture says to “submit yourself for the Lord’s sake.” You won’t be able to do any of this if it isn’t for the Lord’s sake. Your whole work is nothing but a mission field. He will teach and give you opportunities that you would never have had standing behind a pulpit. Everyone wants to know what God’s will is. Right here it is clear. For it is by God’s will that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish men: not necessarily by rebuke, not necessarily by your religion, not necessarily by what you simply say, but by your actions. Your very actions of good deeds will silence ignorant talk. You sit down at the lunch table while everybody is gossiping about the boss and you do not say any- thing about him. It will silence them. Watch it take place. They will feel ashamed. Then you begin to quote that the Bible says we should serve our boss with joy. Just watch that table become silent. People will begin to examine their hearts, or they may become hostile because they begin to feel guilty.
Live as free men, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil; live as servants of God. (1 Peter 2:16)
Live as free men. You belong to Jesus Christ. You‘re not in bondage to any other man. You’re not there at work because you have to work. You don’t even need the paycheck. We’ll see that in a moment. Live as free men, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil. Live as servants of God. God has given you that job. That’s where He placed you. That is your missionary field. That is what He has given you to do. He has you in that place and in that job and this is what He wants you to do. That is where He wants you to shine. Do it as servants of God.
Show proper respect to everyone: Love the brotherhood of believers, fear God, honor the king. Slaves, submit yourselves to your masters with all respect, not only to those who are good and considerate, but also to those who are harsh. (1 Peter 2:17–18)
What do you have to complain about? You’re not even a slave in this sense. You can clock out at five or six o’clock and go home. How much more, then, should we be able to submit to and share the gospel with bosses or co-workers who are harsh toward us.
Show proper respect to everyone: Love the brotherhood of believers, fear God, honor the king. Slaves, submit yourselves to your masters with all respect, not only to those who are good and considerate, but also to those who are harsh. For it is commendable if a man bears up under the pain of unjust suffering because he is conscious of God. But how is it to your credit if you receive a beating for doing wrong and endure it? But if you suffer for doing good and you endure it, this is commendable before God. (1 Peter 2:17–20)
Look at the joy. Look at the trust. Look at the faithfulness. Look at bearing up under all the weight of injustice because you are conscious of only one thing, and that is God. Don’t ever lose sight of the fact. You’ll be richly rewarded if you are seeking the very hand of God.
But how is it to your credit if you receive a beating for doing wrong and endure it? But if you suffer for doing good and you endure it, this is commendable before God. To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps. (1 Peter 2:20–21)
One of the ways you carry the cross at work is bearing up under unjust suffering, the harsh boss, the mean teacher, and the supervisor who is rough. You can bear up under that because you trust Him to always work good in every situation. Though you are as Joseph, sold into slavery, placed where you don’t want to be, separated from your family, having no freedom to leave, you know God will be with you in all that you do. He will prosper you, not in terms of money, but by the way of the cross. The message of the gospel will prosper. God will be glorified. When we see our work as a labor of love for God, how much He will then be able to act within our jobs.
The Lord abhors dishonest scales, but accurate weights are his delight. (Proverbs 11:1)
Accuracy and honesty—even down to the smallest of details. Even to the weighing of small things, we need to be honest and strive to be pure in everything we do, especially at work. Where is dishonesty seen the most but the workplace? Where does everybody take the free coke or the free food, when they are not supposed to? Where does everybody fudge just a little bit, but at work? Where does everybody try to get more in terms of their paycheck and their timecard, but at work? We need to become very, very honest in everything that we do because the Lord is watching, not just the supervisor.
