By Ken Costa
When Paul wrote to the Colossians, he admonished them to seize every opportunity to work for the Lord, enjoying all the good things that God had given, and to share those with others: “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters” (Colossians 3:23).
This is the ethos at the heart of the Christian faith, it sets the way we behave and our reasons for doing so.
One of the most motivating tasks for those who are “in the world, for the world” is to bring about a whole-scale ethos change. In redirecting the objectives of commerce away from self-gratification and toward service to others, we serve God. If we are filled with God’s love, compassion, gentleness, and truth, then we have the power to transform the atmosphere around us.
We are called to reflect a new humanity in our work. Our model is Christ, who came to perfect us. We behave at work as carriers of this new humanity in a broken and dehumanized workplace. We are called to worship God in every area of our lives, including in our workplaces—to make our workstations our worship stations. We change the ethos by making the working environment more human and more attentive to people’s needs, by establishing appropriate time for rest, and by ensuring that demands are reasonable and reporting lines are clear. That is how we fulfill Christ’s calling, wherever and at whatever level we work.
People work for a variety of reasons. For many, the primary purpose of their work is cash. Others are motivated at work by their ambitions for a career. Still others work for a cause.
All of these are legitimate motivations. It is vital that we earn money in order to provide for our families and those we love. It is good that we take pride in our work and seek to push ourselves on to new challenges. It is certainly good to contribute to the world around us. However, too great a focus on cash, career, or cause can harbor dangers. Missing from all three of these is any sense of the value of work itself. We focus on greater and greater output—more cash, a greater career, a bigger cause—and neglect what we are putting in.
What we need is a calling. Those who see their work as a calling experience a rich integration in their lives. They sense a purpose, a direction to their activities. Work has intrinsic meaning, rather than being simply a means to an end. They feel that their whole personalities are flowing in and through their work. In many ways this is precisely what the Spirit of God does in our lives. When we are flowing with the Spirit, we are cooperating fully in our God-given callings. We are operating in that grace-zone where everything we do seems to come naturally. Far from being detached or self-centered, those who are “going with the flow” of their callings are highly motivated to enjoy what they are doing for its own sake.
They love their work, can manage inevitable tensions that arise, and are welcomed by their colleagues, who sense something beyond the usual cash or career objectives. As I have searched for my own grace-zone over the years, I have been constantly reminded of the words of Paul: “From one man he made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands” (Acts 17:26). God is not just interested in nations, of course. For individuals, too, he has marked out the times and the territories of our lives. Sometimes our callings will be a daily grind. But there will also be times of rich reward—periods of our lives when we are living in that grace-zone, feeling the Spirit of God flow through us and into the world.