When I was about to graduate from high school in 1976, someone in my class was putting together a list of “Senior Predictions.” Mine was kind of amusing. Whoever wrote it knew me well. They predicted that in ten years I would add, “Good afternoon” to my usual greeting of “Good morning.”
Flash forward ten years. I am a soldier in Basic Training at Fort Jackson, South Carolina, learning how to give the “greeting of the day” to an officer or NCO who I meet while walking outside.
The task is simple. If it is an officer, I initiate the greeting with, “Good morning (or afternoon), Sir (or Ma’am)” and give a salute. If it is an NCO, I would say, “Good morning (or afternoon), Sergeant (or First Sergeant, or Sergeant Major).” The key to success is doing it at the right time before they pass. You must be close enough to identify their rank and gender and give them time to respond.
Flash forward 36 years. I am now a retired Master Sergeant and a Department of the Army Civilian, working at one of our Army training centers. A few weeks ago, while walking down the hall in the next wing from where I work, I passed a Sergeant Major I did not know. I greeted him with a “Good morning, Sergeant Major!” He responded in kind. It felt really good and right. It got me to thinking about how important this greeting is to building a culture of dignity and respect in the workplace.
I would like to take a fresh look at this from a biblical and theological perspective. I will begin by highlighting what greeting God might look like. Then I will describe the blessings that greeting others brings to them as we acknowledge their presence and look for opportunities to serve them.
Greeting God as the Day Begins
I was recently reminded of the words of a great hymn as I listened to Christian music on the way to work. “Holy, holy, holy, Lord God almighty! Early in the morning, my song shall rise to thee.”
When we begin the day with “Good morning, Lord!” instead of “Good Lord, it’s morning,” we will probably have a much better day. When your first waking thought is to acknowledge God’s presence with you, it sets the tone to abide in the presence of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit all day long.
Psalm 5:1-3 is a great scripture that clearly shows what I have stated. David begins with a sincere prayer to God, asking him to listen and consider the lament he is about to share. He describes the words he is using as a “groaning” and a “cry.” He is offering this prayer to God in the morning.
Brother Lawrence, in the book Practicing the Presence of God, illustrated this idea of inviting God’s presence into his workplace.
At the beginning of my duties I would say to the Lord with confidence, “My God, since you are with me, and since, by your will, I must occupy myself with external things, please grant me the grace to remain with you, in your presence. Work with me, so that my work might be the very best. Receive as an offering of love both my work and all my affections.”
A Greeting Can Build Relationships
An exchange of good mornings between two coworkers is a great way to begin a conversation. It may lead to asking them, “How are you doing?” or, “I haven’t seen you in a while. How are the kids, grandkids, wife, etc.?” It can open up doors for us to show compassion and love to our neighbors.
Greeting our coworkers and others we work with is even more important than greeting those we do not know just as a courtesy. When we do this consistently with our bosses, peers, and subordinates, this deepens the connections we have with them, and provides opportunities to minister to them if we notice something may not be right.
Just like the soldier who learns that the subordinate is responsible to give the greeting of the day to his or her superior, so we too, as servants of the Lord, need to consider others more important than ourselves (Phil. 2:3-4). Jesus said that those who wanted to be great in God’s kingdom needed to become servants of all (Mk. 10:44-45). This illustrates humility.
A Greeting can Acknowledge the Presence of Those Who Feel Invisible
In addition to blessing those with whom we work every day, perhaps there are others we should greet.
In the Old Testament law, we read about the plight of the leper. For legitimate medical reasons, their highly contagious condition led them to be considered unclean (Lev. 13: 45-46). They were isolated from Jewish society. And yet Jesus made numerous efforts to touch them and bring them healing.
There are many people who for a variety of reasons are somewhat invisible. For example, among students at a university, there will be the uneducated in their midst, perhaps doing custodial work. Working at a successful business will be those who are not so successful. In the midst of the beautiful, young, and healthy, will be those who are less than attractive, old, and sick. These kinds of people tend to be overlooked at work, in our neighborhoods, and even in church.
However, these are the people who Jesus was drawn to: the least, the last, and the lost. Could we not reach out to them, like Jesus did? How easy would it be to acknowledge their presence with a hello?
When you give someone a cheerful greeting, you may give them a much-needed blessing in ways that you may not realize at the time.
Editor’s note: This article was adapted from the author’s personal blog. Republished with permission.