Glorifying God through hard work VS glorifying God through building relationships: these two don’t really look like they will have a tension, do they? Well, I certainly didn’t notice this until I started my new job two months ago.
From working in the public sector at an office environment, I could sense that there was definitely more of a casual attitude towards work than in private sector companies. Of course, when it got busy, all of us worked our socks off. But when there wasn’t as much workload, most people were less than half productive as they could be, as they were busy chatting away with others in the area.
Having a healthy conviction of the Holy spirit, I always have it quite concrete at the back of my head that I must glorify God through my hard work. On top of this, I also had the benefit of having the eagerness to learn and work hard as a 'newbie'. So, of course I worked super hard whatever anyone else was doing, pounding through documents after documents until it was home time.
Only after a month did I realise that I was slowly secluding myself socially from the rest of my team. Initially, people would often come up to me to start a chat when they were bored, but I think I unknowingly radiated an aura that said something like ‘Please. I think we should probably get back to work’. Much repetition of such encounters gradually led to less visits from my colleagues and consequently a mild seclusion at the work place.
Upon noticing this, I immediately knew that this was wrong - God wouldn’t want me to work my socks off and glorify him at the expense of not loving my neighbour and building a meaningful relationship with them.
Is God’s will ever contradictory?
My short answer is no. God is perfect and his will is also perfect, meaning that all His wills are perfectly in harmony with each other and they synchronize for good (Romans Chapter 8, verse 28). Having this truth established firmly, all I had to do was to dissect what is actually going on in this work dynamic in order to find out what action would most please God in this situation.
First, I took a good look at a classic bible verse regarding work:
Colossians Chapter 3, verse 22-24 - Bondservants, obey in everything those who are your earthly masters, not by way of eye-service, as people-pleasers, but with sincerity of heart, fearing the Lord. Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ.
I could clearly see from this verse that the will of God is not about productivity or to maximise profit for my employer, but to have the right heart - not by the ways of eye-service or people-pleasers, but to work with full sincerity of heart.
If I was to be lazy, that would be a direct contradiction with His will as I am not working with full sincerity of heart. If I laboured with all my might but with the intention to impress my superiors, that would also be a contradiction. However, neither of these were my case - I was simply trying to work hard and whole heartily as if I was working for the Lord and to not slack off and rob my employers by wasting the human resource they have rightfully paid for.
On top of this, I realised that these casual chit-chat breaks were actually a workplace culture with laziness at the heart of it, and I really didn’t want to contribute in promoting such culture (definitely not being a salt and a light if I do so).
Knowing that productivity isn’t actually the issue but that it is the heart, I was freed from having a false conviction that I simply need to be productive. I realised that I can be less productive and still be whole hearted in my work. As long as my motive in the participation of casual chit-chats was not laziness but to build meaningful relationship with others in order to exemplify Christ’s love and pave a pathway in sharing the gospel, my heart would be right with God and I could still be whole hearted in my job.
That being said, I would need to caution and examine myself regularly to check if I would ever unknowingly justify my laziness with this excuse, because I know in my flesh I would without a doubt do so.
Fully realizing what is going on, I now try to balance between the two: my work and the relationships. I try not to lean too much towards either sides and when I find myself in such slanted state, I take a moment of prayer for God to give me true whole heartedness and a true love for my colleagues, appreciating their company and taking genuine interest in them… in hope of one day sharing the gospel with them…
Richard Kwon is from Auckland, a regular lay person who just loves the Lord.