Witnessing in the Workplace
As a Christian leader, I have lost count of the number of times other Christians have made the following statements to me: “I really envy you; you are involved in God’s work every day. It must be wonderful not to get caught up in secular pursuits. I wish I could serve God full-time like you do. So much of my day is taken up with mundane, secular activities.”
Implicit in these statements is the idea that to be useful and effective as a witness for Jesus Christ, we must be involved in some kind of “full-time” Christian service—like working on a church staff. Undoubtedly some of us have this specialized calling and are ministering full-time in a church or Christian ministry. However, the crux of the issue is this: We are to faithfully serve God in the place where he presently has us.
It is an unbiblical fallacy to make a distinction in our daily activities between the secular and the spiritual spheres of life. This is an unhealthy biblical worldview. In allowing ourselves to think this way, we will feel frustrated and unfulfilled because so much of our lives are spent in so-called “secular” activities, and perhaps the primary secular activity in which we spend much of our time is our workplace.
Millions of people in the United States spend a large percentage of their daily waking hours during the week at their workplace. Multiplied millions of Christians are represented in this group. Does God, in his infinite wisdom and economy, really intend all those hours spent at our workplace to be unproductive for the kingdom of God? I don’t believe he does. The apostle Paul wrote from prison to the Colossian Christians, “Interact with those who do not know Christ with wisdom, making the most of every opportunity” (Colossians 4:5).
If you aren’t employed full-time in some Christian ministry, you are in great company! Throughout the Bible, we see God using men and woman who were not professional religious workers to accomplish amazing things for him. Moses was a shepherd when God appeared to him in a burning bush. David also was a shepherd. Joseph was a political leader in Egypt. And Nehemiah was the king’s cupbearer. It surprises many people who read about the life of Jesus in the Gospels, how he avoided aligning himself with the organized religious leaders of his day. Instead he recruited fishermen and a tax collector to become his closest apostles and share in his ministry.
We are each called to live lives of grace and hope toward those around us, whether we are officially a part of a Christian ministry or not. As the apostle Paul emphasized in 2 Corinthians 5:20, “We serve as Christ’s ambassadors, as though God was calling out to everyone through us. We plead with you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God!”
Wherever we are, we are called to be full-time witnesses of God’s grace, hope, and love toward other people. The workplace is God’s tailor-made mission field for many of us. It is among those in our workplace that God has commissioned us to spread the forgiving grace and love of of the good news of Jesus Christ. If Christians truly saw themselves as ministers in their workplace, their attitude toward their job would totally change.
In your workplace, God has placed you in a unique position. You have the opportunity to interact with many different types of people everyday—from atheists to those who are hurting and questioning the meaning of life. It would take a full-time Christian pastor or church staff member a significant amount of time and effort to develop those same kinds of personal relationships. But God has placed you alongside these people on a daily basis. What a God opportunity!
Actions Speak Louder Than Words
There are two important areas to consider in relation to living a life of grace and hope in the workplace. The first is how we perform our jobs; the second is the opportunities we have to be a godly influence on our co-workers.
The apostle Paul tells us in Colossians 3:22-24, “Bondservants, obey your earthly masters in everything, and do this not only when they are watching you, to win their favor, but with a sincere heart and fear of the Lord. In all that you do, work with your whole heart as working for the Lord, not for human masters. For you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as your reward. You are a servant of Christ!” Here the apostle Paul tells bondservants (workers) that they must not serve only when they are being watched, but that they should work faithfully for their masters (employers) at all times.
Our work performance should flow from a sincere desire to serve and glorify God in all that we say and do. Paul is telling us that when we work at our jobs, we are ultimately working for the honor and glory of our Lord Jesus. Our eternal reward will come from him!
In light of this, each of us needs to ask the following questions: “How do I work? Am I a productive employee?” Too many workers only seem committed to a job when the boss is present. Only when the boss is around do they care about the quality of their work. But as Christians, we are to do our best at all times, motivated by the fact that we are serving God first, then our employer.
Before we can witness to our co-workers, each of us must first ask ourselves whether we are working with all our strength, as unto the Lord. As 1 Peter 4:11 says, “Those who speak should do so as those who speak the very words of God. Those who serve should serve with the strength God provides, so that in everything God will be praised through Jesus Christ.”
As Christian employees, we must be honest in all that we say and do. Within the workplace, even Christians can be tempted to be dishonest, and even lie. The workplace is often where the ethical clash of two different kingdoms—God’s and man’s—occurs. We may be asked by a dishonest employer to work more slowly to drag out a job and increase the final billing price. We may be tempted to steal company property. Or we may be tempted to misappropriate funds. All these temptations, and more, are regular occurrences in the workplace.
As Christians, we must be unrelentingly honest in all our work situations. Once we have compromised in one area, we have given Satan a foothold in our lives, and we will soon find ourselves on a downward path where compromise in other areas of life become easier and easier.
