The concept of faith impacting on work has been in the news lately, with Scott Morrison’s faith being seen as a threat to democracy.
Well-known atheist Jane Caro tweeted that “Theocracies are terrifying, particularly for women and anyone who is different in any way. They are never democratic because they favour one group above all others - those who worship the ‘right’ god.”
Behind her comment is a lot of assumptions which Simon Smart breaks down in an excellent opinion piece on the ABC (http://www.abc.net.au/news/2018-09-13/scott-morrisons-faith-will-only-make-him-a-better-pm/10223352).
This fear of religion’s influence in the political sphere has spread to all public places, particularly schools and workplaces.
Smart makes a good comment about the prevailing belief that one’s religion should remain personal and private:
‘Faith is personal but can't remain private, and of course all people bring one worldview or another to their big commitments in life, whether they are religious adherents or not. The individual untainted by bias is a fantasy.’
In a Christian workplace, there is much greater freedom to express one’s faith, as long as it is parallel with the institution’s values, however many are not sure how to do this.
I have lectured on theology of work for years and still when I ask people what work they do for God in their workplace, the majority of people respond with examples of times when they evangelised, prayed, or ran a Bible study.
However, I think our definition of working for God should be influenced by the following verses:
- 1 Corinthians 10:31: ‘So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.’
- Colossians 3:23: ‘Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters.’
In this way, we see that all work is God’s work, when our orientation is toward honouring God and serving others.
In this way, teaching in a Christian way does not necessarily mean awkwardly shoehorning a semi-relevant Bible verse into a lesson, but revealing God through integrated words and behaviour.
In my book Workship: How to Use your Work to Worship God, I have summarised six ways of working which help us think through what this might look like:
• Holy working: conscious of our character on display, particularly as we seek to live out the fruit of the Spirit (love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control).
• Gospel working: teaching truthfully, and revealing the big implications of the Gospel for all of life.
• Prayerful working: demonstrating a prayerful attitude before, during and after lessons, and in the playground.
• Incarnational working: conscious that we are Jesus’ hands and feet in the classroom, demonstrating what Jesus would do.
• Spirit-empowered working: demonstrating spiritual gifts, and with an expectation of transformation.
• Social-justice working: revealing God’s bias for the poor, the neglected, the downtrodden in our classrooms and in the playground.
The difference in this sort of working is the difference between knowing about God and knowing God. It turns our faith from a cognitive exercise to a heart exercise. It enables us to teach consistently, from a firm foundation.
I have seen some examples of teachers who do this entirely naturally. They live the Scriptures, are servant leaders, are passionate about their subject areas, care for their students, have healthy boundaries, are vulnerable yet firm, teach excellently, are supportive colleagues, and draw their strength from a prayer-energised connection with God.
It is rare to find all of this in one teacher, which emphasises the importance of the community of teachers, and the rest of the staff in a school, working closely with the students and the parent body. As each person lives out their shard of the image of God, we create a beautiful mosaic, a stained-glass window through which people see Jesus more clearly.
Helping Christians to act transformatively in their workplace https://greenroomblog.org/2018/02/20/helping-christians-to-act-transformatively-in-their-workplace/
Making your work a form of worship https://hope1032.com.au/stories/life/2017/making-your-work-a-form-of-worship/
You are never without work: A biblical reflection on unemployment https://au.thegospelcoalition.org/article/you-are-never-without-work-a-biblical-reflection-on-unemployment/
11 impossible people you meet at work and how to deal with them https://www.eternitynews.com.au/opinion/11-impossible-people-you-meet-at-work-and-how-to-deal-with-them/
Social and ecclesiological factors in work http://www.ethos.org.au/online-resources/Engage-Mail/social-and-ecclesiological-factors-in-work
Disclaimer: The views, thoughts, and opinions expressed in the text are those of the author, and do not necessarily represent the views of EdComm or the Anglican Diocese of Sydney. The intent is to promote thinking and discussion.
Kara Martin is the author of 'Workship: How to use your work to worship God' (shortlisted Australian Christian Book of the Year 2017), and 'Workship 2: How to flourish at work'. She is also Project Leader with Seed, and lecturer with Mary Andrews College. She was formerly Associate Dean of the Marketplace Institute at Ridley College in Melbourne. Kara has worked in media and communications, human resources, business analysis and policy development roles, in a variety of organisations, and as a consultant. She was Director of the School of Christian Studies for three years and has lectured with the Brisbane School of Theology, Macquarie Christian Studies Institute and Wesley Institute. Kara has a particular passion for integrating our Christian faith and work, as well as helping churches connect with the workers in their congregations.