In our previous articles we explored how work is a gift from God, touching on different motivations to work and the manner in which we should work. We discussed that we should work to please Christ, not people; and to take care of the needs of our families. Reflecting on these ideas alone makes it sound like work is all about me. My life, my family’s needs, and my relationship with God. If we are not careful, we can start to look at work in a very individualistic way.

We should work hard as a means to seek the good of our cities and communities.

But we must look at our jobs and daily work in the context of the entire Bible. In addition to working to take care of our families, we should also work in order to love and bless others in our communities. God commanded the Israelite exiles in Jeremiah 29 to settle down, work hard by planting gardens, and seek for the welfare and prosperity of Babylon. Today, we’re also living in exile in this world waiting for Christ’s return. We should also work hard at our jobs as a means to seek the good of our cities and communities.

Five Ways to Work for Your Community

We spend much of our waking hours at our jobs and workplaces. How can we obey God’s commands about how we should live while at our workplaces?

God commands us to do good to all people (Galatians 6:10). How can we do good to all people at our jobs? Jesus said that we are the light of the world, a city on a hill, and our good deeds are supposed to shine before others (Matthew 5:14-16). How can we be light in the darkness at our jobs? Paul taught that our conversation should always be full of grace, seasoned with salt, and that we should make the most of every opportunity we have with non-believers (Colossians 4:5). How can we speak gracious words to non-believers at our jobs?

How can we be light in the darkness at our jobs?

We must look for ways to influence, help, and bless other people in our community through our work. Here are five ways to consider doing this.

1. Use the Fruits of Your Work to Bless Others

God designed the world so that our work benefits people and the community as a whole. When we grow food, or make chairs, or sell mobile phones, other people benefit. Our products and services should actually help people. They should make others’ lives better, without being wasteful or drawing people away from God. The goal should be a win-win, for us doing the work, and for the person purchasing our goods or services. The person buying the service or product is getting what they want, while we are also earning an income.

Maybe your job doesn’t involve business. The same principles apply. If you have a government job, you should work in a way that will allow all community members to benefit from the services we are providing on behalf of the government. If you’re a teacher, you should teach in a way that enables all the students to learn well and grow.

God designed the world so that our work benefits people and the community as a whole.

Now, you might not be able to see how the fruit of your work benefits anyone other than yourself. If this is the case it might be time to choose another kind of work. For example, working in sports betting may actually harm the community instead of providing benefits, as people who are already poor become addicted to gambling and lose the little money they had and the desire to work. Some jobs clearly benefit the community more than others. All of us should look for jobs that benefit other people, and reflect on the jobs we already have to make sure we are working in a way that will benefit both us and others around us.

2. Love Other People in the Work Place

We must show love to our co-workers, employees, bosses, and customers. We must love all, regardless of status. Jesus commanded us to love our neighbours as ourselves (Matthew 22:39).

We must love all, regardless of status.

We show love through honest dealings, fair and equal treatment, offering good bargains to those in need, helping our colleagues with their work, and obeying our bosses. When we interact with customers or colleagues, we can also take a moment to pause from the business at hand, to comfort someone going through challenges, share kind words, encourage, and pray for people both in the moment and also later at home. The world today is facing many challenges because we have disobeyed one of the greatest commandments, which is to love people.

3. Give Away Some of What You Earn

Through hard work we earn money to share with people in need.

As we work hard and earn money, we are able to have more to give away to help others. This is a specific reason Paul gave for why we should work hard (Ephesians 4:28). Paul set an example of this himself by working hard at making tents in order to help others in the church: “In all things I have shown you that by working hard in this way we must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35).

Through hard work at our jobs, we earn money that we can share with people in need and thereby experience the joy of giving.

4. See the Workplace as Your Mission Field

Our jobs provide us with many opportunities to share the gospel with non-believers, or disciple and encourage other Christians. Paul definitely saw his work this way. “After this, Paul left Athens and went to Corinth. There he met a Jew named Aquila, a native of Pontus, who had recently come from Italy with his wife Priscilla, because Claudius had ordered all the Jews to leave Rome. Paul went to see them, and because he was a tentmaker as they were, he stayed and worked with them” (Acts 18:1-3).

