“I’m giving up chocolate!”
“This year, I’m keeping my cheese and chocolate, but giving up all social media. Goodbye, Facebook friends! See you after Easter.”
“No coffee for me for the next forty days!”
Honestly, I’m shaking at the very thought of such asceticism, and so are my coworkers. They know the agony of being around me when I lack sufficient caffeine. Bring me the bed of nails or hot coals to walk on before I surrender my java.
With the start of Lent this year, I have heard such predictable declarations of devotion and also a number of unique, extra-creative statements of intentionality. My own spiritual heritage did not include practicing Lent or Ash Wednesday. My religious tutelage also held no celebration of Fasnacht Day. I have learned to shout “Yay!” for donuts’ great holiday. I’ve come to highly revere the sweet holiness of this fine tradition.
In recent years, my own appreciation for the potential benefits of observing Lent has increased. While still holding a solid grasp on saving grace, I have witnessed people’s Christ-honoring denial of self-consumption. I have seen meaningful, challenging levels of personal progress through such deliberate actions.
Lent in the Workplace
This year though, I cannot help but wonder, “What might it look like to dig several feet deeper, to apply Lenten disciplines in the workplace?” Could there be even deeper implications in the office, on sales calls with clients, and in the boardroom?
Instead of giving up something that primarily represents a sensory, consumer appetite, what if your zone of self-denial involved a core choice of the soul? Contemplate what may be one of those deep-down personal ruts, some character deficiency in relating with coworkers, or even those often overlooked, warped, or misguided workplace values. Let’s personally probe these questions:
- What about giving up water-cooler gossip and competitive character assassination?
- Could you dare to begin each of the next forty days by prayerfully laying down arrogance?
- How might productivity increase if you gave up patterns of procrastination to attack that to-do list—especially the worst tasks—even daring to do the worst first?
- What healthy habits might take root in your heart if you lay aside the workplace greed and lust you’ve flirted with way too frequently in recent months?
- Might you sense a deeper connectedness with Christ, family, and friends if you give up workaholic tendencies to practice the sacred rhythms of Sabbath?
Deadly Work Sins
In Taking Your Soul to Work, R. Paul Stevens and Alvin Ung supply a convicting list of nine workplace struggles. They dub them “deadly work sins.”
Pride. Greed. Lust. Gluttony. Anger. Sloth. Envy. Restlessness. Boredom.
Their powerfully persuasive call to surrender these vices takes the conversation beyond the predictable “stop that” or “cut it out!” Ung and Stevens winsomely supply the fresh fruit of the Spirit as life-giving antidotes.
Joy. Goodness. Love. Self-control. Gentleness. Faithfulness. Kindness. Patience. Peace.
Grace-motivated Instead of Works-based
One of my friends reminded me yesterday that as we enter Lent, a truly Christ-focused approach should be something very different than gloomy, gray, boring, and dismal. Too often, Lent can feel more like works-salvation than grace-motivated growth. That’s especially true if we become consumed with only short-term self-denial. When viewed holistically, Lent actually comes to us like the beautiful harbinger of springtime, potentially leading us toward brighter outcomes and resulting in a more Spirit-led life.
Who knows? Perhaps such enriched Lenten practices in the workplace might stretch beyond forty days. They might even change us at the core of who we are, transforming how we work and even whom we impact?
What if we embrace Lent in our workplaces this year in a fashion that addresses those much-needed places in our souls? Taking Lent to work can lead us into more whole-life worship and even greater advances of Christ’s kingdom.
I sense that will be far more wonderful and joy-producing than giving up coffee, both for me as well as my coworkers.