As working Christians, we are deeply aware of the gap that exists between Sunday and Monday. Although the two days are next to each other on the calendar, they seem miles apart.
On Sunday we hear that we are children of God, saved by grace in Jesus Christ. On Monday, there are endless emails to be answered, spreadsheets to be completed, people to be hired and fired, meetings to attend, and important decisions to be made.
How can we better think about the relationship between our faith life and work life?
The intrinsic value of our work within God's big picture plan and why all work, not just “ministry work,” matters to God. But how does knowing that purpose impact the way you actually work on a day-to-day level?
It comes together in this idea:
Just be NICER.
Let’s take a look at each of the five letters in the word N-I-C-E-R.
N: No Compromises
Daniel 1:8-14 is a wonderful introduction to a young Jewish man, Daniel, who is willing to stay true to his beliefs and faith in God despite unfavorable circumstances.
As part of the Babylonian “management training program,” Daniel is told to eat certain foods that violate Jewish dietary rules. Daniel comes up with a creative, “win-win” solution that allows him to stay true to his beliefs and meet the requirements of his job. He negotiates his solution with his manager, lays the risks before God in prayer, and passes the program with flying colors.
Being a Christian in the workplace means that you should not compromise any of your core beliefs for the sake of your employer. Like Daniel, look for the creative solution and seek God’s direction.
Are you compromising any part of what you believe in your work?
The story of Daniel continues in Daniel 6:1-5. Daniel’s work product was impeccable and those around him could find nothing wrong that would hold him back from eventual promotion over them.
Daniel’s success at work was shaped by his faith in God and life’s experiences. He stood out at work because of his integrity. But that drew criticism from his colleagues—especially when they were vying for the same job opportunity.
When his competitors looked to find a way to eliminate Daniel from the promotion opportunity, Daniel’s track record spoke for itself. So much so that his jealous competitors resorted to underhanded ways to undermine Daniel’s reputation and his faith, to no avail.
Does your integrity speak for itself?
C: Compassionate in Relationships
As we read the gospels, we see Jesus often preach about the kingdom of God. Despite his busy work and travel schedule, he never missed an opportunity to be compassionate. Throughout his ministry, Jesus encountered people who were sick, demon-possessed, hungry, poor, and blind.
From a project management point of view, taking time to show compassion might well have been seen as hindering overall progress. But not for Jesus. He took the time to show compassion because that’s what the gospel is all about.
For Jesus, and for us today, having compassion means to enter into the pain and suffering of others. However, our reaction, all too often, is to walk away from the difficult life situations of others, especially in the workplace. After all, we are at work to get the work done, right?
But let’s look again at Jesus. He had a busy, three-year work-and-travel schedule and still he made time to enter into people’s suffering.
Jesus teaches us not to walk away from those who face difficult situations in life but to have compassion. We might not have all the answers, but we can still be a companion and walk with someone who is suffering.
Jesus calls us to be compassionate at work—can you do that too?
Excellence in your work is perhaps the most obvious way to be a Christian at work.
After all, the Bible makes it very clear that God values excellence, and that no matter what your job—as an employee or as an employer—you should do your very best, as if working unto the Lord himself.
In Colossians 3:22-24, Paul writes the following for the Christian worker:
Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.
Whatever job we hold, wherever we work, we should serve to the best of our ability for the pleasure and the glory of God.
The motto “Do your best, and let Jesus do the rest” exactly captures this idea.
Are you doing your best—and with the right spirit—at your work?
R: Responsible to Others
Our lives and our jobs are not about us. Life is about glorifying our creator in whose image we have been made, sometimes by serving as the very hands and feet of God himself.
In fact, God often will choose to help others through you to draw them closer to him. The story of the Good Samaritan in Luke 10:25-37 is a great example. In this story, the businessman passing by the injured man acts to help, something that the priest and Levite avoid. The businessman makes a detour and spends his own money and effort on someone with whom he has no official “business.”
In telling the parable, Jesus walks his listeners through the story to help them realize that the responsibility to help others is for everyone, not just “religious” workers. In the kingdom of God, it is the stranger—like you and I—who is to help and show responsibility for others.
The point of the story is that we are not to be so caught up in our work that we walk by those needing our help and care. Jesus’ story is an invitation to take responsibility for the ‘other.’
In this case, Jesus may be telling you something that you might not want to hear—don’t only do good within the bounds of your job, but go one step further and look for an opportunity to help others, even outside your normal work area.
Can you make the necessary detour to help others?
In conclusion, can you be NICER at work?
Roland Heersink from the Institute for Faith Work and Economics