False Stories of Work: It’s All about Me

Reprinted from the Salt & Light Australia Daily Devotional.

Part six of a series.

“You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot.
“You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.

Matthew 5:13-16

This is part six of seven devotions dealing with some false stories about work which we might hear about, or even unconsciously absorb; as well as the better story for work that we read in the Bible, and is commended through the Gospel.

We have already done false story 1. My focus is on my leisure time, not work; 2. Work is my source of meaning and purpose; 3. Religion or faith should not be in the workplace; 4. Work is a curse; and 5. Work is just about earning money. Today we are looking at whether work is all about me, my drive, my ambition, my success.

Maybe you have a work colleague who operates like this. I have met a couple of them. They are not fun to work with, because they are not team players. In fact, they frequently see others as the stepping stones to their own success.

One meme on this topic reads: “Work so hard that one day your signature will be called an autograph.” This produces a visceral negative reaction in me!

In an article titled “Why Ambition Is More Important than Talent” there was the following quote:

Your ambition wants you to dedicate your life to hard work, perfecting your craft, sleepless nights and sacrifice for the sake of having the life you wish to attain. A good friend of mine once gave up sex for a year and a half because he wanted no distractions. Another friend gave up drinking for a whole year because he was in the middle of building his business. They did this because their ambition was stronger than their need to have a good time.

I think this is a little nutsy, to be honest. This story is false because we can never be the sole authors of our success; and often being driven has significant costs: especially on relationships. It can also be focused on short term rather than long term gains.

The reading from Matthew tells a better story for our work. This is Jesus speaking as part of the Sermon on the Mount, and he gives us two images for working in our workplaces: light and salt. Light drives away darkness, and salt could be seen as enhancing flavor or preserving good culture. However, it refers to “salt of the earth”, so Jesus is probably talking about salt as a fertilizer that creates the context for flourishing.

The important thing to realize is that the focus of such activity is not on us. Verse 16 says: “In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.” Our focus is on serving others, and glorifying God with all the work that we do.

Think It Through

  • How much do you see this false story lived out around you? Do you sometimes live out that false story in your own life?
  • What difference does it make knowing that your work is not about you, but has a focus on serving others? Which image speaks most to you in your work: being light, or salt of the earth?

Loving Lord,
Forgive us when we get caught up in our work cultures that encourage us to be self-seeking or ambitious.
Forgive us when we get so driven that we neglect relationships and impact negatively on others.
Thanks for the inspiration of these Bible verses that give us the metaphors of light and salt.
Help us to be light, driving away sin and darkness for your sake.
Help us to be salt of the earth, creating. Context where those around us flourish.
Help us to be focused on serving others, that your name—rather than our names—might be glorified.

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Kara Martin is the author of Workship: How to Use Your Work to Worship God, and Workship 2: How to Flourish at Work. She is also a lecturer with Mary Andrews College. Kara has worked in media and communications, human resources, business analysis and policy development roles, in a variety of organizations, and as a consultant. Kara has a particular passion for integrating our Christian faith and work, and helping churches connect with the workers in their congregations. She is currently conducting research on how to effectively equip workplace Christians to integrate their faith and work.

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