Baker / Revel
See to it that no one takes you captive through
hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and
the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ.
When was the last time you said, “Thank God it’s Friday”? What were you thinking? Was your heart actually filled with thankfulness to God because he blessed you with another day? Or were you, like me, sighing a breath of relief because your desk was cleared, your bags were packed, and you were headed for the door, hoping you wouldn’t have to knock anyone down on your way out?
Like you, I bought into the idea of “TGIF” for many years and often have to fight against that attitude now. This seemingly harmless attitude is contrary to God’s Word and eats away at us spiritually, emotionally, mentally, and physically. Let me explain.
Flash back to quitting time on a Friday afternoon. You’ve just escaped, and you’re officially on the other side of the prison walls called work. You get in your car, turn on the music, and head for home. As you open the door, you sigh, “Thank God it’s Friday!” You settle down and then get something to eat. Exhausted from the day, you slump down on the couch in an attempt to relax. There you spend the remainder of the evening replaying the past stresses of the week.
Finally you relax, but it’s time for bed. You sleep for what seems like five minutes and then hit the ground running first thing Saturday. Saturday comes and goes like the speed of light. Your only nagging thought is, “Ugh, work is only one day away!”
It’s Sunday! You roll over one last time and can hardly believe it’s already time for church, and then you suddenly shudder at the thought of work—tomorrow! Instead of listening to the well-prepared sermon, you are softly crying out inside, “Lord, please prepare me for the week ahead.” And while everyone thinks you’ve been moved by the pastor’s heartfelt message, you know better! Sunday draws to an end, and you slowly go into a slight depression, praying for strength to get you through another week.
Monday comes and you pray, “Lord, just get me through to Wednesday.” Wednesday arrives and you anticipate Friday, knowing it’s only two more days until the great escape. Friday’s here and you yell, “Thank God it’s Friday!” And then the vicious cycle starts again!
See what a little harmless attitude can do? If we believe we are working for the Lord, we see our workweek as an opportunity to serve him. If not, we think of work merely as a means to make money, gain status, or put in our time. Isn’t it just like the enemy to try to deceive us with this small but important attitude? He knows that if this TGIF attitude can prevail in our life, we will miss the opportunity to minister to those we are around most.
Society embraces this TGIF mentality with a smile and happy hour, but I can’t help but believe it grieves God. Not only are we using God’s name irreverently and flippantly, but we have bought into the world’s hollow philosophy instead of what God has for us.
If you’ve been in the workplace longer than a nanosecond, you can probably relate to and see through this subtle yet pervasive lie of the enemy. This is just one of the many lies the enemy wants us to embrace so our lives are stripped of God’s joy, peace, and victory in the workplace. Despite the enemy’s attempt to take ministry out of our forty-hour- plus workweek, I bring you good news—God’s Word! John 10:10 tells us that Christ came to give us life in abundance. This is God’s plan for our lives. It’s his desire that we experience his abundance, and that includes abundance in our workplace.
During the remainder of this chapter we will discuss seven other lies the enemy uses to keep us living in defeat and hopelessness in the workplace. My prayer for you is that as God’s truth is revealed you are excited in spirit, encouraged by truth, equipped to withstand the enemy’s schemes, and ultimately ready to experience victory in the workplace. If you will, keep an open heart as we begin to tear down the world’s hollow and deceptive philosophy.
“Lord, I promise, tomorrow!” Tomorrow comes and you sheepishly whisper once again, “Lord, I promise, tomorrow!” Then after months of promising God “tomorrow,” you resign yourself to the fact that you are just too busy, especially with your crazy work schedule, to spend time in prayer or in the Bible. “After all,” you reason, “God gave me this job and he knows better than anyone the unreasonable demands and time constraints being placed on me. Right?”
Have you ever felt this way? Well, this was my life for many, many years. The alarm clock would go off and I would begin my marathon day, racing against time. Then one day I shared my frustrations with a close friend. I opened my heart about my life revolving around my work and blurted out, “I haven’t had a devotion in months!”
As I was speaking those words, the thought hit me: Work is my life. As a single woman striving for professional status, I had abandoned my first love, God, in pursuit of a fast-paced career in human resources. After listening to me, my dear friend Lina responded with something so simple yet profound that it changed my life. She said, “The only thing that keeps me sane is spending time in the Word of God. I am committed to devotional time every day!”
