Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Sunday Sermon Notes 1.31.10

Sometimes where we work can cause stress. This is not news to you. However, it might come across as good news that God wants to help you with your relationships at work. It's easy to only think about God on Sundays. But the Way of Jesus has much to offer those of us who have to relate to and work with other people.

Paul was a man who worked with his hands, who worked with a myriad of different people in multiple countries, probably dealing with guild rules and Empire economics. Out of his employment situations and his understanding of the Way of Jesus, here's what he has to say to his friends in Colosse about work and relationships:

Servants, do what you're told by your earthly masters. And don't just do the minimum that will get you by. Do your best.
Work from the heart for your real Master, for God, confident that you'll get paid in full when you come into your inheritance.
Keep in mind always that the ultimate Master you're serving is Christ.
The sullen servant who does shoddy work will be held responsible.
Being a follower of Jesus doesn't cover up bad work.

And masters, treat your servants considerately. Be fair with them.
Don't forget for a minute that you, too, serve a Master—God in heaven.
Pray diligently. Stay alert, with your eyes wide open in gratitude.

It's worth noting some of the employment situations within the Roman Empire, which is the context from which Paul is living and writing. Much of the work done in the Empire was done by slaves. Lawyers, doctors, teachers, managers, accountants all would have been slaves for their masters. Slaves also had the roles of sanitation, gravediggers, pigfarmers, and other grimy jobs. And a slave had no personal rights, they were ruled by their master.

As the Christianity spread through the work of Paul and the other Apostles, many masters and slaves were becoming followers of Jesus. This caused some consternation: masters were known for being cruel, petty, and unfair in their treatment of slaves. The influence of the Gospel was transforming master/slave relationships. Imagine a worship service where master and slaves sing and pray in the name of Christ as co-equals. Life on Sunday greatly affected life on Monday. It's this emerging development that Paul is giving guidance to.

So for us today, even though we don't have an economy based on master/slave relationships (though it can feel like it at times - see the Dilbert comics below...), there is still some clear application points to takeaway from Paul's writings. Here's Five Steps to Walking in the Way of Christ at Work  (Check off the one step you need to take this week at work…)

 Do what you’re told with a smile.

 Do you’re best. No excuses.

 Do what’s considerate and fair.

 Don’t whine. Instead, pray and thank…

 Do your work for God. Everyday.

 Bonus Step: Wear Love.

When you consider the simplicity of these six instructions, it is tempting to dismiss them as unrealistic and dumb. But when Paul writes out these guidelines, he's doing so out of the realities of his own employment situation within the Empire. You have an opportunity to be different, to not let the people at work ruin your heart. No matter how complicated and difficult your relationships are at work, you can begin to subvert what is wrong and plant seeds of what is right.

I've included some Dilbert comics that connect with the six steps mentioned above. Paul's commands are so straightforward, and when it comes to application - it's within a sometimes absurd work-place environment. The Way of Jesus will often be at odds with the how work-relationships can degenerate with other employees or your bosses. But the Way of Jesus can also renew and offer a new path forward for peace at work.

Enjoy Dilbert!

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