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His Work at Your Work (Matthew 5:14-16)

April 26, 2015 Speaker: Bryce Morgan Series: Faith at Work

Topic: Matthew Passage: Matthew 5:14–5:16

Faith at Work

 

His Work at My Work

Matthew 5:14-16

(One Mission: I am Not Ashamed)

April 26th, 2015

 

I. Kingdom Work

When you hear someone say, “Oh Rick? He's doing the work of the Lord in Kansas City” or, “Pam is doing well; she's currently doing Kingdom work in Brazil”...when you hear something like that, what do you imagine? In your mind's eye, what are Rick and Pam doing? If that person went on to tell you that Rick was working a construction job and Pam was a nurse in Rio de Janeiro, would that surprise you?

Typically, when we think about our work, we tend to separate it from God's work. But this month we've been talking about how the idea of vocation helps us see a bigger picture of how God works in the world through the vast kaleidoscope of jobs, roles, positions, and giftings that exist today.

But this morning, we need to broaden our perspective even more. If, in terms of vocation, there is inherently no difference between a Christian plumber and an unbelieving plumber when it comes to them plying their trade, then what difference does or should new life in Christ make in regard to your calling?

Some of you might say, “Well, a Christian car salesman is going to be more honest than a non-Christian. That's the difference.” But unfortunately, that is not always the case. And that almost assumes non-Christians cannot be honest. You may be able to say the same thing, but I've worked around many unbelievers who have a far better work ethic than some of the other Christians employees I knew. Should followers of Jesus be honest? Should they be hard workers? Absolutely! But when it comes to your faith at work, or your faith in the workplace, I think there's a bigger picture to be seen.

 

II. The Passage: “Let Your Light Shine” (5:14-16)

Let's look together this morning at Matthew 5:14-16. The context here takes us to the very beginning of Jesus' ministry. Jesus has sat down to teach His disciples about the stunning implications of the Kingdom of God breaking in through His ministry. A huge crowd is also there listening in. So consider what Jesus tells His followers about the implications of new life in the Kingdom of God. Matthew 5:14...

“You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. [15] Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. [16] In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.”

Now, the implications we find here have implications for every single area of your life.

But this morning and this month, we are thinking specifically about the workplace. So for those who are not employed (in the traditional sense of that word), I want you to still think carefully about how these principles apply in your own unique context. But for those who are currently in the workplace, consider what we find here with that context in mind. Ask yourself, “What will it look like for me to go to work tomorrow, 'in light of the light' Jesus talks about?”

I see in this passage three encouragements in regard to the amazing reality Jesus is describing. The first encouragement is this: In your workplace, remember God put His light inside you.

Notice the first thing Jesus tells them here is not, “You should be the light of the world” or “Please try to be the light of the world.” It is, “You ARE the light of the world.” But what does He mean? Well, we know from I John 1:5 that “God is light” (I John 1:5). And we also know that Jesus made the same statement about himself in John 8:12, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”

But Paul will go on to tell the Ephesians, ...for at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. (Ephesians 5:8) How did we become light? By grace through faith. We became light when the light of the world came to dwell in us, putting God's light inside us.

Why does this matter and how does it connect to your job? It matters because the job God has given you is over and above every other job. Look at what Jesus tells us about the purpose of the light being in us: A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. [15] Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house.

God's job description for every Christian is that we would be lights to the world; to reveal the truth that others may see God. And the wonderful thing is that we are not left on our own to complete that assignment. We are not called to keep striking two stones together until we can start the fire. If you have been born again through faith in Christ, the fire is already burning inside you!

What does this mean practically? It means your effectiveness in doing His work at your work always comes back to what is happening inside you. Before you lift up Jesus in the boardroom, have you bowed down before Him in your bedroom? Before you spend time with those who need God, have you spent time on your knees seeking God? Before you bring God's love to your busy job site, have you received God's love in the quietness of your own heart?