I remember being “wowed” that she spent daily time in the Word despite her hectic schedule. Honestly, this was revolutionary! I don’t think I actually knew another professional who wasn’t a minister or preacher who did something so radical.
As our conversation progressed we talked about the importance of spending time in the Word of God and the blessings, refreshment, and intimacy that came from this time. She encouraged me not to be so consumed with the day’s events that those things took higher priority than my relationship with God. Years later, I see how her wisdom and encouragement have made me a stronger Christian woman.
God commands, “You shall have no other gods before me” (Deut. 5:7). He knows that when we place things before him, like our career, our focus gets blurred, foundational truths get uprooted, faith turns to fear, and a close relationship with him is something we can only reminisce about, leaving a deep void in our heart. Just look at the life of King Solomon. We know from Scripture that Solomon was a man with great riches, wealth, and wisdom. He appeared to have everything, but when he placed things before the Lord and succumbed to the lusts of this world, he broke his covenant with God and became filled with regret (see 1 Kings 11:6–13).
Pursuits outside of God are meaningless. Not until the end of Solomon’s life did he find the true value of life and pen these words in Psalm 127:1: “Unless the LORD builds the house, its builders labor in vain.”
Having a career is great—but placing it before God leads to a lonely road, often requiring us to forsake family, friends, and most importantly, our fellowship with God. The choice is so clear. We can either labor for the Lord and receive the blessings he has in store for us, or we can work our fingers to the bone, placing God on hold, striving aimlessly to be fulfilled by the false god called work.
God loves us so much that he beckons us to place him first so we can experience a relationship with him and reap the blessings and benefits of knowing him in our day-to-day commitment. Only as we place God in his rightful place, above all else, are we able to overcome the devil’s schemes to keep us in workplace captivity.
Money really is a necessity! No one would argue with that, and money in itself is not evil. But because society places such a high premium on money, it has become another form of idolatry. Our society has abandoned its founding truth of “In God We Trust” and placed its values and morality in the arms of money, hoping to achieve “the American dream.”
Consider, for instance, the once-popular television show Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? With all the media attention that show received, most of us have either directly or indirectly been part of a conversation about what we would do with a million bucks. Personally, I’ve spent some time thinking, “If only . . .” Then one night I picked up the phone to hear, “Is this Kim Hackney? Kim, Bob has selected you to be part of ‘Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?’ You have sixty seconds to answer this question: ‘What is the name of the Italian opera singer . . . ?’”
Of course it wasn’t really the television host but a good friend whose family was playing the home version of the game as part of family night. Nonetheless, I was glad to have answered the question correctly and contributed to the “wealth” of this contestant. But if only it had been Regis!
Oops, this is what I’m talking about. “If only” thinking is so destructive to Christians because it takes our focus off God, places our faith in something besides God, and causes us to become impatient with trusting in God to meet all our needs. Could this be why God tells us, “You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below” (Deut. 5:8)?
As career women we need to guard our hearts against all forms of idolatry but especially against the god of money. Whether it’s money we are making, money we want to make, money in the family, or the money we keep pushing our husbands to make, we need to guard our hearts against greed. Society would like for us to believe that more money brings happiness, contentment, or peace, so we chase after it as though life itself depended on it. But as Christians we know that our life depends upon God and it’s in him that we are given these internal blessings.
First Timothy 6:10 says, “For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.” When we look to money to meet internal needs, as only God can do, we are making for ourselves an idol in the form of money. Since most people don’t talk about idolatry anymore, we tend to dismiss its prominence in our lives, believing we are not susceptible to its snares.
Consider for a moment: Do you know people in the workplace who are always tying their “if only” happiness to money, power, possessions, or status and never seem content with what God has given them? This is deception at its best, because Satan often disguises our “if onlys” as ambition, when in reality it’s greed! We can spot deception by asking a few hard but telling questions: “If I never get this raise, will I still trust God?” “If I’m overlooked for this position, will I continue to experience God’s peace?” “Am I content with the blessings I have?”
Once in a while we all need to check ourselves and make sure we are not investing too much of our time, talent, and heart in things other than God. God has great riches in store for us, some of which will come in the form of financial or professional status and some in the form of internal benefits. Neither the external or internal blessings will ever come at the expense of our relationship with God. He wants our hearts completely surrendered to him, the one true God!
