But I Don’t Trust My Coworkers
When I reentered the corporate world last year, I was leaving behind several years of serving the local church as a pastor. I wondered how I might be able to live out my faith in a way that would truly impact the lives of those around me. I did not want to be seen as a Bible-thumping zealot. But I was committed to living out my spirituality. Often, I found myself thinking about St. Francis of Assisi who supposedly said, "Preach the Gospel at all times. If necessary, use words."
St. Francis’ challenge lines up with the “greatest commandments” (Matt. 22.34-40). Jesus summed up what it meant to follow God when he explained what a vibrant faith looks like. It can be captured in four simple words: "Love God. Love people."
We are currently piloting a new process of handling our work in my region of the company. It is a team approach that requires a vastly different perspective to the way we each do our work. It demands a high level of trust and self-sacrifice, not always easy to find in the corporate world where individual performance and personal career goals are the norm. So, how do I preach the Gospel, love God, and love people in this situation? I want to trust my coworkers, but I know that they are not fully committed to a team work ethic. Perhaps Paul’s writing to the Christians at Philippi sheds light on the matter.
In the midst of significant infighting among the believers there, Paul writes a letter promoting selflessness and unity. At one point he challenges them, saying, “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others” (Phil. 2:3-4 NIV).
The Message translation of the same passage captures the sentiment this way: "Don't push your way to the front; don't sweet-talk your way to the top. Put yourself aside, and help others get ahead. Don't be obsessed with getting your own advantage. Forget yourselves long enough to lend a helping hand."
Maybe, just maybe, the goal is much higher than simply our personal success in the marketplace. The greatest commandments Jesus outlines are turned outward. We are interested in the well-being of others, but not because it promises any return on our investment. It’s simply what we should do.
The company I work for rolled out some value statements to guide our daily interaction with our clientele. One of them states simply that we will do the right thing because it’s the right thing to do. James takes this principle one step further, saying, “If you know the right thing to do and don’t do it, that, for you, is evil” (James 4:17, The Message). As followers of Christ, there really is no need for further motivation to choose right.
Before going to work, I typically take my kids to school. Each day, on my commute to work, I ask God to give me favor with my managers, my coworkers, and my customers. These are the three groups with whom I have a working relationship. Over the years, I have learned it is difficult to hold anything against people I pray for. In fact, I find that I am more motivated to serve people when I pray for them. Prayer does something to my selfish motives. It forces me to line up with God’s desires for my life, to turn outward and begin to see the workplace, my coworkers, and the world around me from his vantage point, rather than my own. I then begin to see the path that God has laid out for me to pursue.
I recently received a promotion at my place of employment. Many factors played into this honor, but my manager paid me the highest compliment when he emailed me to congratulate me on my new position. In that email, he thanked me for serving the other members of my unit. The manager that hired me for my new position told me that I had quickly developed an outstanding reputation among the management team of my old area.
This wasn’t due to a lot of schmoozing. Frankly, I’m not a very good corporate “yes man.” I simply committed myself to two things: loving God and loving people. Loving God by performing my job with the utmost of passion and integrity and loving the people I work with by making sure they knew I was on their side and was committed to being a positive, contributing influence to the success of the organization.
Let’s be honest here. I’m not about to say that acting on selfish ambition isn’t a quick way to advancement in the workplace. Nor will I contend that always doing the right thing is going to be a springboard for consistent success. But, perhaps, all of this comes down to having a different goal in mind to begin with.
Mark 10:45 says that Christ came not to be served but to serve. He gave his life for this purpose. Are we to do any less?
As we seek to be more like Christ in the marketplace, perhaps the driving force for us is to likewise serve without thought of reward . . . or consequence.