Hello! Welcome to Thursday’s podcast. I hope that you are having a great week.
Our Bible reading today is 1 Thessalonians Chapter 4 vs9-12, and we’ll be focusing on verses 11 and 12, which say:
“Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life: you should mind your own business and 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.”
In these verses we see Paul address a number of issues relating to employment and work. This was an important topic for the Thessalonians, as it seems likely that most of them were artisans and craftsmen – manual workers – rather than those belonging to the educated, professional classes. There is no indication that the Christians in Thessalonica were wealthy, and their employment in practical trades was looked down upon in the Greek society in which they lived and worked.
So for the Thessalonians, getting a Godly perspective on what it means to be a Christian in the workplace was vital.
And the same is true for us today.
The Covid-19 crisis has seen much debate about how we value and reward the jobs done by key workers, for example those working in the care system or in supermarkets.
It may be that working from home has prompted you to reflect upon and re-assess your work and career priorities.
Over the past 10 weeks, some have worked harder than ever before, whilst others have been furloughed or even lost their job.
If you are a graduating student, then this time of year is when many of you are thinking about entering the world of work for the first time, after the somewhat abrupt ending to university life.
Whether our place of work is a factory, an office, or our home…….whether you choose to work as a volunteer, are struggling to find a paid job, or are working towards exams or a degree…….whatever work situation we find ourselves in, these verses from Thessalonians can help us think about what it means to be Christians at work in the work place.
Firstly, we are designed to work.
God himself is a worker – a Creator – and we are made in his image. Working is part of our Godly design. Paul wants people to work because this is part of God’s perfect and original plan for every person. It’s a way in which we can serve God and seek to become more like him. The word ‘work’ appears just under 800 times in the Bible, so clearly it is important to God; and in Hebrew the word used for worship and work is actually the same. The workplace is God’s place.
Whatever work we have been given to do; whether we manage multi-million pound budgets or whether we put cans on shelves in a supermarket; by working we are reflecting the image of our Creator, and so fulfilling his plan and design for each one of us.
If you would like to unpack more about this, I would suggest reading ‘Garden City’ by John Mark Comer. It’s Biblical, practical and inspiring when it comes to thinking about the workplace being God’s place.
Secondly, work is something which God intended to be good.
However, in Thessalonica, Paul saw the exact opposite of this happening because of the system of patronage, and much of what he writes in verses 11 and 12 relates to this. Rich patrons would financially support people, not by asking them to work, but instead by requiring them to go around proclaiming loudly, to all who could hear, how fantastic the patron was! People spent time, and made noise, making others look good, rather than leading a quiet life, minding their own business and working with their hands to earn money.
It was a social system that Paul did not want the Christians in Thessalonica to be part of, because God wants us to do good through our work. Our ambition in the workplace should not be to pursue endless promotions, or to maintain working practices or attitudes which are not Godly, instead our aim should be to bring the goodness of God into this environment.
Our job as Christians is to be in the workplace, transforming it, having an impact on our home, our school, our workshop, our council – being salt in areas that are rotten, bringing light to places that are dark. At work we have a unique opportunity to challenge zero hours contracts, office politics and gossip, greed and corruption – to name but a few.
Working to do what is good is a hallmark of being a Christian. How can we bring the goodness of God to our workplaces this week?
And finally, the work place is a place of mission.
As Paul says, through our work we are called to win the respect of outsiders. The average person spends 60-70% of their waking hours at work during their lifetime, and interacts with over 100 people at work each week – this gives us a lot of opportunity to win the respect of non-Christians!
Alan and I have the privilege of leading Community Church at STC Sheffield, and we have heard some great stories over these last few weeks of people stepping out in faith in the workplace – people have shared with us about a greater openness and opportunity to share their faith with colleagues, and also of being much bolder in offering to pray with and for others.
And even if we are not quite confident enough to do this yet, do those we work with look at us and see Christ at work, in the workplace? It comes back to that word ‘infusion’ that we spoke about on Tuesday. When people look at us, how we conduct ourselves, how we relate to others – they should see Jesus, experience Jesus and get the taste and flavour of Jesus expressed through our love for others.
How can we enable the love of Christ to permeate our workplace? Where are we being called to change or alter the atmosphere in our office, our home, or school?
Heavenly Father, thank you that we are designed to work, and that working is part of our worship to you. Teach us more about what it means to be a Christian at work in the workplace. Amen.
BIBLE READING: 1 Thessalonians 4:9-12
Now about your love for one another we do not need to write to you, for you yourselves have been taught by God to love each other. And in fact, you do love all of God’s family throughout Macedonia. Yet we urge you, brothers and sisters, to do so more and more, and to make it your ambition to lead a quiet life: you should mind your own business and 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.