What does it mean to live out of a Christian work ethic?
There’s a Christian musician I have the great pleasure of knowing named Tim Timmons who has recently popularized the concept of “10,000 minutes.” There are 10,080 minutes in a week, and the average Christian spends about 80 of those minutes in a church building. The question then is: What does it look like to be a Christian for the remaining 10,000 minutes?
A Christian Work Ethic
I’ve heard Tim talk about this ideas for years, but it wasn’t until recently that the question became personal. As I’ve written before here at ChurchLeaders, after over a decade in vocational ministry, my family followed God’s prompting to move to a new area and figure out God’s plan for us there. Lately, that has meant freelance writing in the mornings and waiting tables most evenings.
If you’ve ever been a server, you know it’s a high-stress, competitive work environment. As a high-stress, competitive person I’ve had to wrestle to the ground exactly what it looks like for me to bring God’s kingdom to my restaurant through my life. When I was a pastor, it felt easy to be “God-focused” in my work (although it was much harder than I realized at the time). Now I find myself constantly asking “how do I live for Jesus during the portion of the 10,000 minutes I spend at work?” The ChurchLeaders audience is made up of—well—church leaders. You are the ones guiding people toward a “theology of work.” Because of this, I thought I’d quickly share with you three of the things I’m learning about work, waiting tables, and God’s kingdom.
1. Christians Work in Security, Not Scarcity
In James 4, we’re told that wars and conflicts come from us fighting with others for things we want, but can’t have. The word for this is “scarcity”—the belief there are not enough resources for everyone.
Most workplace environments foster a feeling of scarcity. We don’t have time to help a coworker because there isn’t enough time. We become hostile or envious toward a competitor for a promotion. Rather than celebrating when a coworker does well, we believe the praise given them is due to us. All of this is antithetical to God’s kingdom. James actually calls it adultery!
When I wait tables, I’m trying to provide for a wife and two children. It’s easy for me to feel a sense of competition—of wanting to be placed in the best section of the restaurant, of treating my fellow servers rudely when they get in my way, of feeling an unhealthy competitive drive to “sell more.” All this stems from an Idol of Capitalism, a god who tells me “if you do what it takes to get ahead, you and your family will be safe.” Over my months as a server, I’ve been slowly dismantling this idol, following a Christian work ethic, and doing what James says: “Just ask God and he’ll give you what you need.”
Over the past two weeks, I’ve found myself truly relaxing at work and trusting God to bring whatever I need: “coincidentally” I have had my three best nights ever over these past two weeks.
2. Christians Work Ethically
In my job, ethical fuzziness is very, very easy to get caught up in. This could be everything from “light, innocent stealing” from the restaurant to lying to my tables make myself look better (it was all the kitchen’s fault!) to cutting corners on the closing work I’m supposed to do every night.
I have come to believe the #1 most important witness Christians have at work is their Christian work ethic. Do they work hard, have a good attitude, obey their superior, help their coworkers, avoid stealing even when “everyone does it,” show integrity, and treat coworkers with respect? God’s kingdom isn’t “a place we go when we die” it’s a reality invading our lives and our world, now in part and in the future as a whole. We live out our role as Christians by living ethically in our everyday work lives. When we do that we are literally bringing God’s kingdom to our workplace.
3. Christians Work to Be a Blessing
Christians who have truly grabbed hold of living in security, not scarcity, and who are committed to working ethically, will find something remarkable: Without even trying, they have become a blessing to their coworkers. Rather than seeing the person in the next cubicle as a competitor, they become a person Christ died to save. Rather than being buried in stress a follower of Jesus carries a lightness and joy into their work that astonishes others.
A prayer I pray every evening before work is this: God, make me a blessing to my customers, to my coworkers, and to this restaurant. Also, you know how much money my family needs, so provide me with whatever you know I need tonight. Somedays I forget this prayer very quickly, get stressed and angry, and say and do things I regret. Other days I remember and am free to laugh and joke and have the most amazing conversations. I’ve prayed for coworkers, told them about Jesus, invited them to church, or just generally encouraged them and told them how I think God sees them. What I’ve found is this naturally flows out me when I am living out of a secure heart from a Christian work ethic.
The Fruit of a “10,000 Minutes” Mindset
What would happen if everyone at your church started living out this 10,000 minutes way of thinking? Imagine how blessed God would be. Imagine how much further the scope of your church would reach! Sometimes our “inside the church” needs become so pressing we constantly point people toward more church involvement, but maybe the most effective model for church growth would be for us to teach our people what to do with their time at work.
I mentioned in a previous article my coworkers gave me the name “El Pastor.” I have taken that title seriously and told people that I’m currently the pastor of my restaurant. Imagine if every professional became the pastor of their workplace by applying these three steps.
It could be the most exciting season of life-change your church has ever seen.