“Yahweh” is a Hebrew name for God and means “I AM.”1 When we look to God, we experience him as the “I AM” in our lives. We are afforded great security by knowing that the God we seek, serve, and surrender our lives to is the great I AM of yesterday, today, and forever. When we need peace, we can trust that his name means I AM Peace. When we need love, we know his name means I AM Love. If we need hope, his name means I AM Hope. As we grasp the reality of calling God “Yahweh,” we should be humbled at the mere mention of his name because it is so powerful and all-consuming.
In the past, names were an indication of your family’s heritage and most likely the legacy you would leave. Throughout the Bible God changed individuals’ names as a testament of his handprint on their lives. However, today most names have little significance. And because of our general indifference to names, we’ve taken a laissez-faire attitude with the Lord’s name. We irreverently use his name in everyday conversations and think nothing of it.
For years I turned a deaf ear to “innocent” statements spoken by others as they interjected God’s name in their conversations to express disbelief or frustration. Worse yet, I used these phrases myself. Because I had become spiritually numb to reverencing God’s name, I winked at this heresy and remained in captivity.
Society’s heart is cold to God’s truth; therefore using his name in vain means nothing to most people. And in the workplace just about everything imaginable has been done to strip the truth of God or Jesus from our environment, a place in dire need of a Savior. Just think for a moment about the office party in December. Did the memorandum say “Christmas Party,” or did it say “Holiday Party”? It’s almost unimaginable to see the word “Christmas” typed on a corporate Christmas card. Society has become so politically correct that most people have taken Christ out of their conversation when talking about the birth or resurrection of Jesus—but not so “politically correct” that they stop using the name of God or Jesus Christ to “damn” someone.
The enemy has used the weapon of political correctness to the detriment of Christians in the workplace and called it workplace tolerance. We should never succumb to “political correctness” when the Lord’s name is not being reverenced in the highest regard. The Lord is sovereign, and whenever we do not hold his name in the absolute highest regard, we are misusing his name. As Christians in the workplace we need to retune our spiritual antennas and honor the name before which “every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord” (Phil. 2:10–11).
The next time we hear someone misusing the Lord’s name, let’s politely and lovingly ask them not to. As we are reminded in Job 38, God is the one who
laid the foundation of the earth
marked off its dimensions
shut up the sea behind doors
gives order to the morning
shows the dawn its place
shapes the earth like clay
sends lightning bolts on their way
tips over the water jars of the heavens
satisfies the hunger of the lions
provides food for the raven
has dominion over the earth
can raise his voice over the clouds
cuts the channel for the rain
journeyed to the springs of the sea
walked in the recesses of the deep
Remember, “Do not misuse the name of the LORD your God” (Deut. 5:11 NLT), because he is the great I AM!
Have you ever known someone who works seven days a week, around the clock, juggling one full-time job and possibly one or two other jobs? If you know someone like this, you know that this person is most likely drained emotionally, spiritually, and physically. Working like this requires great personal sacrifices affecting all aspects of life, but the greatest loss is sacrificing time resting in the Lord.
I believe that when God gave us this great commandment, “Observe the Sabbath day by keeping it holy” (Deut. 5:12), his purpose was strictly to protect us. He wasn’t being legalistic or trying to burden us with one more commitment to etch on our calendars or “to do” lists. No indeed! This commandment is quite the opposite of legalism, which is another form of bondage. God wants us to experience the liberating freedom that comes from basking in his presence.
Hebrews 4:1 says, “Therefore, since the promise of entering his rest still stands, let us be careful that none of you be found to have fallen short of it.” God promises rest so that we may experience the wholeness that comes from being in his presence both now and eternally. The Sabbath commandment, like all the others, speaks to the heart of God and his desire for an intimate relationship with us.
What an awesome thought to know God loves us so much that he beckons us to reserve a special time set apart to be with him, like a date. He knows our spirits, minds, and bodies can only be refreshed as we saturate ourselves with his presence. And contrary to popular belief that the Sabbath is a day of “self-rest” (playing golf, going shopping at the mall, or lounging around the house in pajamas), I believe the rest God offers us is a life-changing rest. It’s utterly impossible to be in God’s presence and not come away extravagantly refreshed, renewed, and rested.
