While reading this book, I became keenly aware as a Christian of my role for Christ in the workplace. I had not addressed the issue of what I as a Christian could do in the workplace except share my beliefs with others when the occassion availed itself. In a way I believe I have been doing what the authors have suggested, sharing Christ with my coworkers. On the other hand, I do not think that I have taken it to the depth or with the conviction and missionlike attitudes ascribed by the authors.
By that I mean I have always realized that there is a definite difference between how people act and react at work and how they act and react in church or at Christian functions and how some of those same people compromise their beliefs at work. I never fully understood how I as a Christian could make a religious difference in my coworkers lives by how I treated my work. Doug Sherman and William Hendricks touch on this ideal in the first section of their book Your Work Matters to God.
The first section titled, “How Christians View Work” taught me first, that what I was observing and feeling was not unique. The fact that many people compromise their Christian beliefs or have no Christian beliefs at all in the workforce is saddening. What is even more saddening is the fact that many people are working and feeling that God does not acknowledge, appreciate or feel that their work is even worth the effort. Also, many are working for reasons that are not biblical, even though they profess to be Christians.
I agree with the authors that in today’s workplaces, some people have chosen to keep Christ out of the workplace while communing with Him in a church setting. The authors describe this action as the Christian shuttling between two “disparate worlds”.(p. 21) Doing so can cause tension for the Christian worker. Another avenue some Christians have taken in regard to their work is that their work is not as important as their religious work or spiritual issues.
These are people who unlike the first group do not waffle between secular and sacred, but hold the sacred far above the secular or “work” world. According to Sherman and Hendricks, this attitude can leave people with the feeling that their work has no value in regards to what their religious life can offer. Considering that an abundant amount of a person’s time is spent at work, these people in turn feel that they have no value to God and that in terms of work God considers them second class citizens. A third issue deals with a person placing all their value on their work and none on religion. They have not come to the realization that because they spend most of their time at work, that their religion should also be an intricate part of that world and that their work actually matters to God.
All three of these views can be observed in the workplace at one time or another among Christians. I agree with the authors on all three of these points and how they affect the Christian in the workplace, because having worked in the corporate world and having had the opportunity to try and share Christ with others, as well as deal with issues of how and if my work matters to Christ, I have observed all three of these circumstances. The fact of the matter is though, I had never placed much thought of what if anything I could do to help my fellow coworkers relate Christ into their work and the importance of their work to Christ.
Truth be told, until I read this book, I was not sure how important my own work was to Christ. My mission had been one of trying to get people to accept Christ as Savior, but I had not shown them, nor really was I aware of how to show them how once Christ came into their lives, how He wanted to become an intricate part of every aspect of it including their work.
This book has offered a new found freedom of what my work actually does in terms of helping people and how God views my work. I work for a company that deals with behavior management for people with a variety of developmental disabilities as well as mental health and substance abuse issues. Part of my job as director of this program, is to insure that these people are matched up with the right technician to help them achieve a set of predetermined therapeutic goals.
I also have to oversee opportunities for new clients and new personnel to work with these clients. My job entails having a good report with persons at the county mental health department as well as answering to the CEO. Wearing that many hats is a task especially when having to deal with so many different personalities. Not only do I have people who are accountable to me, but I am accountable to my CEO not only for what I do, but for those whom I supervise. I am accountable and hold accountable those who work at the Mental Health center as well. In all, until reading this book, I had issues with the importance God placed on what I do.
I know that the field I am in helps people to become more independent emotionally and psychologically, but I could not see where I ultimately did anything that mattered to God. Now I understand that through my role in the company, I ensure that the consumer gets quality healthcare with a technician that they are best suited with, who has that consumer’s best interest in getting them better or at least better than they have been. I in turn am helping that consumer’s family to have a better quality of life with their family member. I am helping the CEO of the company to do the same thing as well as help the company make a profit by securing more business through the Mental Health Department and retaining consumers through quality care.