To understand the emphasis God places on honesty, one can do no better than read the book of Proverbs, which has many insights for the wise. “The man of integrity walks securely, but he who takes crooked paths will be found out.” “Food gained by fraud tastes sweet to a man, but he ends up with a mouth full of gravel.” “A fortune made by lying tongues is a fleeting vapor and a deadly snare” (Proverbs 10:9; 20:17; 21:6).
This is only a small selection of the many proverbs which refer to our relationship to our workplace. Take the time now to pause in prayer and meditate concerning your own work attitudes and habits. Is your lifestyle filled with God’s grace and hope toward your fellow employees in your workplace, or are you always complaining and fighting with them?
Before we have the right to give advice or share the good news of Jesus Christ with others at work, we must be sure that we “walk the talk.” Christians should be the ones who have the most credibility and respect in the places that we work.
Credibility and respect by other employees is not automatically established because of an official position or title, but are earned by the track record of our character and actions over time. It takes time and a sincere effort to build credibility; it only takes one major ungodly incident to destroy it.
As Proverbs 22:1 says, “A good name is more desirable than great riches; to be esteemed is better than silver and gold.” As Christians, we must establish a good name and guard it well. We need to be known in the workplace as people of grace, honesty and integrity.
Once we serve in our workplace in a diligent and God-honoring way and live a life of God’s grace and hope toward other people, we can seriously begin looking for opportunities to draw our co-workers closer to the love of Jesus Christ.
Witnessing in the Workplace
When your co-workers first learn that you are a Christian, they might naively stereotype you. This can be a painful experience for you if your co-workers have had negative encounters with Christians in the past, or simply have a distorted image of Jesus Christ. At times you might be ridiculed and ostracized for no apparent reason other than because you are a follower of Jesus.
The apostle Peter addresses this issue in 1 Peter 4:14-16, “If you are insulted because you believe in the name of Jesus Christ, you are blessed, because the Holy Spirit of God’s glorious beauty rests upon you. If you suffer, it must not be because you are a murderer or a thief or any other kind of criminal, or even as a meddling busybody. However, if you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God because you bear his name.”
We shouldn’t deliberately demonstrate a martyr’s complex and go about looking for opposition. But if the opposition is present and persists, we must first make sure we are being “persecuted for righteousness sake,” and not because of our own self-righteousness or arrogance.
Our witness at our workplace must reflect the attributes of Jesus Christ as detailed in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5:1-12). We must follow Paul’s advice to Timothy in 2 Timothy 2:23-25 “Don’t have anything to do with foolish and stupid controversies, because you know they only produce arguments and divisions. And the Lord’s servant must not enjoy getting into arguments but must be kind to everyone, able to teach the truth, and not resentful. People who oppose our faith should be corrected with a kind and gentle heart, in the hope that God will give them a change of mind leading them to a knowledge of the truth.”
The message of this passage is that we should never argue with our co-workers, but should always respond in grace, hope and love. We must lead our fellow employees kindly, one step at a time, into the ways of God. We are to avoid arguments and quarrels with them at all costs. Otherwise, we may win the argument, but lose the relationship. That would be tragic!
The workplace is a competitive environment where cutthroat methods are often used to step on others on the way up the corporate ladder. There are many victims of the aggressiveness of others in the workplace, and they may feel isolated and hurt.
There are fellow employees with real needs, and we can help them in a loving and caring way. A smile, a word of encouragement, help in time of crisis—all of these demonstrate God’s grace and hope toward them. And such acts of caring will open more doors for witnessing opportunities than anything else we do.
Praying for Our Co-Workers
Last but not least, in addition to our efforts to live lives of grace and hope in the workplace, we should pray. We should pray privately during our times of devotion, we should pray silently to ourselves while we are at work, and we should pray with other Christians in our small groups or church prayer gatherings. We need to become serious intercessors, contending in prayer before God for the hearts of those we are seeking to witness to.
A good motto to keep in mind with regard to prayer and witnessing is: We need to talk to God about people before we talk to people about God. The following points are helpful to keep in mind as we pray for our co-workers. We should pray for each of our fellow employees by name, asking:
- That the Holy Spirit would convict them of their need for salvation.
- That God’s grace and hope would be experienced in our workplace and in the life of each person working there.
- That the eyes of our co-workers would be open to God’s truth.
- That our co-workers would hunger for God.
- That we would find favor with our co-workers.
In his second letter to the church at Corinth, Paul describes grace-filled Christians as a fragrant aroma spreading to all those we come in contact with (2 Corinthians 2:14-15). Is that how people would describe us in the workplace? Would they miss us if we decided to leave? Do you spread God’s grace and hope among your fellow employees?
If we want to be effective witnesses for Jesus Christ in our workplace, then that is how our co-workers need to feel about us. And when they see us in that way, we will be able to befriend them and share the gospel message with them successfully. In a very real sense, they will already have experienced the gospel lived out in our lives.