By Ken Costa
I was talking to a friend a few months ago who was trying to understand what it means to be a Christian witness in the secular workplace. What does it look like when someone enters the workplace with a uniquely Christian calling?
Jesus told us in Matthew’s gospel that we, as Christians, are called to be salt to the earth and light to the world (Matthew 5:13– 16). Part of our common Christian calling is that we transform this life.
We are called into the workplace to transform the workplace. To bring a little slice of God’s divine, transforming goodness. To be salt and light in the way we work. But still this question remains: How do we make an imprint? How can we be salt and light? How can we carry out God-given callings in the workplace?
The simple answer is that we are called to act with love in everything we do. In Matthew’s gospel, Jesus gave us two commandments. The first is quoted straight from Deuteronomy: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind” (Matthew 22:37). And the second, he said, is like it: “Love your neighbor as yourself ” (v. 39). This is the general calling all Christians receive—to love our neighbors and to love our God.
Who are our neighbors? In the workplace, it is anyone with whom we engage: shareholders, clients or customers, colleagues, suppliers, and the local communities in which our businesses or charities operate on a day-to-day basis. It is the “invisible partners” on whom we depend, and who depend on us in turn, but are rarely acknowledged in the quarterly review. We, as Christians, are called to love them not with an agenda or an ulterior motive, but simply for the sake of it. We are called to act with fairness, honesty, and integrity in places of work that can often be places of deceit, cutthroat competition, and selfish ambition. We are called to glorify God in our daily interactions and to live lives marked by worship of God and love of our neighbors.
Trying to live such lives in the workplace can sometimes feel like fruitless endeavors. It can be deeply disheartening to see attempts at love, honesty, and integrity fall on hard and unresponsive soil.
Earlier in my career, not long after I had taken a more senior role in the firm where I was working, I pushed for the firm to start investing more in employees’ mental health. I wanted to see our company providing counseling services and taking a more proactive approach to relieving work-based stress. Now, of course, such services are becoming popular as employers wake up to the dangers of burnout and stress-related conditions, but at the time many of my suggestions went completely unheeded. The old model of employment tended to see employees as a commodity from which to extract the maximum short-term profit, and there was little appetite for investing in long-term employee health, especially when it came to the misunderstood issues of mental welfare.
At such times it is important to remember that while the world might judge by outcomes and results, God does not. So we shouldn’t judge the success of our actions by the standards of the world. There is value in the act of love itself. There was value simply in the fact that I was pushing for a change, even if my arguments were not successful.
We might hope for change, but we don’t commit to loving such people on the basis that change will arise. We love them because they are children of God, worthy of love just as they are, in all their brokenness.
God calls us to use our God-given skills and talents in unique ways to further his kingdom. Just as God called Moses, Gideon, and Joseph in their places of work, so God calls all of us into specific places at specific times, to transform places of darkness into places of light.
Ken Costa is an internationally renowned banker, having worked as Chairman of UBS Investment Bank. He serves as the Chairman of The Alpha Course. He is the author of God at Work and Know Your Why.