Rachel begins by telling the story of someone at a BBQ showing off a countdown clock on their phone – they had only another 368 months until retirement. She reflects on the strangeness that someone is in effect wishing away the next 30 years of their life. Although work is a glorious part of God’s good Creation and a vital part of our being in the Image of God, there is no doubt that it has been corrupted and frustrated by the Fall.
Some 92000 hours of our lives will be spent working, so drawing on Colossians 3, she suggests 6 tips for a happier working life:
- Do what you’re told: “obey your masters in everything” (Colossians 3:22) – authority structures whether in a nation, or a church or a company, are a good thing in principle – even if in practice they are sometimes twisted to do great harm… unless or until obedience to your earthly master comes at the cost of your heavenly master, just do what you’re told.
- Be sincere: “obey your earthly masters… not only when their eye is on you and to curry their favour, but with sincerity of heart” (Colossians 3:22) – to be the same person on the inside as the outside – we will work in the same way when our boss is in the room as we do when they are out of it. So when you’re tempted to gossip or moan about someone at work – don’t. When you find yourself rehearsing a long internal monologue of what you would like to say to your boss, don’t. Remember that one of the best ways to grow in genuine love for people is to pray for them
- Fear God, not people: “and with reverence for the Lord” (Colossians 3:22) – with awe and respect that comes from knowing that he’s the one in control of the universe and that ultimately it’s his opinion that matters. If we fear God, not people, we won’t work crazy long hours in an attempt to prove ourselves; we won’t tell white lies to cover our tracks; we won’t cave when we’re under pressure to do something sinful; we’ll be bold in sharing the gospel
- Try hard: “whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not human masters” (Colossians 3:23) – Don’t do the bare minimum. Don’t cut corners. Actively look for ways to do your job better or make your organisation operate more effectively. Do everything you can to make your working environment a better place for others
- Work for a bonus that lasts: “You know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving” (Colossians 3:24) – Reality check: we earn more than 97% of other people on the planet… and more than that, I need to remember that God has something better in store… being God’s chosen heir beats being employee of the month
- Remember justice is coming: “Anyone who does wrong will be repaid for their wrongs, and there is no favouritism” (Colossians 3:25) – Life is not fair. And while there is a place for taking grievances through official channels – especially where people have acted against us or against others in a way that is harmful or illegal – we’ll sometimes find that justice is not done in the way that we want it to be. When that happens, we can take comfort in the fact that a day of perfect justice is coming. Your grievance may have been overlooked or brushed aside, but God saw it, and he cares about it. He promises that those who have wronged you will be repaid for their wrongs…. Don’t carry around grudges and bitterness. These will only eat you up inside and make you more miserable.
The chapter concludes:
“I don’t know how much your boss values you; but I know how much your Lord does…. Ultimately this is what matters. If you’re a Christian, your employment status does not define you… Whether your job title is slave or master, intern or sales assistant, or doctor, or , or slave, call centre worker or structural engineer – in God’s eyes you are the Lord’s freed person. This is what gives us hope, even joy, on Monday mornings. However much you feel like you’re floundering and however toxic the environment in your workplace is, you can walk in there with your head held high – and having worked hard and with integrity, you can leave again eight/ten/twelve hours later with your head held high still. You are the Lord’s freed person”