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By Elder Sherman Ong

Published Life BPC Weekly, 2005-09-18

Text: Luke 19:11-28

Introduction

The dictionary's definition of "business" is "the occupation, work, or trade in which a person is engaged". Dr Michael Hammer, propounder of business process reengineering explained that "a company (business) exists to create customer value". He further describes customers as "people whose behaviour the company wished to influence by providing them with value". How, then, do companies influence customer behaviour? In Hammer's words, it is by creating value for them! But what is value to the customer? Value in the business context refers to providing a solution to a customer's problem.

The question we want to ask here is: How does the Bible see our business engagements? The Bible has many examples of work engagements. In Luke 19, Jesus spoke in a parable about a certain nobleman who went into a far country to receive for himself a kingdom. He gave his ten servants (employees) ten pounds and instructed them, "Occupy till I come." (Luke 19:13) Each pound is about three months' salary. This nobleman instructed his servants to go about doing business while he was away. When he returned, he asked each of them to account for the pound that was given to them. One reported that he earned ten pounds, another five pounds, and yet another, did not earn anything! The last one was punished for his lack of diligence and unfaithfulness, and the only pound that he had was given to the one who had gained ten pounds. The key message of this parable is that we ought to occupy till Christ returns! We are not to be slothful, but disciplined and diligent, up and about the Lord's business of soul winning till He comes. How do we know that Christ's business is soul winning? Luke 19:10 is the mission statement of Christ Inc.: "For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost."

Do we expect business tension at work? Or should we expect business tension at work as Christians? Absolutely! The apostle Paul provides us a wonderful principle in managing business tension at work: "And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by Him." (Colossians 3:17) The solution to business tension at work is total commitment to God and living a life of thanksgiving (1 Thessalonians 5:18).

Business Tension @Work

Keeping the two perspectives discussed in the above paragraphs in mind, let us look at the various types of potential business tension at work:

1. Performance - In any business or work environment, there will be a constant demand for good performance. Companies typically measure performance by assessing the employees' output. These measurements can be in terms of revenue generated or revenue growth, profitability, cost reduction, or customer satisfaction, just to name a few. If a business exists to create value for its customers, then the ability to produce good business solutions for its customers will be one big performance measurement. In view of steep business competition, companies may sometimes need to slash prices to win contracts. Consequently, business performance creates tension both internally and externally. As God's people, we may be caught in the rat race too, and we ought to be conscious of the Lord's loving presence in our business to help us to do well for His glory. Moses reminded the Israelites: "But thou shalt remember the LORD thy God: for it is He that giveth thee power to get wealth, that He may establish His covenant which He sware unto thy fathers, as it is this day." (Deuteronomy 8:18)

2. Politics - Office politics refers to interpersonal relationship conflicts that happen in the office environment. This happens when there is internal competition for recognition or promotion. Externally, politicking can take place between businesses as well. All forms of office politics usually have the propensity to destroy confidence and peace in the working relationship. The Apostle Paul's teaching is: "If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men." (Romans 12:18) In this way, Christians can avoid engaging in office politics.

3. Promotion - Climbing the corporate ladder, taking on new leadership roles, managing a new business venture, etc., these are ways of giving recognition to good employees. Consequently, employees sometimes fight and compete to be promoted. Our Christian attitude should be one of possessing and manifesting the spirit of excellence and allowing God to bless and honour us with the right promotion opportunity. The Psalmist says, "For promotion cometh neither from the east, nor from the west, nor from the south. But God is the Judge: He putteth down one, and setteth up another." (Psalm 75:6-7) Ultimately, God knows who is to be promoted and what purposes the promotion is to fulfil. Human resource practitioners will tell you that some people get promoted from a level of competence to a level of incompetence. Not every promotion is desirable, and as Christians, we must be sensitive to the Lord's leading, and not fight for promotion.