Our jobs provide us with many opportunities to share the gospel.

We can see that through Paul’s work of making tents he ended up meeting Aquila and Priscilla and spending a lot of time with them. They became followers of Jesus and eventually became Paul’s ministry co-workers. We need to follow his example and look for strategic opportunities to talk to people while at our workplaces.

Of course this must be done with wisdom and care. Our long conversations should not distract us from the actual work we need to do. It is not a good witness to fail to do the work that our managers require of us because we are spending all of our time preaching. We must keep doing the work we have to do, but at the same time look for opportunities to talk to people and share our faith. At the minimum, our job can provide us the time to build friendships with colleagues or customers. Then outside of work, we can invite them to our homes, or visit their homes, and tell them about Jesus.

5. Work in Ways that Affirm and Value Others

At the end of the day, we desire that everyone in our community views work as important and meaningful. We want everyone to feel that they are valuable to God and to others. It’s best when everyone can appreciate one another for the different jobs that they do. Then a community can flourish, being full of mutual respect, trust, and cooperation.

We need to avoid looking down on certain types of work. In the Greek culture of the New Testament, the people who did manual labour were considered inferior. But this is not a biblical idea. Paul set a good counter-example, working with his hands and making tents. He specifically emphasised the point that he worked with his hands several times (Acts 20:34; 1 Corinthians 4:12; 2 Thessalonians 3:6-15).

Don’t look down on people who have different work from you or earn less money.

In some of our regions in Africa, there is a similar idea that manual labour is inferior to office work, or becoming a doctor or teacher. In some places, certain jobs are considered as suitable for only certain tribes. Generally, in our world today, jobs that earn higher incomes are considered superior to those with lower incomes. Even in the church, people often view pastors as doing more important work than everyone else. We have to resist these types of comparisons. Jesus was a carpenter and his disciples were fishermen. All such vocations are important to God and to the development of a community. Don’t look down on people who have different work from you or people who earn less money.

Let us work hard at our jobs and be grateful for the specific jobs that we have. But at the same time, let us encourage other people in the work that they do. Each one of us has God given ability or talent though we are not all the same. That is why we cannot do all the jobs or work ourselves. This reminds us to appreciate each person’s contribution and work. Affirm that what they do is valuable and honorable.

Questions for Reflection:

  1. In what way does the fruit of your work benefit other people or the community as a whole?
  2. How can you show your boss, your colleagues, and your customers that you truly love them and care about them?
  3. Choose a colleague, or regular customer, who does not know Christ. Begin praying for their salvation. What can you do to intentionally build a friendship with that person?
  4. What type of work is viewed to be inferior in your community? Is this mind-set contributing to material poverty? How can you encourage other people in order to change this mindset?
  5. What will you do differently after reading this? What action steps will you take?

Helping Without Hurting in Africa: Facilitator Manual trains leaders to proclaim the gospel in both word and deed, changing mind-sets and helping them apply biblical principles to care wisely and compassionately for people who are poor without unintentionally doing harm.

Helping Without Hurting in Africa provides readers with the foundational concepts and tools in Christ-centered poverty alleviation and doubles as a ready-to-use facilitator manual that helps participants:

  • Grow in their relationships with God, others, self, and the rest of creation.
  • Gain a new focus on the kingdom of God in their ministries.
  • Renew their love and compassion for the materially poor.
  • Obtain knowledge about how to help low-income individuals and communities more wisely.
  • Empower churches and ministries to bring lasting change, starting with their own resources.

Contact Oasis Regional Directors to order Helping Without Hurting in Africa: Facilitator Manual:

  • Regional Director East Africa: WhatsApp: +27 79 572 4877
  • Regional Director West Africa: WhatsApp +234 809 111 1184

More ordering information at oasisinternationalpublishing.com/buy