February 4, 2019 • Life for Leaders
So I tell you this, and insist on it in the Lord, that you must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their thinking.
Last week, we began to focus on the injunction that we “no longer live [literally, walk] as the Gentiles do” (4:17). Though the Christian life is surely much more than a list of “don’ts,” there are behaviors common to life outside of Christ that we ought to avoid.
Many of these behaviors will be addressed as we make our way through Ephesians 4. But, I do want to pause for a moment to consider how the command to “no longer live as the Gentiles do” might be relevant to our daily work. I’m thinking in particular of work for which we are paid, though you might reflect on other kinds of work in your life (family, church, community, volunteering, etc.).
In your work experience, which common behaviors are incompatible with faithful Christian living? Certain actions might quickly come to mind. Maybe you’re in a workplace that is cutthroat in its competitiveness, a place where colleagues readily throw each other under the bus to advance their own careers. That doesn’t sound like the way of Jesus, who called us to self-giving service to others.
Or perhaps you find yourself in a professional setting that asks you to bend the truth on a regular basis, or even to lie outright. Throughout my pastoral life, I have counseled with many people who were expected to be far less than honest in their work lives. They wondered how to be faithful to the Lord and still keep their jobs.
Most of my work experience, as you might guess, has been in explicitly Christian settings (churches, Laity Lodge, Fuller Seminary). Yet, even in these “non-secular” contexts, I have, at times, struggled with issues of unhealthy competition and workaholism. So, the Christian workplace is not immune to typical worldly pressures.
But one of the most pernicious “Gentile practices” in Christian workplaces is gossip. Disciples of Jesus who would never justify cutthroat rivalry or lying feel strangely free to dish the dirt about their colleagues behind their backs, even though this is surely inconsistent with biblical teaching (see, for example, Romans 1:29; 2 Corinthians 12:20). Many times throughout my professional life, I have caught myself whispering about coworkers in ways that are inconsistent with my faith.
I could go on describing various unhealthy workplace practices I have heard about or personally struggled with, practices that belong to the “Gentile” world we need to leave behind. But, rather than go on and on in this reflection, I would encourage you to think about your own work life, using the questions below.
Something to Think About:
Can you think of practices that are common in your work environment that are incompatible with following Jesus?
Where do you struggle to be faithful in your work life? In what ways are you tempted to “live as the Gentiles do”?
What helps you think critically and Christianly about your work?
Something to Do:
Share the ideas in this devotion with a Christian brother or sister. This may even be someone in your workplace. See if you can come up with ways to support each other as you seek to follow Jesus in your daily work.
Gracious God, you have placed me in this world as a witness to you. You have not called me out of the world, but rather sent me out so that I might reflect you in word and deed. Part of this reflection involves refraining from sinful actions that are common to the world. I admit, Lord, that I can easily fall into worldly patterns of behavior in every part of life, including my work. Forgive me.
Help me, I pray, to see myself truly, to acknowledge freely where my actions are inconsistent with your vision for my life. By your grace, may I leave behind the ways of the “Gentiles” so that I might live fully for you in my work as well as in every other facet of life. Amen.
Explore more at the Theology of Work Project online commentary:
Our Need for Salvation in Life and Work (Romans 1:18–1:32)
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.