But Laban said to him, “If I have found favor in your eyes, please stay. I have learned by divination that the Lord has blessed me because of you.” He added, “Name your wages, and I will pay them.” Jacob said to him, “You know how I have worked for you and how your livestock has fared under my care. The little you had before I came has increased greatly, and the Lord has blessed you wherever I have been. But now, when may I do something for my own household?” “What shall I give you?” he asked. “Don’t give me anything,” Jacob replied. “But if you will do this one thing for me, I will go on tending your flocks and watching over them: Let me go through all your flocks today and remove from them every speckled or spotted sheep, every dark-colored lamb and every spotted or speckled goat. They will be my wages. And my honesty will testify for me in the future, whenever you check on the wages you have paid me. Any goat in my possession that is not speckled or spotted, or any lamb that is not dark-colored, will be considered stolen.” “Agreed,” said Laban. “Let it be as you have said.” (Genesis 30:27–34)
What are we back to again? A job situation, aren’t we? Granted, the world may realize that maybe the Lord is with you by divination. We’re not saying pagans will be pure. We’re not saying the pagan went home that night and asked, “Why in the world is my job going so well?” And God said, “Well, it’s because of Chris.” It may be by divination that he hears those things. Verse twenty-eight says “Name your wage and I will pay it.” How many of us could be trusted with that statement? How many of you are holy and pure enough that if your boss came to you and said, “Name the wage. I’ll pay whatever you say,” you wouldn’t have your eyes on the money? Would you take advantage of how the Lord has been with you and given you the grace to do the job? How many would seize that opportunity to gain for self? You know it happens in a lot of subtle ways. You can take a little bit here. You can grab a little bit over there. You take advantage here and there. We all have that tendency. But if you begin to not gossip, to rejoice always, and to do other people’s work, you will be respected at work, at least for a while until you start living the gospel in some ways. You will become respected for a while and they will begin to have a love-hate relationship with you. Until that point, you will become a trusted person at work, and you can begin to take advantage of certain situations because you know that you’re being trusted. You know you’ve built a reputation of trust. Will you grab it for self? If they let your name your wage will you do what’s honest?
Jacob said to him, “You know how I have worked for you and how your livestock has fared under my care. The little you had before I came has increased greatly, and the Lord has blessed you wherever I have been. But now, when may I do something for my own household?” “What shall I give you?” he asked. “Don’t give me anything,” Jacob replied. “But if you will do this one thing for me, I will go on tending your flocks and watching over them…” (Genesis 30:29–31)
“Don’t give me anything,” Jacob replied. What did he say there? He will seek the Lord and trust Him. He will let his labors speak. “Don’t give me anything. Don’t give me any special treatment. I’ll just do the work.”
“What shall I give you?” he asked. “Don’t give me anything,” Jacob replied. “But if you will do this one thing for me, I will go on tending your flocks and watching over them: Let me go through all your flocks today and remove from them every speckled or spotted sheep, every dark-colored lamb and every spotted or speckled goat. They will be my wages. And my honesty will testify for me in the future, whenever you check on the wages you have paid me. Any goat in my possession that is not speckled or spotted, or any lamb that is not dark-colored, will be considered stolen.” (Genesis 30:31–33)
Jacob doesn’t even take the best, the most beautiful, does he? Look at verse thirty-three. “And my honesty will testify for me in the future.” My honesty will testify for me! It could be seen. It was evident, wasn’t it? He didn’t have to talk about it. He didn’t have to boast. He didn’t have to turn to his supervisor and say, “Hey, you can trust me in this.” His actions demonstrated what was the truth. He said, “Any goat in my possession that is not speckled or spotted, or any lamb that is not dark-colored, will be considered stolen.” Everything was out in the open and in the light. It was to be seen. His honesty testified for itself. Verse thirty-four says:
“Agreed,” said Laban. “Let it be as you have said.” (Genesis 30:34)
Let us be honest in everything that we do. Not only should you be honest, but you should expose corruption.
Like a muddied spring or a polluted well is a righteous man who gives way to the wicked. (Proverbs 25:26)
How many people who are elders, teachers, deacons, and leaders are at work giving way to wickedness no matter how minor or large. They are like a polluted well. There’s no pure well to drink from because they give way to the wicked. They allow the wicked to get by with what they do. It will begin to cost your reputation. You can see why you might be puffed up at first because of the labor you do, but when you begin to expose things your co-workers are doing wrong, they will hate your guts pretty quick. They will look for something in you. You will be watching your heart and examining your actions like never before so that you don’t slip up, not just out of fear of being caught, but out of fear that God’s name will be put to shame.
Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them. (Ephesians 5:11)
Light makes everything visible; it brings out your sin. First of all, people will be hiding from you when they begin to realize that you’re walking in the light and demanding honesty. Around you, they know they can’t get by with their sin. Someone new will come in to work and everybody else will say, “Watch out for so-and-so,” because the light is natural. It shines. You couldn’t contain it if you wanted to. That would be like bringing Jesus Christ into the room and saying, “Okay, Jesus, contain your light.” Trying to build something around Him to keep Him from shining would be impossible to do. You can’t turn this on and off. You’re either seeking God or you’re not. When you go to work, you’re the fragrance of Christ. When that light goes in, you will not be able to stop or contain that light. It will shine forth whether you like or not.
5. BEGIN TO WORK HARD
This whole issue about working hard is that most people think they do work hard, especially the sluggard. Those who don’t work hard especially think they work the hardest. You will have to ask the Lord whether you’re busy or not. You will have to ask the Holy Spirit to speak to your heart.
The sluggard is wiser in his own eyes than seven men who answer discreetly. (Proverbs 26:16)
A sluggard thinks that he’s wiser than everyone else. You have seven righteous men telling a sluggard that he’s a sluggard and he will say, “No, I’m not a sluggard. I work hard.” I could come to you and start revealing things and you would tell me, “I’m not a sluggard. I work hard,” because in your own eyes you are wise. You think you do a great job and work hard.
Slaves, obey your earthly masters in everything; and do it, not only when their eye is on you and to win their favor, but with sincerity of heart and reverence for the Lord. (Colossians 3:22)
You see, it will start with a pure heart. There’s no way you will rejoice always without a pure heart. Try it under self-effort. Go ahead—try it. Just try to rejoice always. You’ll never succeed on your own to work hard every single day. You might get fired-up for a few days, but we’re talking about a heart and reverence for God that enters the soul that will produce a hard labor.
Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving. (Colossians 3:23–24)
Whatever job you have, you are employed by Jesus Christ. He’s your supervisor, isn’t He? Who is your employer but Jesus Christ? I don’t care if you’re flipping hamburgers or being an executive somewhere, you do that with all of your heart. Now I ask you, when was the last time you went into McDonald’s and saw anybody cooking fries with all of their heart? They will be shining differently, won’t they? Or sharpening pencils with all of their heart—or fixing coffee for the boss with all of their heart as if they were serving Jesus Christ.
…since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving. (Colossians 3:24)
How much clearer can it be? Whatever job or whatever situation you’re in whether it’s in school, or at the workplace, you are serving Jesus Christ.
Anyone who does wrong will be repaid for his wrong, and there is no favoritism. (Colossians 3:25)
He is talking about employment, isn’t he? Now again, you’re not a slave. You have nothing to complain about (although working for $3.25 I consider slavery, but that’s beside the point). None of us are at a place where we can’t leave where we are employed, so how much more should we submit? How much more should we have life? And if we don’t do this, there is no favoritism. You can’t say: “But, Lord I prayed over here and I did all these things.” “I mowed the church yard.” Or, “The pastor really appreciates me.” “I do all of these good things at home.” “I clock out early at three o’clock so that I can spend time with my daughter.” You can’t do any of those things and expect some type of little favoritism from Jesus Christ. First of all, if He has you at work, you can’t clock out till he tells you to clock out, can you? Forget the rules of the place. That has nothing to do with anything. Even forget your boss. He is not your boss. Jesus Christ is. It’s Jesus who tells you when to be in. If your boss tells you to be in at eight o’clock and Jesus wants you in at six o’clock then you go in at six. You do what He tells you to do because it’s Him you’re serving. He’ll give you the joy and the peace.
