I gave one of my clients a massive load of sass today on a conference call. My tone was annoyed, angry, and full of teenage angst (and no, I’m not a teenager). I was frustrated with the way he was unprepared for our meeting, and I totally snapped. As a consultant in “professional services,” this is exactly the type of thing we are trained not to do. Whoops.
I got off the call and started to tear up. It was not the first time I’d cried after a call with this client, but this time, I realized it wasn’t because of him; I was crying because of me. I was upset because I had not been acting in a way that looked like Jesus, much less representing my company well.
This has actually been a theme in my life lately—sorting out what Jesus would say about working in corporate America and what it might look like if he worked my job. I’m a ’90s kid, so a lot of my childhood church memories are littered with “W.W.J.D.” (What Would Jesus Do) bracelets. Corny as it was, I think there was some good stuff behind the “W.W.J.D.” movement. Today’s verbiage sounds more like “living like Jesus,” and I believe this is a critical part of being a follower of Jesus. No matter what our job is, whether it’s walking dogs, working in a church, or being a financial advisor, you can do good and holy work if you choose to incorporate Jesus into it.
But this hasn’t always been an easy thing for me to believe. I grew up with a lot of family members who worked in ministry— pastors, missionaries, worship leaders. And I always thought you had to work a church job if you really wanted to live for God. But I didn’t take that career path, and I honestly never felt called to. So does that mean those of us in non-ministry jobs are excluded from representing God through our work?
Paul writes in Ephesians 5:1-2 that we are to “Follow God’s example…and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us.” I’m not a Bible scholar, but I think this is pretty clear in what we’re to do, regardless of our job. We don’t have to work in a church to love people like Jesus. In fact, walking out our faith in a secular job gives us opportunities to share God with people who don’t know him.
So, how? Jesus didn’t have a nine-to-five job, but I think we can use the Bible to get a peek into what corporate Jesus might have looked like.
Slow Your Roll
Too often, I find myself running late for back-to-back meetings because I didn’t put any buffers in my schedule. I get frustrated when people ping me with unscheduled requests, and I get easily annoyed when people infringe upon my packed schedule. I’m already overwhelmed with the amount of stuff on my plate. Can’t they see that?
But Jesus, despite being one of the busiest guys on the planet, was incredibly in-the-moment with people. In his book, “The Ruthless Elimination of Hurry,” John Mark Comer cites an example in Mark 5 when Jesus healed a woman who was experiencing chronic bleeding. In the story, Jesus was on his way to do something really important, but the woman interrupted him.
Jesus didn’t brush her off or tell her to request a meeting for a later date. He actually stopped and healed her. (Actually, all she needed to do was touch his clothes to be healed, but Jesus sensed that power had left his body and searched for the woman, then listened to her story.) Jesus was OK with the divine interruption in his itinerary. He chose to be present with her. Imagine the love she must have felt!
In what ways can we be aware of the “bleeding” people in our daily lives? How can we stop to help them? Maybe it’s making margin in our schedule for the coworker who really needs a listening ear. Maybe it’s giving your set-aside cash to a single-mom coworker whose car just broke down.
It starts with slowing down our schedules and making space to be present so that we can respond with grace to divine interruptions.
Stop S*** Talking Your Colleagues
Oof, this one hurts. “Water cooler talk” (aka work drama) has become normalized in many jobs. I’ll admit, I’ve been guilty of saying some not-so-nice things about certain colleagues and being more than happy to listen to juicy conversations about other people’s business.
But let’s call this “water cooler talk” what it really is: gossip. And the Bible is very clear that gossip has no place in people who claim to follow Jesus. (See Ephesians 4:29, James 1:26, and Proverbs 10:18 for starters.)
Even in instances where Jesus encounters frustrating people (even people who want to kill him), he doesn’t talk smack about them— either to their face or behind their back. That takes divine willpower, and the beautiful thing is, we have access to that power too.
Keep It Real
The workday can be a roller coaster of emotions, sometimes changing hourly. When you’re up, you’re up; when you’re down, you’re sometimes very down. While corporate America sometimes discourages the display of negative emotions in the name of “professionalism,” I get frustrated when people are overly happy-clappy about everything, using their faith as a cover-up for being real.
Yes, the Bible tells us to be joyful, even through suffering, but Jesus also kept it very real with people. He wept when he was sad (John 11:35). He flipped tables when he had righteous anger (Matthew 21:12). He called people out when their actions were harmful to others or themselves (John 4:1-26).
That said, Jesus was also careful with whom he shared his more private emotions and feelings. I don’t think we need to divulge all of our deepest secrets to everyone at work, but I do think we can show a level of realness. We can express feelings like anger and frustration while also choosing joy in Jesus.
On the flip side, being like Jesus might mean sitting with your coworkers in their pain. Sometimes your simple presence is very powerful.
Have Patience, Even with That Guy
Patience is an underrated workplace skill, in my opinion, especially because there are so many opportunities to lose your patience at work. Whether you’re training someone and they’re not really getting it, or your clients are being unreasonably demanding, it can feel like the natural response is to get snippy, huffy, or even blow up at someone.
Jesus constantly had people coming to him with issues like lack of faith, not-so-smart questions, and even blasphemy. Yet, through it all, He remained focused on his goal of representing the Father (God). He answered annoying situations with gentleness, grace, and wisdom. If Jesus can be patient enough to bear these things, I can be patient enough to train someone on our software for another hour.
Share About Jesus
This is probably the most important one, yet also maybe the hardest. The whole point of Jesus coming to Earth was to provide a way to eternal life by dying as payment for everyone’s sins. Because He came for all people, I believe it is our responsibility to share that exciting news with as many people as we can.
Like it or not, work people are part of “all people.” I know what you’re thinking: How on Earth can I share my faith at work? That goes against all my company handbooks, and HR is going to track me down! Relax. I hear you, but sometimes sharing about Jesus starts with simply doing the things we’ve been talking about. If you act like Jesus, people will see that you’re different. They might even ask why. I also look for little opportunities to be generous or tell people I’m praying for them—and then I actually do it.
I wish I could say my clients and coworkers always feel the love of God around me. Sadly, that is not the case. But I believe God is a God of grace who wants us to keep trying to be more like Him. I won’t always get it right, but thankfully, we’ve got a big God who always does.
Process, journal or discuss the themes of this article - here's a few questions to get the ball rolling...
If Jesus Had A 9-5
Where do you notice it feels hardest to ‘live like Jesus’ in your workplace? Is it the difficult personalities, the busy workload, temptation to gossip & grumble? Something else?
What do you sense God might be challenging you or inviting you to change or grow in? Is there anything new or different you feel prompted to do (or not do)?
If you think of how you want to look back & be remembered — in what ways can you build into that type of legacy through your impact & presence at work? This could look like changing directions from how you usually engage, or leaning more courageously into strengths & gifts you already use at work. Either way- lean into what you sense God nudging you toward.
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