The writer of Hebrews teaches us the importance of Sabbath-resting in the Lord: “There remains, then, a Sabbath-rest for the people of God; for anyone who enters God’s rest also rests from his own work, just as God did from his. Let us, therefore, make every effort to enter that rest, so that no one will fall by following [the Israelites’] example of disobedience. For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart” (Heb. 4:9–12).
Awesome! This day of rest is for spiritual revival and physical reprieve. Only when we are resting in his presence are we able to operate in the Word of God, which is “living and active” and “sharper than any double-edged sword.” What life-changing truth to know that as we rest in God’s presence we are able to discern truth from darkness, morality from immorality, and good from evil. The reward of keeping the Sabbath equips us to be victorious in all aspects of our life. What matters most is that we consistently set aside time, apart from our normal work schedule, to rest in God’s presence by keeping this day holy.
The following story illustrates the danger of envy:
According to an ancient Greek legend, a certain athlete ran well but placed second in the race. The winner was encompassed with praise and eventually a statue was erected in his honor. Envy ate away at the man who had placed second. He resented the winner, and he could think of little else. Eventually he decided to destroy the statue of the winner.
Night after night, he went to the statue under cover of darkness, chiseling away at the base to weaken the foundation. But one night as he chiseled in violent anger, he went too far. The heavy marble statue teetered on its base and crashed down on the disgruntled athlete. He died beneath the weight of the marble replica of the man he had grown to hate. His own envy had destroyed him.2
Losing a position or career opportunity to someone else when you were the best person for the job can cause bitterness and envy—even hatred, as we see with this athlete. Unfortunately the very thing you covet, if not given over to God, often ends up causing deep-rooted hate and possibly causing you to destroy your testimony, your life, and yourself.
In our status-driven society, it’s easy to go from admiring someone for his or her abilities and successes to having a spirit of covetousness that leads to resenting others for what you feel ought to be yours. Deuteronomy 5:21 tells us, “You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife. You shall not set your desire on your neighbor’s house or land, . . . or anything that belongs to your neighbor.” Throughout the Bible we are told to be content in all things. Yet because the world screams for more and more, we easily become ensnared by the deception of envy, comparisons, and covetousness.
Whether we recognize it or not, a discontented attitude is our way of rebelling against God. We don’t appreciate or value the current blessings in our life and are telling God, consciously or subconsciously, that his blessings are not good enough. We deserve more! An attitude like this keeps us preoccupied with what others have, causing us to covet things we do not have.
One of the ways to combat this type of thinking is to set our hearts on seeking God’s kingdom and righteousness first and then trusting him that we are blessed with everything we need. Seeking God first requires humility and thankfulness of heart for what he’s already given us. It also requires desiring God’s will over the professional inclination to “climb the corporate ladder” at the expense of our relationship with him.
God calls us to self-sacrifice and service in our occupations so he can be glorified when he elevates us to the appropriate position or promotion in our profession. Jesus tells us in Matthew 20:26–27, “Whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave—just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
God knows exactly what position we desire and what skills are necessary to succeed in our careers. We do not need to covet anything someone else has, be it a job we are qualified for or an ability we see in others that we do not yet possess. We can stand in faith, knowing that God blesses his children with the absolute best as we seek his kingdom first.
Has an employer ever benefited from your knowledge, skills, or abilities and then cheated you out of your much-deserved salary increase, bonus, or promotion? Consider this story of an employee who worked faithfully for a particular employer for over twenty years, was cheated in wages, and never received a promotion. Through the efforts of this man’s hard work, his boss became a very wealthy man. The story goes something like this.
Jacob worked long, hard hours taking care of his boss’s property, livestock, and household goods. With his excellent management skills, strong work ethic, and loyalty, Jacob multiplied his employer’s business and family wealth to great proportions. After twenty years of being mistreated, lied to, and manipulated, Jacob decided to leave his place of employment. However, his boss was unwilling to give him his rightfully earned severance package and pension plan or any other form of compensation.