2 Thessalonians 3:6 gives us very direct commands on working and laboring hard.
In the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, we command you, brothers, to keep away from every brother who is idle and does not live according to the teaching you received from us. (2 Thessalonians 3:6)
“In the name of the Lord Jesus Christ” We can’t get any tougher than that, can we? How much firmer must Jesus Christ be? Now think of the churches you know. Are those Chris- tian people known for their hard labor and work in the community? Are they well known for laying down their lives for other people? Yet, they pride themselves in their church work and being right with God. But the scriptures say, “We command you, brothers, to keep away from anyone who is idle in Jesus Christ.” Now you have to understand the sluggard is wise in his own eyes. He won’t think he’s a sluggard.
For you yourselves know how you ought to follow our example. We were not idle when we were with you, nor did we eat anyone’s food without paying for it. On the contrary, we worked night and day, laboring and toiling so that we would not be a burden to any of you. (2 Thessalonians 3:7–8)
Here is your definition of what it is to be idle. All you have to do is ask yourself, “Do I labor day and night for Jesus Christ?” If the answer is no, you’re idle. If this is the example he gave, then this is how you are to conduct yourself. If this is what he laid down as something in Jesus Christ and it is the definition of what being busy is, anything less than this is being idle, isn’t it? So, anybody who is not laboring and toiling, day and night is considered idle. Again, we can carry this over to prayer, to service, to whatever, but this is the kind of labor and work that Paul says is an example of working. You don’t clock out at five. You don’t finish up at three. Your day isn’t done when you decide it’s done. You labor day and night for Jesus Christ and anything less than that is being idle. What are we supposed to do as a body? Not to associate with anyone who is idle. Let’s forget about all the obvious sins, such as murder and sexual immorality, and begin here. What do you see in the church? Is the church known for members who labor hard at their jobs? There’s no way! We can’t even get to the deep issues of fellowship. We can only begin here. But think how much credibility there would be concerning a church that even though the world may talk badly about Christians, they would at least have to admit they work hard, they labor, and they are a strangely happy people. At least they would feel guilty that their slander is nothing more than lies. But how much of what they say against Christians is the truth? “Elder So-and-so is lazy, (and it’s true). He’s always irritable. He thinks he’s always doing something, but he’s doesn’t do anything.”
We did this, not because we do not have the right to such help, but in order to make ourselves a model for you to follow. (2 Thessalonians 3:9)
Paul’s concern wasn’t gaining for self, but rather to set an example for others as to what is to be done. Most preachers think they have a right to everything they get and even more. Somehow, they think it’s owed to them.
For even when we were with you, we gave you this rule: “If a man will not work, he shall not eat.” (2 Thessalonians 3:10)
Now understand, working doesn’t necessarily mean being employed in a salaried job. It says if he doesn’t work. What’s the definition of work? It is toiling and laboring day and night for Jesus Christ. Let’s keep our definitions straight. Let’s look to Jesus Christ and ask him what it means to work? Let’s not get this broad stroke definition of work that means you haven’t found a job in six months, or you seem to be just sitting at home, so we won’t associate with you. The true definition is anyone not laboring and toiling for Jesus Christ.
We hear that some among you are idle. They are not busy; they are busybodies. (2 Thessalonians 3:11)
The whole point here is if you get busy enough for the Lord, you won’t have time to be a busybody. You get busy working and filling yourself up with what needs to be done around your job and you won’t have time to talk to everyone else, will you? At least it will cut a lot of it out. Busybodies are people who are concerned about everybody else. It’s contagious, I’m telling you. Someone’s will make one comment and your mouth will go with it. Go back and repent. Confess your sins before the Lord and before those people.
