Paul wrote, “Work willingly at whatever you do, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people” (Colossians 3:23, 24 New Living Translation).
A reporter once asked John D. Rockefeller how much was enough. “Just a little bit more,” he said. But my grandfather thought a little less would do—and for a good reason.
After leaving the family farm, my grandfather worked with Paradise Ice Company. Although the company changed names several times, and bosses came and went, my grandfather remained. The business was small and localized in certain parts of South Carolina. The pay was also meager, but my grandfather thought it sufficed.
My grandfather not only paid his bills with his salary, but he also gave from the fruits of his salary. When times were hard for me or my parents, he signed over his tax refund check to the one who needed the most help.
When my grandfather died, he had less than one thousand dollars in the bank. Not much to show for working his entire life and for being loyal to one company for all of his working career. But I think he had more than his bank account showed. He had sent his treasures ahead. Perhaps my grandfather saw his job of first delivering ice, then bottled milk, and finally ice cream as more of an act of worship than a job which consumed him five—and sometimes six—days each week.
My grandfather enjoyed where he worked. Not everyone can say the same. I have had a few jobs I detested, but I went to work anyway. I had bills to pay and a family to support. I also had a reputation to protect. One as a believer. One that showed others I just didn’t know all the right words, but actually believed them. One that pointed others to worship the same God as I did.
We often define worship as taking place in a worship center, singing from hymnbooks or by looking at a screen, praying, attending a small group, or gathering with other believers around a table filled with food. But how can these things happen where we work? Viewing our work as worship involves adding to the above and possibly altering our mindset.
Viewing work as worship entails actions.
Going with the Right Attitudes
Paul wrote, “You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had” (Philippians 2:5). Among other things, Jesus’ attitude was marked by unselfishness, forgiveness, and love. He displayed each one through his earthly ministry and also in his sacrificial act on the cross.
When I think of unselfishness, Zelma (not her real name) comes to mind. She and I work together and arrive at work about the same time each morning, which is before most other employees. I notice things she does that others never see and perhaps take for granted, such as restocking the copier with paper, turning on the oven for the kitchen supervisor so she can cook the morning biscuits, and opening the doors of the classrooms on our hallway. Not everyone knows what Zelma does, but word has filtered out to some. No one asks her to do these things, but her actions demonstrate worship at work because she performs these duties with the right attitude: as unto the Lord.
Forgiveness in the workplace makes it a happier place too. I remember when a coworker and friend falsely accused me of something I had not done. Working with this person proved difficult after the matter straightened itself out. Forgiveness was my only solution to the dilemma, and, hopefully, my attitude demonstrated worship at work.
Love, rather than anger, also fosters a spirit of worship in the workplace. Love covers a multitude of sins—mine and others. Showing love, even when not returned, can transform the workplace into one in which Jesus himself could walk and feel at home.
Helping Others Without Being Asked or Compensated
Most jobs come with guidelines, expectations, rules, and regulations. And often a job description ends with “and anything else required.” Many jobs come with duties greater than we can accomplish in the designated timeframe. Doing more than our employer expects brings surprise—and raised eyebrows. It also carries the possibility of transforming the work atmosphere.
I worked with Melvin (not his real name) after high school and still maintain a friendship with him 40 years later. He had more than enough to keep him busy each day as a quality control agent. But he was never too busy to help me lift a heavy object, unload a truck, count inventory, or anything else I asked him to do. Often, I did not have to ask. And regardless of the extra he did, his compensation remained the same. We never sang a song, said a prayer, or opened a Bible at work, but his presence brought an air of worship to the warehouse.
Doing Our Best, Not Less
Slacking at work comes easily if we do not enjoy our job. Thinking the boss requires too much of us also makes justifying doing less seem practical. Neither attitude emits good worship vibes. Worship is a pleasing aroma to God, regardless of where it takes place. And it doesn’t have to occur at a worship center or through particular actions and traditions.
Doing our best wherever God places us enhances the work atmosphere and fosters a spirit of worship. Others notice when we do not fall into the norm of “just enough” but rather excel by doing more than the boss expects of us.
Dishonesty in the workplace is more common than we might imagine. I knew her as the church secretary—but also the one who stole money out of the church’s checking account. I knew another as the choir treasurer—but one who depleted the account because she faced financial difficulties at home. And who can forget those who fudge on travel mileage to pad an expense check? Or those who do not claim all of their income in order to reduce their tax liability?
I also knew me. The one who took a sticky note pad from my work desk and used it at home. Or a pen. And what about a few paper clips or staples? Little things the boss would not miss, but when multiplied by the number of employees who do the same cost any company hundreds, perhaps thousands, of dollars.
Honesty reflects our character, and our character is the person we are when others aren’t looking. But they do look at us at our places of employment. My grandfather was as honest as the day was long. And I attempt to mimic his model. Hopefully, our examples will rub off on others, making where we work places that honor God—a type of worship, if you will.
Our worship should not be relegated to a church building or worship center. It can and should take place at our places of employment, albeit in different forms than we might exhibit at corporate worship experiences.
So, worship while you work. You will enjoy the job better and others might even learn to worship with you.
Martin Wiles lives in Greenwood, South Carolina, and is the founder of Love Lines from God. He is a freelance editor, English teacher, author of five books, and has been published in numerous publications. He also serves as Managing Editor for Christian Devotions. His next book, A Whisper in the Woods: Quiet Escapades in a Busy World, is under contract with Ambassador International.