Five ways the Bible shapes our work practices

Staff devotion, Moore Theological College, 27 March 2023

In 2 Timothy 3:16, Paul speaks of the usefulness of Scripture. It is useful because it reveals the truth about God and corrects our false beliefs. It is useful in teaching us about ourselves, our need of salvation from sin, and the way in which God offers salvation through the gift and death of his Son Jesus Christ.

The Bible is also useful as a trustworthy guide to living the kind of life in which God delights, and as a reliable foundation for the ethical decisions that make such a life possible. There are other ways too in which the Bible is useful, but today I want to suggest five ways in which the Bible has the potential to shape us in our workplace and our work.

Firstly, the Bible is a vast reservoir of practical wisdom. Proverbs 3:13-14 (ESV) says:

Blessed is the one who finds wisdom,

    and the one who gets understanding,

for the gain from her is better than gain from silver

    and her profit better than gold.

Every day, we encounter complex problems and unexpected challenges, and decisions large and small need to be made. By seeking wisdom and discernment from God through prayer and reflection on God’s Word in preparation for the tasks that lie ahead, we are better able to make wise choices in our own daily work and better prepared to empower others in their work.

Secondly, the Bible contains numerous stories of good and bad work practices drawn from everyday life. The parables of Jesus offer many examples of such ethical teaching, but another is Proverbs 6:6-8 (CSB):

Go to the ant, you slacker!

Observe its ways and become wise.

Without leader, administrator, or ruler,

    it prepares its provisions in summer;

    it gathers its food during harvest.

Entomologists tell us that ant colonies possess complex social organisation but no clear hierarchy of command. Yet through focus, order, diligence and effort the ant gets the job done. Consider the ant, then, as you do your work today, and next week, and next month.

Thirdly, the Bible emphasises the importance of honesty and integrity in every aspect of life. Proverbs 11:3 (The Message paraphrase) says:

The integrity of the honest keeps them on track;

    the deviousness of crooks brings them to ruin.

There is more to good work than meeting targets and deadlines and looking good in your annual performance review. There is more value in becoming a person of good character, avoiding dishonesty and duplicity, than in pursuing ant-like efficiency and productivity. Put your prayerful effort into becoming a good person through God’s grace, and you will have less trouble doing the right thing and doing it well.

Fourthly, the Bible highlights the Christian virtues of humility and servanthood. For example, Philippians 2:3-4 (CSB) says: “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility consider others as more important than yourselves. Everyone should look not to his own interests, but rather to the interests of others.”

There is plenty of false humility and “look-at-me” servanthood in our world, with awards and rewards to fuel it. But Paul advocates counter-cultural Christ-like humility, Christ-like servanthood, a mode of living as rare as it is winsome.

Forget about ego, promotions, competition, and advancing your own agenda. Shape your work practices by reflecting the attitude and motivation that Jesus expressed in the Gospels.

Finally, the Bible encourages us to persevere, to endure hardship, to learn resilience. James 1:2-4 (CSB) says, Consider it a great joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you experience various trials, because you know that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its full effect, so that you may be mature and complete, lacking nothing.”

Perhaps James was thinking of physical suffering for the sake of the gospel in a hostile culture, but his advice has universal application. In the workplace, as in other aspects of life, we face many challenges and setbacks, from difficult colleagues and demanding deadlines to economic and pandemic uncertainty.

Scripture reminds us that such trials present an opportunity to grow stronger and wiser, and to prepare for future challenges.

Each of us spends a large proportion of our adult lives in the workplace, engaged in daily and weekly and annual rhythms of work. It’s not all peace and tranquillity. There are times when we face seemingly insurmountable problems with workflows, colleagues, resources and deeper cultural and political strife. But God is in control, he has given us his word, his Spirit is our teacher, and his greater glory should be our supreme concern.

Let us pray.

Almighty God our heavenly Father, you declare your glory and show forth your handiwork in the heavens and in the earth: Deliver us in our various occupations from the service of self alone, that we may do the work you give us to do in truth and beauty and for the common good; for the sake of him who came among us as one who serves, your Son Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.[1]

Dr Rod Benson is Research Support Officer at Moore Theological College, Sydney.


Image source: JobStreet

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