Such people we command and urge in the Lord Jesus Christ to settle down and earn the bread they eat. (2 Thessalonians 3:12)
Now if Jesus Christ is our employer, and we work for Him then we receive the bread of life through Him. This isn’t just talking about receiving a loaf of Wonder Bread, is it? What it amounts to is earning the spiritual food you receive from Jesus Christ. Don’t you think Jesus Christ will be with you when you labor like this? He will reward you more than the world can with its paycheck. He will give you the bread of life! You are to become blameless and pure in a crooked and depraved generation. You’re to shine like stars in the universe. You’re to have the bread of life that you say that you want, but only as you resolve yourself to work hard for the Lord.
Such people we command and urge in the Lord Jesus Christ to settle down and earn the bread they eat. (2 Thessalonians 3:12)
I ask you, when you come to church on Sunday and listen to a sermon, have you really earned the bread that you’re eating? When you get your quiet time or get your prayer time, have you earned the bread that you’re getting? When Jesus Christ fills you up with a promise, or if you go to the Psalms and He gives you a promise, are you laboring and toiling, weary and tired and worn out for the sake of the gospel? Are you worthy of the bread He just gave you? Or do you consider the promise enough to get through to lunch?
Then you go out to the car and listen to a nice sermon tape, read some scripture and hope it gets you through till five o’clock when you face rush hour traffic and the pressures at home. Are we earning the bread that Jesus Christ is giving us? Not just physical bread, I’m not talking about peanut butter and jelly sandwiches! I’m talking about laboring and toiling for Him who is our employer.
And as for you, brothers, never tire of doing what is right. (2 Thessalonians 3:13)
This becomes very wearisome. Your flesh won’t like it. You might do this for a week. You might even do it for a month. You might even do what you’re commended for, but eventually it will grow old if the Holy Spirit isn’t in it. There will be that tendency to back off and to become tired of it. You’ll think, “I’ve done enough. I deserve a vacation.” Never tire of doing what is right! So, what is “right?” Rejoicing always. What is “right?” Doing everything without complaining or arguing. And you will get tired of it. Confess it as sin. You will want to become idle and take things easy, instead of laboring day and night. Let me tell you one of the most purifying times for me is just being at home, just preaching the gospel with Jesus Christ as my employer. You don’t think I’m not tempted to just sit back, take fifteen minutes here, twenty minutes there? I don’t have to clock in. I don’t have to report to any man. I could fake it when you come over. I could hear you come down the steps and jump up in front of the desk and look like I’ve been studying and praying, (you know I don’t fake it like that). But it can be done, and I have had to wrestle and deal with my flesh while pleading to the Lord to keep me busy. I have had to cry out, “Show me what it is you want me to do. Give me your Spirit!” All of us can grow weary in doing good. The flesh thinks it deserves a vacation and days off. That’s why the Bible says in verse twelve to settle down. It’s time to get our senses about ourselves, to become mature and holy, and get away from all the world’s activities. We need to settle down and understand we are here to work and labor for Jesus Christ. Your vacation is during eternity and you don’t get it until you die. In order to die, you need to work as hard as you can to wear out this body so that you can die as quickly as possible to go to your eternal vacation! But you’ve got to wear yourself out a little bit.
If anyone does not obey our instruction in this letter, take special note of him. Do not associate with him, in order that he may feel ashamed. (2 Thessalonians 3:14)
Now that may seem a little embarrassing. If it seems uncomfortable to single someone out and say, “You’re a sluggard. You’re lazy. You don’t know how to work,” then you’re not la- boring for the Lord. If that seems embarrassing, well that is what it’s supposed to be. Look at the end of verse fourteen, it says “in order that he may feel ashamed.” It is so that he will feel embarrassed, isn’t it?