Working as “the light of the world” at your workplace is not first about doing certain things. It is about being a certain kind of person. And God has called us to grow first in our relationship with Him, because He is the very light we hope others will see. The Great Commands are ordered the way they are for a reason. Loving God with everything you are is the foundation and the fuel for loving your neighbor as yourself.

Closely related to this idea is another encouragement I see in light of what Jesus is describing. I think a second truth to which God is pointing us here is In your workplace, look for ways to let your light shine.

After Jesus speaks of God's job description for us as lights, He gives this practical word...

In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works...

If God's plan is for us to shine, to give light to “the whole house”, that is, to and in every part of our lives, then we need to look for those ways to lift up the light. In one sense, if we are walking with God and putting Jesus first in our own hearts on a daily basis, it will be evident in one way or another. It will affect our conduct and our conversations. But in another sense, we should be deliberate about lifting up the light.

Did you notice the connection here between letting “your light shine” and “good works?” If doing His work at your work is first about being a certain kind of person, about being a humble person, a gracious person, a kind person, a self-controlled person, a trustworthy person, a loving person - if that's true, God wants those things to be on display in our “good works”.

Think about these three categories of “good works” at work: working well, going beyond, and standing apart. Let's look at these one by one...

One of the ways the light of Christ shines through you in the workplace is when you are Working Well. In her classic essay “Why Work?”, Dorothy Sayers made this same connection:

“What I urged then was a thoroughgoing revolution in our whole attitude to work. I asked that it should be looked upon, not as a necessary drudgery to be undergone for the purpose of making money, but as a way of life in which the nature of man should find its proper exercise and delight and so fulfill itself to the glory of God...In nothing has the Church so lost Her hold on reality as in Her failure to understand and respect the secular vocation...How can any one remain interested in a religion which seems to have no concern with nine-tenths of his life? The Church’s approach to an intelligent carpenter is usually confined to exhorting him not to be drunk and disorderly in his leisure hours, and to come to church on Sundays. What the Church should be telling him is this: that the very first demand that his religion makes upon him is that he should make good tables.” (Dorothy Sayers)

In their book “Your Work Matters to God”, Douglas Sherman and William Hendricks put it this way:

“The key to bringing the culture and the church back together, to renewing the workplace and reforming the church—may well be a movement of people who are known for their hard work, for the excellence of their effort, for their honesty and unswerving integrity, for their concern for the rights and welfare of people, for the quality of the goods and services produced, for their leadership among coworkers—in short, for their Christ-likeness on and off the job. What could an army of such workers accomplish?”

The Christian who neglects his workplace responsibilities to evangelize the office is missing the point, and is doing more harm than good. And the believer who thinks her continual tardiness, combative personality, half-hearted efforts, and constant grumbling don't reflect on her faith, is fooling herself.

And as we talked about the last two weeks, God wants us to model fulfillment in our jobs, in spite of the frustrations. That's in light of how He uses our vocation.

In addition to this, He wants us to submit to our leaders with a gracious respect and a willingness to endure, even when supervisors are either overly lazy or overly loud. When we do these things, we shine.

But shining God's light is also about Going Beyond in our workplace. Doing your job well is a wonderful way to honor God. But the workplace is also a wonderful place to bless other people, both co-workers, customers, and management.

It might not be your responsibility to do this or that task at work, but how would it bless your struggling co-worker if you stepped in to lend a hand? That's the light shining. You may have enough on your plate at work, with deadlines looming, but how would it bless your supervisor if you took a few minutes to listen to her share about problems in her marriage? That's the light shining. Your personal finances may be tight, but how would it be a blessing if you were to help out that fellow employee who is struggling to pay for a new uniform? That's the light of Christ shining.

And when we are willing to bless and serve people from our work outside of the workplace, it can make an amazing impact on their lives. But are we willing to let our light shine in these ways? Are we willing to 'go beyond' what is expected of us, what is safe, what is convenient?

