God labored to create the universe. It took skill, knowledge, wisdom, creativity, and diligence to do it. Then, God didn't stop and tell us, "now, go off and operate on your own", as Deists think. God continues to give the created universe power and direction. In Genesis, God created human beings in the divine image -- trusting us with many of the same abilities that it took to create the world and keep it going. Since God gave us those abilities, we are responsible for its use. Whether it's lifting or digging or thinking or processing paperwork or entertaining or caretaking, when we labor, we're using the abilities God gave us for shaping and protecting the world we live in. (This is one of the many reasons it's a sacrilege to sit still for discrimination and mass unemployment -- peoples' abilities are not put to use.) See your field of employment as a way to serve God and humanity by making your part of it better in any way you can. In that way, God's purposes for you are not stymied, but fulfilled.
Also, if God has tasks for you to do here as a part of God's craft on earth, then what can be said for someone who does not take physical care of themselves? Or doesn't bother to do anything or learn anything? Or keeps trying to change what they aren't able to change or influence? Or lets work overwhelm the time they spend with family? We are to build ourselves up spiritually, physically, educationally and emotionally, so we can live our lives and do our tasks to the fullest. That's not mere "workplace spirituality" - it's a way of living, done in the light of the Gospel, on and off the job.
Faith, On the Job
About half of US people surveyed said they prayed about their job or their colleagues. This goes hand-in-hand with the growing part of the work force that views their job as part of their vocation. They are finding meaning in how they make their living. Yet, many of us find it hard to find meaning or value in what we do for a living, and never really get to feel like they belong there. That may be just our usual grousing and griping. Or it may also be due to being kept down by those of another ethnic group or social class. (In that case, the first thing to do is to do what you're doing as well as you can, and that can become the springboard for any next steps.) Most often, though, our dissatisfaction with the workplace comes from the fact that we really are not where we belong and are not doing what we're best at or what we belong at doing. (In that case, find out what your calling is or at least where your passions are, and pursue it.) Employment is not a curse, but a blessing, since through it people make an income and thus are not a burden for others to bear. Having a job does not solve all your problems, it just changes what some of them are. We work to live, but don't live to work. People often identify others by a profession (for example, Jesus' father is identified as a carpenter or builder), but we are each more than that, not just in God's eyes but in each others' lives, in fact.
For many of us, our workplace is where we interact with people. And not just your colleagues. Also your customers, clients, applicants, those who complain, hobbyists and those with related avocations, inspectors, regulators, delivery workers, day laborers, and so on. It is where relationships are made. Even for those who you barely contact, you have an opportunity to create an interaction that benefits those others. It's a chance to give a little bit of love, respect, and help to others. That is a spiritual act and a way of following Christ.
One of the problems with the word 'vocation' is that few people understand what it means. The few who speak of 'vocation' take it in a traditionalist Roman Catholic sense, where it means, more than anything else, priests and those in religious orders. (The word 'calling' has the same problem in Protestant circles; to say it is to ask "are you being called to ordained ministry?") What vocation really means is that you are doing what God has led you to do, through your faith, your abilities, and your gifts. You are fulfilling your mission, which is thus a part of the mission of the gathered believers in Christ. In that way, your profession becomes a part of following Christ, and the workplace becomes an arena for living the way of Christ. If that is the context for what you do, then doing your best at it and doing it in a Christlike manner, whatever it is, makes it at least a part of your vocation. Even if just for a while. Even if you are a minister.
How Does Workplace Spirituality Work?
Many of Spirithome's users send me e-mails asking all sorts of questions about how to be spiritual and Christian in their workplace and with their colleagues, questions about :
how to really bear witness to Christ on the job (which is not about stuffing tracts, playing praise-and-worship music for background, decorating your desk with Christian knick-knacks and doo-dads, or constantly talking about Christ or church ad nauseam);
discovering how to build each other up, even when the gossip flies and redundancy is drawing near;
changing the corporate culture; and
just being fair to those we deal with, even with those who would drive just about any sane person to sanity's edge.
To be honest, much of this is out of my ken. But it's not beyond God, nor the Christian faith. Most Christians of the past tried to stay away from some of these matters, but that has led to the feeling that Christianity was out of touch with the real world of daily life, much of which was spent on the job.
