December 29, 2020 • Life for Leaders
Scripture – John 1:14 (NRSV)
And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth.
In Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol, Ebenezer Scrooge learns to treat his employee, Bob Cratchit, with justice. More than that, he begins to see Bob as a human being, someone who is not only a worker, but also a father and a husband, a person with longings, losses, and loves. The birth of Jesus, God in human flesh, reinforces the value of human life. It encourages us to see our co-workers as whole people and to care for them accordingly.
Today’s devotion is part of the series Keeping Christmas Well.
A New Devotional Resource – 52 Workday Prayers
As you get ready to start a new year, I’d like to mention a brand-new devotional resource you might find helpful. It’s called: 52 Workday Prayers: Learn from the Psalms How to Pray Through Your Work. I have gathered the Psalm-based prayers I’ve been working on for over a year, editing them, adding to them, and gathering them in this collection. You can purchase a neatly-designed PDF version from our store, for use on any digital device (phone, computer, tablet) or for printing (if you prefer a hard copy version). You can learn more here.
In the preceding devotion we saw that Ebenezer Scrooge was transformed from someone who paid his employee, Bob Cratchit, poorly, to a boss who paid just wages. Seeking justice in the workplace is an essential element of keeping Christmas well, both in Dickens’s A Christmas Carol and in Scripture. Yet there is more to keeping Christmas well for those of us who have coworkers, whether they work for us, over us, or alongside us.
Before his transformation, Scrooge did not care about Bob Cratchit the human being: a husband and father, a person with longings, losses, and loves. Scrooge saw Bob only in terms of his usefulness at work. Scrooge’s perspective began to change, however, through what he saw on his excursions with the ghostly visitors. He watched the Cratchit family as they loved each other even in the midst of their poverty. He saw them graciously drink a toast to him, in spite of Mrs. Cratchit’s stern objections. Most of all, Scrooge saw Tiny Tim in his sweetness, old-soul wisdom, and his physical limitations. All of this contributed to Scrooge’s ultimate change of heart.
Thus, in the final stave (chapter) of A Christmas Carol, Scrooge raised Bob Crachit’s salary. But that’s not all. In his own words, Scrooge said: “I’ll raise your salary, and endeavor to assist your struggling family, and we will discuss your affairs this very afternoon, over a Christmas bowl of smoking bishop.” (Smoking bishop is a kind of mulled wine, by the way.) Scrooge didn’t just promise to help Bob’s family. Rather, “Scrooge was better than his word. He did it all, and infinitely more; and to Tiny Tim, who did NOT die, he was a second father.”
Scrooge’s care for Bob and his family reminds me of a story in Max De Pree’s classic book, Leadership Is an Art. Max’s father, D. J. De Pree, was managing a furniture company when one of his employees died. This man had been a millwright at the factory. D.J. went to call on the man’s family after his death. During his visit, the millwright’s widow read some of her husband’s poetry to D. J. He was struck by the unexpected giftedness of the man he had known mainly as a millwright. This experience transformed D.J.’s understanding of how to think about the people whom he employed. He embraced a new commitment to seeing his employees, first and foremost, as full, gifted human beings. Reflecting on his father’s experience, Max writes, “In our effort to understand corporate life, what is it we should learn from this story? In addition to all of the ratios and goals and parameters and bottom lines, it is fundamental that leaders endorse a concept of persons” (Leadership Is an Art, p. 8, emphasis added).
At Christmas, we celebrate the fact that the divine Word of God because human in Jesus. This was an essential element of God’s plan to save humankind, of course. But the Incarnation also reminds us of the sacredness of each human life. God created human beings in God’s own image. God reinforced the sanctity of human life by entering into it. Thus, we are reminded that each human being is far more than just a cog in a workplace machine. We are special to God, uniquely honored among all things that he created.
We will keep Christmas well when we see our co-workers as people, not just useful workers. I’m not suggesting that we need to get deeply involved in the family life of all who work with us, as Scrooge became engaged with the Cratchit family. I am saying that when we keep Christmas well, remembering the Incarnation, we will see and treat our coworkers differently. We will remember how much they matter to God. We will value them, not just for the work they do, but also for who they are as people.
Have you had a similar experience like D. J. De Pree did after the millwright died? Has there ever been a time in your life when you came to see someone in your workplace with new eyes?
What helps you to see the people with whom you work as human beings, not just productive workers?
How can we care for people whom we manage as people? If you are a supervisor at work, what things do you do – or might you do – to demonstrate care for those who report to you?
When so many of us are working virtually these days, it can be hard to see our coworkers as human beings, and even harder to show personal care for them. Nevertheless, take some time in prayer to ask the Lord how you might see and value the humanity of your work partners, even during a pandemic. Then, do something in response to God’s prompting.
Gracious God, today I want to thank you for those with whom I work. Thank you, Lord, for my colleagues, from those who report to me, for those to whom I report. Thank you for the chance we have to work together, sharing a bit of life as we work.
Lord, help me to see my coworkers as full human beings created in your image. May I value them, not just for their work, but also for who they are.
Help those of us who manage people to find wise and appropriate ways to care for the wholeness of the persons who work for us. May our efforts as supervisors reflect the sacredness of each life entrusted to our care. Amen.
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Find all Life for Leaders devotions here. Explore what the Bible has to say about work at the unique website of our partners, the High Calling archive, hosted by the Theology of Work Project. Reflection on today’s Life for Leaders theme can be found here: How I Learned to Listen to My Coworkers
Dr. Mark D. Roberts is a Senior Strategist for Fuller’s Max De Pree Center for Leadership, where he focuses on the spiritual development and thriving of leaders. He is the principal writer of the daily devotional, Life for Leaders, and the founder of the De Pree Center’s Flourishing in the Third Third of Life Initiative. Previously, Mark was the Executive Director of the De Pree Center, the lead pastor of a church in Southern California, and the Senior Director of Laity Lodge in Texas. He has written eight books, dozens of articles, and over 2,500 devotions that help people discover the difference God makes in their daily life and leadership. With a Ph.D. in New Testament from Harvard, Mark teaches at Fuller Seminary, most recently in his D.Min. cohort on “Faith, Work, Economics, and Vocation.” Mark is married to Linda, a marriage and family counselor, spiritual director, and executive coach. Their two grown children are educators on the high school and college level.