Ask God even now to show you those opportunities to 'go beyond' at your job. Think about the kind of conduct at work that raises questions, generates conversations, and opens doors for us to share the gospel of Jesus?

Finally, although many people would not consider this a 'good work', we do shine the light of Jesus when, at the necessary times, we are Standing Apart in our workplace.

Although I've been in full-time ministry for well over a decade, I started in the workplace when I was fifteen and have had almost thirty jobs since then. And in all the places I've worked, with all those co-workers, there were many times I needed to stand apart from that co-worker who was telling dirty jokes or spreading gossip. There were many times I had to decline invitations to go to the clubs. There were many times I needed to stand apart from fellow employees who were planning to act unethically in the workplace.

I always tried to do so graciously, to not give someone else the sense that I thought I was better than everyone else. But that didn't stop some co-workers from giving me a hard time.

But do you know what else happened? When I had the courage to stand apart, it generated a lot of good conversations. People asked questions. Have you ever had to stand apart because you put pleasing God before pleasing your co-workers? OR, have you ever given into the temptation to just 'go with the flow'? I believe it is a “good work” when we humbly, but courageously stand apart from those kinds of situations.

Now, remember: Jesus was called a friend of sinners. Jesus was attacked for eating with and spending time with worldly people. So please understand what I mean by “standing apart.” You may be surrounded by worldly conversations at work, but it doesn't mean you need to join in. Maybe the fact you don't will open up doors for the gospel.

And that brings us to a final idea here; in fact, the most important idea. We might summarize the third encouragement like this: In your workplace, don't be ashamed of your light source. Did you notice how verse 16 ends:

In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.”

Think about what's assumed in that statement. What is presupposed here is that those who see the light in you also know something about the source of that light. How else would they give glory to God, to our “Father who is in heaven”, if they weren't in some way aware of our faith.

Now, giving glory to your heavenly Father does not necessarily mean your co-worker is going to drop to her knees in the breakroom and exclaim “Hallelujah!” I think all it needs to mean is that those who are blessed through you make the connection between how you behave and what you believe. And when that happens, God is honored; Christ is exalted.

But that connection will only be made if we are willing to speak unabashedly about the One we love. That doesn't necessarily mean we are proselytizing at every lunch break. But it does mean we are comfortable talking about how we live and why we live the way we live.

If all roads lead to Jesus in your life, people are bound to get there, no matter what part of your life they are seeing or you are talking about.

 

III. Old Job, New Culture

As you think about these ideas in the context of your workplace, of your job, stop for a minute and try this exercise. What if you were doing your job, the same vocation you have right now, what if you were doing it, not here, but in some foreign country. And what if you were sent to that foreign country for exactly that purpose: to do Kingdom work in the workplace; to do God's work at your work. If you were sent out, commissioned to do that very thing, how would you be thinking differently about your job?

I suspect you would invest yourself in trying to do a good job, in trying to learn about the language and culture of your co-workers, in building relationships with your fellow employees, and in praying for all the people at your workplace.

But shouldn't we be doing those very things right now? Are we not commissioned by Jesus to let our light shine, even at work? Aren't many of the people at work in your circle? Workers on the mission field often send back reports to those who are supporting them. Imagine if you were to do that about His work at your work. What would you write about? What stories could you share? What co-workers and/or supervisors would you want people to be praying for? We really should be thinking in these terms.

When we see and accept Jesus Christ as the Lord of our workplace, as Lord over all the time we spend 'on the job', not only will we find God using us in the lives of our fellow workers, and with our supervisors, but we will discover how God, through our work, is working on us. The most important question you can ask about your job is not, “How can I move up?” or “Is this really my calling?”. The most important question is this: “How does God want to make me more like Jesus through the employees, the management, the situations, the demands, the frustrations, and the successes of my vocation?”

May God help all of us to regularly ask that question, and may His light shine through us as we commit ourselves to glorifying Him through our faith at work...at work.