One of our local supermarkets has installed computerized cash registers. The registers are supposed to operate at the speed of light if everything is working well. One day recently it wasn't. Something wasn't interfacing with something else, and the computers were making all kinds of mistakes. Consequently, the line of customers was getting longer and angrier, and the hapless cashiers were becoming more and more frustrated. By the time the old gentleman in front of me reached the head of the line, he was beside himself with impatience. As the register buzzed, clicked and flashed in a futile attempt to make sense of its own signals, the old fellow had had enough. "Last time I shop here!" he growled at the beleaguered but innocent cashier. "Good!" snapped the frustrated young woman. The man slammed down his items and stormed out of the store. "You shouldn't have said that," remarked the other cashier. "You know the management doesn't allow us to be rude to the customers." "Who cares what they think? This is my last day anyway. I'm starting a new job next week." "Lucky you," said the other girl. "Wish I was."
A typical attitude
Unfortunately, these young women are typical of many workers. They are miserable at their jobs. Certainly, some companies are filled with happy employees eager to do a fair day's work, but such places seem to be the exception. Rather, the halfhearted, do-as-little-as-possible approach seems to be most common today. Perhaps you are like that. "Yes," you'll say, "but if you had to work where I do — if you had a boss like mine —." Well, OK, there is that side to it. Indeed, many employment situations are hard to get excited about. Conditions are uncomfortable. Wages are low. The work is boring, and the management is selfish and unreasonable. Obviously, nobody chooses to work in a situation like that. But we can't always choose. Sometimes an employee has little choice but to put up with the difficult conditions, because any job is better than none at all. Maybe you are in that position. If so, what should your attitude be? Have you no choice but to join the ranks of grumbling, mumbling, turned-off, resentful people who hate every minute they spend at work and who look forward only to quitting time? Does the Bible say anything about that? It ought to. Most of us who work spend between a quarter to a third of our waking hours at our place of employment. That is a large portion of our lives — lives that should be spent overcoming and building character.
The Bible and the worker
The Bible does have something to say about work — quite a lot, in fact. We recognize that not all our readers are free to act. They live in countries where unemployment is rife, or maybe in the developing Third World countries where jobs — any jobs — are few and far between. Or perhaps because of age and lack of education, a change for the better is almost impossible. So if you aren't happy at work, or if you are trapped in an employment situation that is far from ideal, this article is for you. First, remember this: It is not a sin if, through no fault of your own, you cannot be what this world calls successful. Some in New Testament times were called into God's Church while they were slaves, and slavery is surely the most undesirable of all employment situations. Paul's advice to these people was that they should gain their freedom if they could, but if not, they should not be concerned about it (I Corinthians 7:21). The same can be said to you if you are in a bad employment situation. Get out of it — improve yourself — if you can. But if you can't, you need not feel that you are a failure. Valuable "growing time" need not be squandered in self-pity and frustration. The Bible tells us, "Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might" (Ecclesiastes 9:10). Why? Because "there is no work or device or knowledge or wisdom in the grave where you are going" (same verse). Anything you are going to learn and anything you are going to do — or, what is more important, any character you are going to build — has to be done while you are alive. Therefore, the time you spend at work had better be used constructively. That doesn't only mean getting ahead and making money. God wants you to inherit eternal life and a level of achievement and prosperity beyond the wildest dreams of even the most successful business tycoons. But before He gives you that kind of life, He needs to know you will use it properly. There will be no room for dishonesty, laziness, selfishness and smoldering resentment in the Kingdom of God. These things must be overcome, with God's help, now. The apostle Paul once wrote some advice to Titus, the minister in charge of the church on the island of Crete. The Cretans had a bad reputation for laziness and dishonesty (Titus 1:12). The members had to overcome this. "Exhort servants to be obedient to their own masters," wrote Paul, "to be well pleasing in all things, not answering back, not pilfering, but showing all good fidelity, that they may adorn the doctrine of God our Savior in all things" (Titus 2:9-10). Yes, but, some of the Cretans may have thought, the way my boss speaks to me, it's all I can do not to be rude in return. And why should I be honest when everybody else where I work steals all the time? And I get paid whether I work hard or do nothing, and everybody else does as little as possible. But it isn't just a case of pleasing your boss. While it is good if those over you consider you to be a reliable employee, that should not be your main reason for being that way. "Servants, obey in all things your masters according to the flesh," wrote Paul to the church at Colosse, "not with eyeservice, as men-pleasers, but in sincerity of heart, fearing God" (Colossians 3:22). You aren't just going to work to serve people who may not appreciate you. You should also have the attitude that you are working for God. He always appreciates honest, hard work, and He will reward it. So Paul continues to the Colossians: "Whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance; for you serve the Lord Christ" (verses 23-24). Paul wrote something very similar to the people of the church at Ephesus: "Servants, be obedient to those who are your masters according to the flesh, with fear and trembling, in sincerity of heart, as to Christ; not with eyeservice, as men-pleasers, but as servants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart, with good will doing service, as to the Lord, and not to men, knowing that whatever good anyone does, he will receive the same from the Lord, whether he is a slave or free" (Ephesians 6:5-8).
Who you really work for
It's clear, isn't it? An employment opportunity — any employment opportunity — provides a chance to show God what kind of worker you are. Are you honest, or do you steal your employer's goods? What about his time? Are you late? Do you quit early? Do you try to give him value for your wages? Do you try to respect him, even if he is hard to get along with? You should! "Servants, be submissive to your masters with all fear, not only to the good and gentle, but also to the harsh" (I Peter 2:18). The Bible shows us we should see beyond the immediate problems. The character you are building will stand you in good stead in your future responsibilities in the Kingdom and government of God. If your work gives you many hours a week to build that character, thank God for it, and don't waste the time. Work as if you are working for Jesus Christ Himself. You can be sure He is watching. Don't succumb to the temptation of joining the millions of frustrated people who have to drag themselves to work each day. Watch your attitude — not the clock! A Christian whose sights are set on the Kingdom of God can make even the most tedious of jobs an opportunity to overcome laziness, selfishness, resentment and dishonesty. Why waste a quarter to a third of your life? Ask God to help you rise above the difficult circumstances. Then one day you will hear your real boss — Jesus Christ — tell you the words you want to hear most: "Well done, good and faithful servant" (Matthew 25:21).