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In the Workplace
Rev. W Silfhout, Capelle aan den IJssel, the Netherlands
Translated from De Saambinder
The secularization of our society is increasing at an alarming pace. The position of those who work with colleagues who do not wish to know anything of God and His Word is not an easy one. Because of the ongoing secularization there are more and more who must work in a worldly environment where there is cursing where there is no occasion to pray before and after meals, and where it has become more difficult to express opinions which are based upon the Word of God. How do you deal with these situations? How do you let your employer and your fellow workers know what you believe? What are the consequences? Is it possible for the church to assist you in such matters? Do Christians receive support from the church? These are reasons enough to consider the position of our members in the workplace.
(Although there may be some aspects of this article which are foreign to our English readers, we believe the substance of the article is also applicable for many of our readers. Ed.)
Work as a biblical mandate
Calvin postulated that man should consider whether his labor is consistent with the godly mandate to do everything to God’s honor. That is the first and foremost goal in our work. That is man’s calling. “Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31). Consequently, the purpose of our work is the welfare of our neighbor. The wholesome law of God is also applicable to where we work, requiring of us to love God above all and our neighbor as ourselves. It is man’s calling to be an instrument of God’s providential care for mankind in the workplace by practicing love to our neighbor.
As a third purpose of our work, we could mention the care for our own subsistence. It is permissible; no, it is necessary to work so that we may provide food, clothing, and shelter. Labor is commanded in and flows directly out of Creation. It has not only been commanded by God, but it is also innate. In spite of our fall in Paradise, every man has an inborn desire to work.
Looking at these three purposes for work, our first question should be what is the aim of our work? Can we answer that according to biblical principles? Can this be seen in the workplace? Is it clear that we have not begun our work with the intention of earning as much as possible even to the detriment of others or that our primary goal has not been to earn as high a position as possible? Are we fully aware that the ultimate goal of our work should be for the interests of God’s kingdom?
This naturally does not mean, of course, that we use our employer’s time for evangelization. Our first calling is to work and to do our duty. Where it is possible and where there is room for it in the proper place, at the proper time, we, as Christians, should be savory salt and a shining light. We are so often ashamed of being a Christian. You are certainly not the only one of your fellow church members of whom that must be said if, for example, you have never told your colleagues that you go to church twice on Sunday (and such an “orthodox” church at that.) With Daniel it was different. He was not ashamed to show that he served the God of Israel or to pray three times a day with open windows toward Jerusalem.
Consideration of the church
The church should be concerned not only with the spiritual welfare of its members but also with their temporal welfare. The spiritual aspect is the most important. Ultimately, what matters most is the coming of God’s kingdom into the heart of sinners. That is, first of all, the purpose of the preaching. We may not forget, however, the cares of temporal life. Temporal welfare does not only concern itself with the needy and the poor but also with the support of those who, in the workplace, may be placed before all sorts of dilemmas.
How can the church give directions in these matters? In the first place, by drawing attention to the biblical view of employment as briefly outlined above. This can be done by the means of preaching, catechizing, youth groups, and through publications. We find excellent material to dwell on this subject, for example, in the preaching on the fifth commandment where it speaks about the relationship between employee-employer; on the eighth commandment in the answer to question 111, “that I faithfully labor, so that I may be able to relieve the needy”; and on the fourth petition, “Give us this day our daily bread.” When it concerns difficulties with which we may be confronted at work and adversities which may manifest themselves at various times, one may point to Lord’s Day 10 of the Heidelberg Catechism, especially in Question and Answer 28 which speaks of the providence of God.
In everyday life, situations may present themselves which place the employee before a dilemma. To illustrate, I will name a few. You work with some colleagues who use rough language. They misuse God’s holy Name every now and then. You have said something about it on several occasions, but it appears as if it is getting worse instead of better. You are placed before a dilemma. Do you warn them again and be faced with mockery and derision once more or remain silent since it makes no sense to cast pearls before swine?