Character On the Job
Bearing witness for Christ in your trade has a lot to do with doing your trade itself right:
try to provide the best service or goods that you can;
be an important part of making the team or workplace succeed at what it does;
keep learning, by using academic education, self-study, and projects that stretch you and give you accomplishment;
refuse to do illegal activities;
create ways for the business to operate better;
create an atmosphere of caring;
being a person of genuine integrity.
A lot of workplace spirituality comes from simply living the way the Lord and the apostles taught us to live all of life. This is drawn from Scriptures that were not directly about one's craft, but teach us the right character by which to live. Titus 2:9-10 (in green below) lists how the character of a Christian shows, and it can be applied in the workplace too. For example:
following duly-given orders;
complying with laws and industry standards;
holding to responsibilities when it's right to do though not required;
doing one's best;
not being sour or angry as one's usual demeanor;
appreciating and sharing the funny things in life.
no using business trips as thinly-disguised vacations.
showing all good fidelity:
being true to one's word;
following through on a task even when not being watched;
fulfilling contracts and fully paying what is due;
generally trusting fellow employees;
being reliable in support of other employees.
sound speech that cannot be condemned:
being conscientious and deliberate with words;
not swearing at people, and not demeaning others;
speaking well of other people, including when they are not in your presence;
talking in a way that builds up and unifies people.
I've heard many people express their bitterness at office politics (including myself). So much can happen that really wounds people. But there is a way to help you get another perspective on them: pray for each of them. God loves them, too, even if you find them hard to love. Try it at home before you leave, or on the train. Also, think of the people you work with who are not part of your office or workshop: try praying before scheduled appointments or meeting, or before picking up the phone, that the meeting or call will actually accomplish something good. (I know -- meetings almost never accomplish anything. But with God, even that is possible.)
In today's world, we've all seen or heard about enough examples of professional misbehavior that most of us have learned to assume that we should distrust. By being men and women of Christlike character, Christian professionals and workers have the chance to bear a unique witness by being worthy of other peoples' trust. It's part of following Christ in the everyday world. When we do right by other people, we give them a little bit of Christ's love.
And, for a more 'secular' view of spirituality in the workplace, aimed more at management, try Kent Rhodes's descriptions in Graziadio Business Review (Pepperdine). It's informed by Robert Bellah's writings, and at the end, has a 6-point rundown of important ways spirituality affects doing business. Also, Claudio Ludovisi's comment is worth noting.
Another more aggressively non-religious approach is in Innovint's questions and answers. I do not share the definitions they use, which treat religion as a problem but spirituality as a solution. On that, they are flat-out wrong. But there are some good points in it, and it is thorough, and especially helpful for a situation where a very strict separation of religion from work (and thus workplace spirituality) is required - like, say, the court system.
"Well-done is better than well-said."
----- Benjamin Franklin
"To live in the past and future is easy. To live in the present is like threading a needle."
----- Walker Percy, *Lancelot*, p.235
"He who considers his work beneath him will be above doing it well."
----- Alexander Chase
"Those who rhapsodize about the joy of labor are likely to be persons who are not obliged to do much of it."
----- Karl Menninger
"Commit your work to the LORD, and your plans will be established."
----- Proverbs 16:3
"Nothing is really work unless you would rather be doing something else."
----- J.M. Barrie
"It is not only prayer that gives God glory but work. Smiting on an anvil, sawing a beam, whitewashing a wall, driving horses, sweeping, scouring, everything gives God glory if being in his grace you do it as your duty. To go to Communion worthily gives God great glory, but a man with a dung fork in his hand, a woman with a slop pail, give him glory too. He is so great that all things give him glory if you mean they should."
----- poet Gerard Manley Hopkins, *The Principle or Foundation*
"Of all today's miracles, the greatest is this: to know that I find Thee best when I work listening, not when I am still or meditative or even on my knees in prayer, but when I work listening and co-operating."
----- literacy leader and missionary Frank Laubach, in
*Learning the Vocabulary of God* (Upper Room, 1956), pp.
"You shall not steal. What is this? (or What does this mean?)
We are to fear and love God,
So that we neither take our neighbors' money or property,
Nor acquire them by using shoddy merchandise or crooked deals,
But instead help them to improve and protect their property and income."
----- *Luther's Small Catechism*, on the Seventh Commandment (Wengert translation).