Yet do not regard him as an enemy, but warn him as a brother. (2 Thessalonians 3:15)
All right, we don’t consider him an enemy. In fact, we discipline him in love as a brother, but look at the firmness of the discipline. It would be like bringing someone to the pulpit and saying in front of everyone that this person is lazy. I would have to stand up to make a public announcement, but it would be said with love and as a brother. I would certainly do it only so they would feel ashamed in front of everyone else and turn from their sin. It’s also for the sake of the body to ensure that everybody is busy and toiling and laboring. Now think how pure the body would become if church leaders were asking their members how they are doing at work. How holy and righteous the body would be. Just think, if you could do everything without complaining and arguing at work. You can certainly start by doing it with your brothers and sisters, can’t you? If you can rejoice always in your labor at work, how much more can you rejoice always with what goes on at church? You can put up with your boss who falsely accuses you and gives you all kinds of abuse. You can put up with him stomping all over you because you are an easy mark. If you can put up with him and love him, you can certainly tolerate a brother who comes to you with a wrong accusation, can’t you? But we can’t even tolerate each other doing that, let alone getting out there and laboring in the world.
6. PRAY FOR YOUR BOSS AND HIS BUSINESS
I know he will go on Caribbean cruises and take advantage of you. All he will be concerned about is lunch. But you know something that he doesn’t know at this point, that he will go to hell. Your job is to go in and serve him in such a way that when you tell him he will go to hell and say, “Look, one reason your business is increasing is because I have been praying and serving here,” he would be convicted and want to become a believer.
One who is slack in his work is brother to one who destroys. (Proverbs 18:9)
When you’re idle at work you not only destroy the work of Jesus Christ but you also destroy that man’s business. It doesn’t matter if he’s “blessed” beyond measure already, you’re supposed to begin to serve and bless him, period. God is your blessing. Isn’t that the only reward you seek? So, what does it matter what he gets? Let him have the Caribbean cruise. The worst thing I can imagine is going on a Caribbean cruise. Imagine me sitting on a boat for a month? Forget it! The only reason I would want to go on a cruise would be to evangelize everyone on the boat. I’d go crazy otherwise. We should all be the same way. Laboring and toiling on our vacation—there’s a new concept.
In this next passage God tells the people to pray for the prosperity of the nation where they will be exiled. When was the last time you prayed for your boss’s business to pros- per and for everything to go right for him? Now let your light shine so he knows that and be sure you hear the Lord when you’re supposed to tell him.
This is what the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, says to all those I carried into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon: “Build houses and settle down; plant gardens and eat what they produce. Marry and have sons and daughters; find wives for your sons and give your daughters in marriage, so that they too may have sons and daughters. Increase in number there; do not decrease. Also, seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper.” (Jeremiah 29:4–7)
In verse four, God gives his credentials before he states things, doesn’t he? The Lord Almighty, the God of Israel that means, “pay attention.” I don’t know about you, but even though I’m not under discipline I sure do feel in this world that I’m in exile. Now, please do not go off into a prosperity doctrine. “Oh great, if I pray for my boss, he will give me a raise in a year.” He might give you a dime an hour increase, I don’t know, but the nature of a greedy man is he becomes greedier. What do we want to prosper? The gospel. What do we want to produce fruit? The cross of Jesus Christ. All He’s saying is go in and bless others, but the people didn’t want to do that. They didn’t want to submit to the Lord’s discipline, did they? Don’t you think for a moment that God has the job chosen for you with its discipline and as well as its glory? He disciplines those he loves. So, He will give you a job that’s just perfect for you where He can refine you the most. What job do we want? Of course, we want the one where the least refining will take place. He will give you the job that maybe you don’t want at all. He will give you the meanest supervisor in the company. He will give you the most obnoxious co-worker that he can to find to purify you. We can go into that exile and pray for prosperity and for everything to work out according to God’s grace or fight it all the way and lose everything God has in mind for a reward. Those of you in school can pick the teacher who is the meanest, roughest teacher, or you can do what everyone else does; take the wide road and the easy road.
So many bosses complain about not being able to find anyone they can trust in the world and rightly so. What does that mean to us as Christians? We have an excellent opportunity. If everyone else is obnoxious and pagans can’t be trustworthy, there’s our opportunity.