Here is another example. You are looking for a new position, and you would like to work on the obstetrical floor of a hospital. Your inmost desire is to care for mothers and their newborn babies. At the interview, which appears to be going very well, you are suddenly confronted with the question, would you assist with abortions according to the policies which the hospital has adopted? To say, no, means that you will forego this desired position. To say, yes, means you will participate in something which Gods Word calls murder.
Let me cite one more example. Your boss has directed you to lay down a floor which, according to the drawings, must be of a certain thickness. Your boss has advised you to make it somewhat thinner since no one will be aware of it anyway. You realize that this is not honest. If you would say something to your boss about that, it could lead to problems because unemployment in the building industry is on the increase. If, however, you say nothing, you feel that you are being dishonest.... You can realize the dilemma. We could name many other examples. There are many occasions in which compromising practices within the workplace cause dilemmas for the employee.
It is pleasant when you may work with colleagues who come from the same Christian background. It is not a guarantee, however, that you can always live in peace with each other. You may have different views regarding doctrine, the practice of godliness, or the soundness of certain denominations; these can all lead to tension among each other. Also, within businesses of a so-called reformed character, the relationship between principles and business policy are not always clear-cut and may lead to tensions.
We must faithfully perform our calling in this world and, if possible with God’s help and through His grace, win others for the kingdom of God.
Let me lay that aside at this time. It has not been ordained for everyone to work with those who are likeminded. Many among us work in a secular environment. Your employment is an important part of your life. What should your deportment be in such instances? It may not, and must not be, that your colleagues have to guess what your Christian background is. It is very important that from the beginning you make clear what your position is. How does one do that? It will differ in your several professional or work situations, but let it be clearly stated, for example, that you recognize Sunday as God’s day and that you also wish to keep that day holy. To work on that day is only possible when one is performing works of mercy or works of necessity but not because of economic needs. Tell your colleagues that you are grieved by the dishonoring of God’s Name.
It may be that you cannot join in certain festivities within the workplace because there are things that happen which are in disagreement with God’s Word. You may have to pass up outings with groups of your co-workers because they go to places where one cannot meet God. Be consistent in these matters. People watch Christians closely. If it is clear that these are serious matters for us, it will lead to the most respect if we are resolute in keeping them.
There are certain jobs which we cannot perform because they involve working on Sunday or there are aspects of the job which are in conflict with God’s Word. We may also be faced with ethical dilemmas which make it impossible to continue working for a firm where we perhaps have been employed for many years. It is not always easy to find other employment. To keep the peace and to participate in matters which really are not right is not a solution. Then we vex our conscience just like Lot did in Sodom. The blessing of the Lord cannot rest upon such a decision. Our personal prayer should be that the Lord will maintain us in these difficult circumstances. Perhaps there will come a moment that because of the principles of the matter you may have to undergo suffering. The Savior spoke in Matthew 5:11&12, “Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for My sake. Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you.” If we by faith hold fast to these words, we do not have such a mean portion.
Prayer in the workplace
The motive for writing this article is in part the appearance of the article, “Does the church help you in your work?” on the website Bedrijfsgebed (Prayer in the workplace). There our attention is drawn to Christians in the workforce. Especially those faced with these problems everyday are so in need of the support of the church. In this article it is correctly pointed out that they who must work among secular colleagues have an opportunity to show what it is to be a true Christian. This means not only to believe on Sunday but also on Monday. We must faithfully perform our calling in this world and, if possible with God’s help and through His grace, win others for the kingdom of God.
The named website encourages prayer times in the workplace. This website has a distinct character, and what is written there has a distinct evangelical character. Some worthwhile things are stated there, but the way in which to act upon these ideas is not according to our manner of doing things. The best approach is to also place these needs before the Lord in the inner closet.
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Bekijk de hele uitgave van woensdag 1 april 2009
The Banner of Truth | 24 Pagina's
Bekijk de hele uitgave van woensdag 1 april 2009
The Banner of Truth | 24 Pagina's