Jacob sought counsel and was told he could leave with a portion of his employer’s wealth, livestock, and goods. However, Jacob’s wife felt as though they’d been cheated out of an “inheritance.” She took matters into her own hands. Instead of seeking counsel like Jacob did, she did what she deemed necessary, stealing something extremely valuable from the employer’s house. Within days the employer noticed this valuable item missing and sought to settle the matter and vindicate himself by going after Jacob’s family.
After reading this story do you feel the wife is justified? Can you see yourself ever doing anything like the wife? And how does the command “You shall not steal” (Deut. 5:19) fit into this situation? I confess, I’ve acted similarly to the wife mentioned in this biblical story of Jacob and Rachel (see Genesis 31), and maybe you have also. Have you ever taken a stapler without replacing it? What about taking a box of paper clips from your employer’s office to do some home filing? Did you feel justified for one reason or another? Would your employer consider this stealing? Or if someone worked for you, would you consider these actions stealing?
Recently a radio show was giving statistics on employee theft. The host said companies are seeing financial losses in the millions each year due to employee theft. That’s a lot of paper clips! But the devil, the father of lies, deceives us into rationalizing our behavior. Have you ever thought, “As hard as I work and the way they treat me, they are lucky this is all I’m taking”? What about, “As much money as this company makes off me, they’ll never miss it”? Or simply, “I deserve it”?
Even though I can relate to Rachel’s justifiable anger, in an attempt to get what was “rightfully” owed, she compromised her values and her family’s safety as we read later in Genesis 31. In the workplace we must obey God’s command, “Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult, but with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing” (1 Peter 3:9). In spite of how we feel or how passively society reacts to stealing something “small,” we must take hold of God’s Word, “You shall not steal” (Deut. 5:19), and let his truth prevail in our life.
Sometimes you just have to tell a “white lie,” don’t you agree? If someone asked me this question a couple of years ago, I would have responded, “Well, it depends!” After all, society tells us it’s okay to lie as long as it’s a white lie. And believe it or not, there’s actually a definition in the dictionary for white lie: “a minor lie uttered from polite, amiable, or pardonable motives; a polite or harmless fib.”3
Isn’t it interesting that I found a definition for “white lie” in the dictionary, but I couldn’t find anything in the Bible? I was, however, able to find Scripture that says, “You shall not give false testimony” (Deut. 5:20) and “Do not lie” (Lev. 19:11). How is it that we have bought into this idea of a “white” lie?
Matthew 12:36–37 says, “Men will have to give account on the day of judgment for every careless word they have spoken. For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned.” These are the words spoken by Jesus. Therefore, no matter how we try to dress up the word lie, it still comes down to sin.
We’ve already established that Satan is the father of deception. When we lie we give him authority in our situation and over our tongue. I can recall many incidents in the workplace where I gave the enemy authority over my situation by lying instead of telling the truth and trusting God to work out my situation. Maybe you have been in a similar situation.
It was yet another hectic day in the office. I was quickly preparing for another meeting—probably the second or third one of the day—when I heard the phone ring and quickly said, “If it’s for me, take a message. I’m not here.” As soon as I uttered those words, I gave the devil authority over my tongue, my heart, and that situation. Not only did I lie, but I caused an employee under my authority to lie.
Each time we do something like this, we compromise our character and gradually destroy our testimony to the onlooking world, which is in desperate need of truth. In addition, each time we give in to lying it spirals down, infecting others in more ways than we can imagine. That’s how the devil works: infecting us and those around us through deception.
Satan is seeking to destroy the Christian’s testimony, knowing people in the workplace are looking to us to set the standard for ethics, morality, and workplace behavior. When they hear us telling “half-truths” or “white lies,” they find it easier to justify their own immorality because of the mediocrity they see in our life.
How much better it would have been for me to take a stand for truth and say, “If it’s for me, tell them I’m on my way to a meeting and I’ll call them back,” or “Whoever it is, I’ll need to call them back.” That way I’m speaking truth, honoring God’s Word, modeling a lifestyle of Christ, and living a moral life in the workplace.
When our colleagues see us live out truth in the workplace, God will be glorified. This is how we live victoriously in the workplace—through day-to-day decisions
that put our faith in action and defeat the enemy’s lies and deception.
What new truths has God revealed to you? How will you depend on the Holy Spirit so you are not taken captive by the world’s hollow and deceptive philosophy?