Throughout the week, as I was working on this morning’s message, I simply couldn’t get the Rush song “Working Man” out of my head. Rush is a progressive rock band from Canada. Their drummer, Neil Peart, is considered one of the greatest rock drummers of all-time. Their bassist and vocalist, Geddy Lee, is considered to be one of the greatest rock bassists of all-time. Their guitarist, Alex Lifeson, is considered to be an above-average guitarist. Rush was the first real concert I attended. I was in 6th grade and my dad took me to see them at Market Square Arena. It was life-changing. Anyway, back to their song “Working Man” that I couldn’t get out of my head this week. (Yes, I’m aware that “Working Man” was recorded with original drummer John Rutsey)
In a way, we’re all “working” men and women. And, we’re all working for “the man”
As we are growing up, we are “working for the man” in that we are called to obey and honor our parents. Paul reminds us in Ephesians 6 that this is “the first commandment with a promise: so that it may be well with you and you may live long on the earth.” It’s not just about honoring and obeying our parents…it’s also about honoring and obeying God.
Now, many parents hear this teaching and want to say, “Amen! Hallelujah! Praise the Lord!”. We hear these verses and we begin nudging our children saying, “Did you hear that? Did you hear that? You better listen to the pastor!”
However, parents, we need to take a step back and consider Ephesians 6:4. Paul is addressing fathers because in the 1st Century culture, fathers were mainly responsible for discipline. Fathers were considered to have absolute power over their families. Remember what that verse says? “Fathers, don’t exasperate your children by coming down hard on them. Take them by the hand and lead them in the way of the Master.”
So, this verse implies that parents should set an example for their children. We should take on the characteristics of Jesus and bring them along in the ways of Jesus. Parents should embody the fruits of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23). We should be loving, joyful, peaceful, patient, kind, generous, faithful, gentle, and self-controlled. Do we embody the fruits of the spirit in our interactions with our children? In other words, we should be parents who are worthy of honor, respect, and obedience.
Author and radio show host Garrison Keillor has said, “Nothing you do for children is ever wasted. They seem not to notice us, hovering, averting our eyes, and they seldom offer thanks, but what we do for them is never wasted.” Again, parents need to be parents who are worthy of honor and respect. We need to parent in ways that honor God!
At this point, some of the children are nudging their parents and saying “Did you hear that? Did you hear that? You better listen to the pastor.”
Ephesians 6 continues and begins to talk about our work in verse 5. “Servants, respectfully obey your earthly masters.” How many of us can say we have always been respectful and obedient in the workplace?
We have to consider how the way we work impacts our Christian witness. Some are tempted to compartmentalize their life of faith, their life of work, and their life of play. Yet, as Christians, we simply can’t separate out our lives. The way we worship, the way we work, the way we play, the way we interact with our families, friends, and others in our community and world is all part of our faith journey and Christian witness.
If we gossip, complain, have a negative attitude, and argue in the workplace or in our social circles, how does that impact our Christian witness? If we are with a circle of friends and we gossip, complain, and have a negative attitude, we shouldn’t be surprised when they don’t accept our invitation to church. If going to church produces complaining, negative, argumentative, gossips, why would someone want to be part of that? If we are not fun to be around at work, at home, in our social circle, people will make the assumption that we won’t be fun to be around at church either. If we don’t give our best effort at work, we shouldn’t be surprised if others in the workplace don’t respect us. The way we work and the way we treat others is a vitally important component of our Christian witness. If we are Christians on Sunday morning, we should be Christians every other day of the week too. There’s no such thing as a part-time Christian.
One of the gauges we can use to consider when it’s time to move on from a current job is this: Am I able to be respectful and obedient in the workplace? If not, it might be time to find a new occupation or do the hard work of adjusting one’s attitude. If we cannot maintain a Christian witness and carry out the tasks, duties, and responsibilities of our work, we probably need to find a new line of work.
At the end of “A Prairie Home Companion”, Garrison Keillor gives a benediction of sorts and says, “Be well, do good work, and keep in touch.” In some way, this is part of what it means to be a good worker. If we are doing our best to stay healthy (mentally, physically, spiritually), to do our best in our work, and keeping the lines of communication open, we just might find ourselves setting a great example as good, respectful, and obedient workers.
Paul encourages the Ephesians in their work. “Don’t just do what you have to do to get by, but work heartily, as Christ’s servants doing what God wants you to do” (Eph. 6:5). Our work can be an act of worship. If we are working in a way that will bring God glory and honor, it is worship! If we are just doing the bare minimum, what kind of Christian witness are we setting for those around us? If we are doing just enough to get by, how is that passionate and pleasing worship? But, if we work hard and continually do our best in respectful and obedient ways, God gets the glory!
Paul continues, “And work with a smile on your face, always keeping in mind that no matter who happens to be giving the orders, you’re really serving God!” When we’re in our workplaces are we smiling? I remember when McDonald’s put the “smiles are free” on their menus. Whenever I happened to be at McDonald’s, when placing my order, I’d ask for a smile! So, do we work with a smile on our faces? Judging from some of the looks I get on Sunday mornings, I know smiling is hard work for some of us!
Now, for those of you who are retired, can you apply these things to the home? Can you apply these things to your hobbies? Absolutely!
Now, some of us happen to be in leadership positions in our workplaces (and in the church or other organizations). Paul addresses those in leadership positions and says, “Hey, you’re not off the hook! No abuse and no threats!” In other words, be a leader who is worthy of respect. Be the kind of leader who is presented with a “World’s Best Boss” mug…not like Michael Scott of “The Office” who bought his own. Are we abusive or threatening with our words or actions? Are we demeaning and belittling? Are we kind, patient, encouraging, and focused on helping others to do their best? How does the way we lead impact our Christian witness?
If we work and lead in ways where we are working, not just to get by, but as Christ’s servants…if we are leading in a way that there is a smile on our face…those around us just might want to treat us with respect, follow our lead, and work hard!
The way we work, the way we pursue our hobbies, the way we serve in the church and community, the way we interact with our families and friends all have the potential to be acts of worship where God is glorified. The words of Colossians 3:17 reminds us that everything we say, think or do has the potential to be an offering of worship, thanks, and praise to God. “Whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”
If you dig ditches, dig ditches in the name of the Lord.
If you sew, sew in the name of the Lord.
If you farm, farm in the name of the Lord.
If you teach, teach in the name of the Lord.
If you are a techie, be a techie in the name of the Lord.
If you work the line, work the line in the name of the Lord.
If you fish, fish in the name of the Lord.
Whatever we do, do it in the name of the Lord. If we can’t do it in the name of the Lord, we probably shouldn’t be doing.
Maybe it comes back to “Working Man” by Rush. We can live our lives “a lot better than I think I am”, by choosing to work, play, and serve as if we are doing it for the Lord.
Will you lead and work in ways that bring God glory, honor and praise?