Like the coolness of snow at harvest time is a trustworthy messenger to those who send him; he refreshes the spirit of his masters. (Proverbs 25:13)
When you can be trusted to get a job completed, it refreshes other people around you. It will silence the talk of wicked men, won’t it? Absolutely! It will refresh them and wake them up and they will say, “What kind of life is it that you live? Where do you go to church? What is this that you’ve got?” Then you can give an answer like nobody else can. This
stuff is really good because it weeds out all the other Christians that offer their wide road message. You have to work around other people who falsely claim they are Christians out in the workplace, don’t you? But if your light shines like this, they can say all that they want to say, but the boss and everyone else will look at you and know you’ve got something real. So you don’t have to debate all day long “once saved, always saved” or any other church doctrine. All you have to do is begin to speak and they will look at your life and know that what you speak is the truth. There’s something real about what you say.
7. DON’T WORK FOR A PAYCHECK
I know that’s why everyone takes a job, but that’s not why Christians take a job. They never take a job because of the paycheck. Don’t you dare live for Friday! In fact, you ask the Lord to change your heart, so you forget to pick up your paycheck on Friday. You go all the way home and say, “Man, I forgot my paycheck! The only reason you work is to earn money to give to other people.
I tell you, use worldly wealth to gain friends for yourselves, so that when it is gone, you will be welcomed into eternal dwellings. (Luke 16:9)
Why do you have worldly wealth? Why do you have a house, a car, and all of those things? To gain friends. Use it to gain friends, not to pay your utility bill or to even give yourself food. “So that when it is gone, you will be welcomed into eternal dwellings.” Your heavenly employer will reward you in eternity, won’t he? For now, he’s just merely giving you a little allowance, a little advance. Here’s some money to do something productive; go use it to win friends.
Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much, and whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much. (Luke 16:10)
I don’t know what you guys take home each week, but I wouldn’t consider it much, would you? If you can’t be trusted with that little bit to win friends, why would God give you anything else? Why would he bother?
So if you have not been trustworthy in handling worldly wealth, who will trust you with true riches? (Luke 16:11)
How men labor and study the Bible, know the Greek and the Hebrew and call tell you all the traditions behind all the things in the Old Testament. They can even pronounce the Old Testament names; they can do all the things I can’t do, but what they can’t seem to do is be trusted with worldly wealth. They live for paychecks. They don’t hate and despise money. They don’t use it to win the friendships of other people. They don’t really know how to do that, let alone to get the concept straight. So why should Jesus Christ ever give them wisdom or understanding? Why should he give them the bread of life if they can’t be trusted with a little paycheck that comes in each week? Yet to us and to a lot of people, that becomes everything, doesn’t it? That thing at the end of the week, a little piece of paper that signifies money and power; that becomes everything to focus in on to benefit self.
“And if you have not been trustworthy with someone else’s property, who will give you property of your own? No servant can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money.” The Pharisees, who loved money, heard all this and were sneering at Jesus. He said to them, “You are the ones who justify yourselves in the eyes of men, but God knows your hearts. What is highly valued among men is detestable in God’s sight.” (Luke 16:12–15)
It is detestable in the sight of God when we work every week for Friday’s paycheck and the only way it becomes redeemed, the only way it becomes holy, is when we win friends with it, friends for Jesus Christ. That’s why we have our jobs and that’s how we glorify God. Let’s begin to work hard. I want all of you working so hard you don’t have time to call me at lunch to talk to me about your day because you’re too busy. I’m not saying that you can never call the church or never have time for discussion, but let’s get busy. You can see me every night if you want. You certainly see me at least a couple times a week. It’s time to toil and labor and win some friends and do that through our jobs.
Father, place within our hearts not only an understanding of this, but also a life that is obedient to the Lord. One that never becomes tired of doing good. Make us blameless and pure, God. Doing everything without one complaint, without one argument that we might surely shine your word. Father may your name be forever praised, and may we all have an eternal dwelling waiting for us Father because we were faithful with little. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.
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Opinion Unto His Righteousness