4. Pay - Nobody works for free! However, many homemakers or domestic engineers in essence do work for free in dedicating their life to care for the family members. In the commercial world, pay or compensation becomes a concern because every one wants to be equitably compensated for the specific role they are hired to perform. Biblically, Paul wrote to the Thessalonians concerning wages: "That if any would not work, neither should he eat." (2 Thessalonians 3:10b) Moses instructed the Israelites: "Thou shalt not muzzle the ox when he treadeth out the corn." (Deuteronomy 25:4) As long as we know that we are fulfilling the work scope commitment, and compensated for that which is due to us, we can apply the biblical injunction: "But godliness with contentment is great gain." (1 Timothy 6:6) In that way, we will not become embroiled in unhealthy work attitudes and work according to monetary gains per se.

5. Play - This is a vital part of work life and sometimes Christians fail to appreciate that play is part of our work environment as well. I have known of Christians who refuse to participate in company functions just because they are not interested in socialising. This kind of non-participation causes tension to grow at work. Some others may take play so seriously that play at work becomes a cause of tension when the play element becomes competitive as well. 

6. Power - Power struggles in the office environment create great tension between people. One key motivation in power acquisition is the desire to control. The Bible has clear teachings about power (authority). Paul wrote: "Let every soul be subject unto higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God. Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God: and they that resist shall receive unto themselves damnation." (Romans 13:1-2) Christians should not be embroiled in power struggles. That is the best way to stay away from business tension at work.

7. People - In the science of strategic management, there has been great emphasis on vision, process, technology and people. The people component is most vital. When we have a technical problem, we can find ways to fix it. In computer language, we can apply patches to resolve program bugs. But with humans, it can oftentimes be quite challenging. People also have the natural tendency to resist changes. Thus business tension at work becomes a daily struggle.

Living Victoriously in the Midst of Business Tension @Work

Despite the above types of potential business tension at work, Christians can live victoriously for His glory. Here are some areas of Christian victory for our daily practice. We have:

1. Promises of God - The Bible records many promises of God for our learning and edification. As God's children, we can constantly tap on the grace of God and seek to fulfil our mission under His grace. God's promises lift us up when we are down. Sometimes, we are down beyond the point of dejection, and become desperate and despondent! God's promises in His Word will help us to fight against dejection, desperation and despondency in our working life. "And He said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness." (2 Corinthians 12:9a) 

2. Peace of God - God offers us His peace as we serve Him wherever we are. Jesus says, "These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world." (John 16:33)

3. Power of God - God will give us power for our daily testimony and He will see us through all the life challenges at work. The first commandment to the church states: "All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. Amen." (Matthew 28:18-20)

4. Pleasure of God - As we work, we are encouraged by the teaching that we can live for His glory and His good pleasure. "The chief end of man is to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever." Paul wrote to the Ephesians: "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ: According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love: Having predestinated us unto adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will." (Ephesians 1:3-5) Our salvation is in accordance with God's good pleasure and therefore we are to live our life in accordance with the good pleasure of God.

5. Presence of God - God's Word tells us that He will never leave us nor forsake us (Hebrews 13:5) when we serve Him and live for Him. The psalmist says, "God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore will not we fear, though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea." (Psalm 46:1-2)

Results of our Victorious Christian Living @Work

1. We have peace with God.

2. We become effective witnesses for Christ.

3. We flourish in our businesses.

4. We bear spiritual fruits - Galatians 5:22-23

5. We live holy lives in Christ.

6. We are ever ready for Christ's imminent return.

7. We live a life that glorifies God.

Conclusion

The nobleman commended those who had traded profitably saying, "Well, thou good servant: because thou hast been faithful in a very little, have thou authority over ten cities." (Luke 19:17) On the other hand, to the unprofitable servant he said, "Out of thine own mouth will I judge thee, thou wicked servant. Take from him the pound, and give it to him that hath ten pounds." (Luke 19:22, 24) The Apostle John also exhorts Christians: "Look to yourselves, that we lose not those things which we have wrought (worked for), but that we receive a full reward." (2 John 8) First, we need to have the assurance of salvation, and then we need to occupy our life for the Lord Jesus Christ in order to win our rewards. Business tension at work is inevitable, but Christians can confront them with the grace of God. May the Lord's name be glorified in our daily life. Amen.

Vision & Mission

 

To build a united church family that is committed to making disciples through Salvation, Sanctification and Service, to the glory of God.

Verse for the Week

October 15 & 22 - The Cost of Discipleship

For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it. Matthew 16:25