In every place where I’ve worked, it has been difficult for me to distinguish Christian colleagues from non-Christian coworkers. I’ve seen both types of people make wrong choices in order to get ahead. I’ve watched both imitate a leader’s poor example, justifying their behavior as the means to an end.
However, Christian believers are called to be different from those who do not know Christ; we are not to be “conformed to this world” (Rom. 12:2). So, we cannot leave our relationships with Jesus Christ at the workplace door, hiding our faith as if it is reserved only for Sundays. The secular workplace desperately needs light, and Jesus calls us to shine in ways that bring him glory, every day that we go to work.
You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven (Matt. 5:14-16).
In this passage, Jesus calls us to “let [our] light shine before others” (Matt. 5:16). But what does it actually look like for a Christian to “give light to all” (v. 15) in the workplace? What kind of “good works” can we do in our jobs so that our colleagues see and “give glory to [our] Father who is in heaven” (v. 16)?
The book of Matthew records not only the events of Jesus’ life but also provides insight into his character. Jesus’ character is perfect in every way, but it is his beautiful humility that helps us to answer this question: How can I be a light at my job? Reflecting Christ’s humble example brings light to our workplaces and gives glory to our Father. Here are three ways we can practice humility at work.
Humble Use of Power
It may appear that certain leaders hold a lot of power in their jobs. But earthly leaders only have as much power as God allows them, according to his purposes. The Lord Jesus possesses all of the power in the entire universe, and he knows what it’s like to be tempted to use it for the wrong purposes. The devil “took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. And he said to him, ‘All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me’” (Matt. 4:8-9).
Of course, Satan was lying when he implied the kingdoms of the world were his to give away, and he was attempting to distract Jesus from his redemptive mission. In his perfect humility, Jesus didn’t give in to the temptation to use his power for worldly gain. Instead, he remained focused on bowing before his Father, for kingdom gain.
When we follow Jesus’ humble example, we bow before God as our power source, remembering that our skills and leadership in the workplace are only possible by God’s gift of grace. This humble posture helps us to make decisions that promote the well-being of others, rather than our own self-interest. Imitating Jesus’ humility helps us to avoid self-exaltation and to treat our colleagues as God’s creation, made in his image and highly valuable to him. Humility at work means that we willingly place ourselves under the authority of those above us, not seeking to circumvent their rules or plans. We can be humble when, by God’s grace, we worship him and work according to his mission for our lives.
Humble Obedience to the Father
Not only did Jesus perfectly execute the power given to him by God, but he served his Father in absolute obedience. There is no greater example than Jesus’ agonized prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane, when he fell on face, saying, “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will” (Matt. 26:39). In order to completely obey God’s will, Jesus humbled himself even to death.
Jesus’ example reminds us to “work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men,” (Col. 3:23). Remembering this motivates us to stand up for what is right, no matter the professional risk. God may call us to obey him by making high-impact choices (such as refusing a request to alter documents) that garner a lot of negative attention and may even cost us our jobs. Or, obedience to God at work may take a quieter form, such as a daily commitment to refrain from office gossip. Regardless of our type of work and the opportunities it presents, we can obey God by devoting ourselves to excellence, even when our efforts go unsupervised or unacknowledged. Humility at work means that we obey God by pursuing the ethics and effort that will honor him.
Humble Service to Others
Jesus left his throne and came to earth “not to be served but to serve” (Mk. 10:45). One way he exemplified this was by washing the feet of his disciples, saying “If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you” (Jn. 13:14-15). This is an astounding example of humility!
Imitating Jesus’ “good works” of humble service requires us to count our colleagues’ needs as more important than our own (Phil 2:3). It is so much easier to be selfish in the workplace. But when we speak up for those who have no voice, help those who can’t repay in favor or influence, or extend an act of kindness to someone who has been unkind, we are humbly serving others as Jesus did. Jesus’ example of humility may lead us to serve others in ways that are uncomfortable and seem “beneath our pay grade.” Yet, imitating Christ in this way may be just the “good work” that points others to praise and glorify God.
Your Humble Calling on Monday
Believer, you are called to live out your faith beyond the church walls on Sunday. God has placed you exactly where he wants you to be, Monday through Friday—at that specific job and in that particular role. The world of work is dark and desperately needs the light of Jesus. Christ-like humility is the way to shine that light. In Christ, you have everything you need to humbly use the skills he has given you, as you obey God and serve others. May we be the light so that the world may see Christ.