I am helping the technician help others along with helping them to provide for their family’s needs and I am helping the community as a whole by providing a service for persons that the mainstream world has virtually decided needs to be put away. Before, I always thought of myself as someone who went to work did my job and went home to my family. I knew that I helped people, but never knew how God felt about my work. After reading this book, especially the section on “How God Views Work”, I have a better understanding of how God perceives the work we do. When I read about creation in Genesis, (what Christian hasn’t?), it was like reading it again for the first time.
When I relate the story of creation to work, I see now that God planned it in the beginning for work to be a good and profitable venture. By allowing Adam and Eve to be the overseers of all of His creation firstly showed how much love he had for us and secondly demonstrated how much he trusted us. He did not lock up or secure the tree of good and evil, he just gave us instructions not to eat of it’s fruit. Again, God is showing us that he trusts us and he allows us to work “unsupervised”.
A good point that Sherman and Hendricks make in regard to how God views work is how they parallel the fact that not only is God a worker–creating the heavens and the earth and all the things in it, but that he allows us to who were created in His image to be his coworkers and offers us reward for our work. (p. 81-82). The idea that God worked should show us that he values work. This is a point the authors provide, and I agree with their point. (p.77-81). They do however touch on the point that there is legitimate work.
This reiterates what I stated at the beginning of this text in terms of how good, Christian people sometimes compromise their Christianity at work. Sometimes they work in ventures that are not completely wholesome nor purposeful to God’s will or plan. They lie, cheat, steal or devise machinations at work that they would never contemplate at church or around a group of Christians. These types generally fall into the group who waffle between secular and sacred.
Who do not have the understanding that their work matters to God and that they need to incorporate biblical principles into their work and stop grieving the Spirit as it were. They are not only letting God down, they are raising questions to whether they are true Christians, and they are also causing missed opportunities to be taken seriously as a Christian to non-Christians and win them over to Christ.
I like the idea of the “business model” in the section on “What Difference Does It Make” .(p.122-124) This model really struck home with me and aided me in my realization as to how my work mattered to God. As I previously stated, in my job, I deal with clients/consumers (customers), technicians (employees) and my CEO (employer). Using this model helps me to understand the role I play and the role that those around me play in providing a service to our consumers. The example of the CHAMPUS claims processor clearly illustrates how we as God’s coworkers serve the needs of others. Showing how we can treat each situation or person whom we encounter as if God were there treating that situation or person shows us that doing the best work we can and in doing so, we are working for God’s cause and showing ourselves that our work really does matter to God.
Along with knowing that our work matters to God, I have found through reading this book that we have certain responsibilities in how we work. Sherman and Hendricks describe it as our “workstyle” (p.124-127). They convey the idea that our character–the way we behave,our workstyle–our performance or how we do the work we do,and how we relate to authority all determine how we do our work for God in the workplace. Coupled with that, we need to know God’s will in determining the right career for ourselves.
Noted as guides for finding God’s will, the authors cite that we should first know the scriptures, then use wisdom and examine God’s design (p. 133-135). Knowing this information has helped me to better understand what I need to do to work more effectively for God in the workplace. It offers me the opportunity of knowing that my work has meaning to God and equips me with the guidelines to make sound choices on my future career decisions.
As far as how this book has impacted how I would counsel clients with career problems, is easy enough to answer. I would have to without a doubt recommend this book to them. I would also utilize the tools recommended in this book especially using small groups to review case studies and provide biblical passages to relate how these situations relate to God and our work along with how we can use these passages to bring others to Christ through showing how important their work is to Him (p. 257-260).
Having the tools and the resources provided in this book, would allow me to show potential counseling clients with career problems that not only do they need to evaluate their career choices, but that they can be equipped to make this choice knowing that their work matters to God, that they are responsible for the choices they make in the workplace based on biblical principles and that by putting together a career manifesto,they will have a sense of purpose and direction as they search for the job they are most suitable for.
This book has been an eye opener for me and I honestly could not find anything that I disagreed with. Believe me I tried. The truth of the matter is though, when you apply your work and all the other aspects of your life to serving God and discovering His will for you in each of these aspects, you find that there is a sense of peace that surpasses man’s finite mind of comprehension.