Many of us love to work, but we must also learn to demonstrate Biblical love through our work.
This is the second article in a series on applying the fruit of the Spirit in the workplace, and our topic today is the relationship between love (the first characteristic mentioned in the fruit of the Spirit) and work.
In Galatians 5:19-21, the Apostle Paul describes the “works of the flesh” (ESV). These practices include “sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these.” Notice that in each of these sinful practices, there is disregard for the two greatest commandments that Jesus identifies: love for God and love for our neighbor (Matt. 22:36-40).
The works of the flesh are a result of placing our own desires above those of God and our spouse, family members, colleagues, and friends. For example, idolatry is ascribing to something unworthy that rightly belongs to God alone: our worship. Envy is a direct violation of the command to love our neighbor because envy causes us to place our own desires above those of another person. Each of these fleshly works are the result of feeding our fallen nature rather than being led by the Holy Spirit.
Therefore, it is interesting that the first characteristic listed in the fruit of the Spirit is love. In the works of the flesh, there is an absence of love toward God and humanity. In the fruit of the Spirit, everything begins with love. What does this have to do with work?
Previously, we applied Galatians 5:16 to the workplace by saying we can work by the Spirit and overcome the desires of the flesh. We have all either heard of or experienced work environments with an abundance of anger, rivalries, bitterness, and envy. If the Spirit is not leading our lives, the works of the flesh can become the outcome of our attitudes.
Paul reminds us that the works of the flesh do not have to be our reality, but rather we can be led by the Holy Spirit who will produce spiritual fruit in our lives. The first characteristic of the fruit of the Spirit that Paul mentions is love. To better understand what Paul means by love, we can look at his words on love in 1 Corinthians 13, which come in the context of Paul’s discussing the gifts of the Spirit. He writes, “If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal” (1 Cor. 13:1). Without love, our gifts and talents become about us, and this is not proper stewardship. The Lord gives us gifts and talents to glorify him and to serve those he has put in our lives.
Here are three practical ways we can love well in our workplaces.
Work for God’s Glory
First, we must love the Lord by doing our work for his glory (1 Cor. 10:31, Col. 3:17). The best way we can keep our focus off ourselves and on the Lord is by seeking to exalt him in all we do. James writes, “For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice” (Jas. 3:16).
When our focus is on our own interests, the result is the works of the flesh. In contrast, when we work for the glory of Christ, he will be exalted, and his presence will saturate our work. Everything that is done for the glory of God will be done in a spirit of excellence, and excellence will breed productivity and efficiency in the workplace.
Love Our Coworkers More Than Ourselves
We know that some colleagues are easier to love than others, but this is non-negotiable. When a colleague is promoted, we rejoice with them. When they are hurting, we mourn with them (Rom. 12:14-15). Loving our colleagues well will provide open doors for the Gospel, but to love them well, we must get our focus off ourselves.
Furthermore, the success of our colleagues is not something for which to be envious. Rather, their success can be our success. As we work together and mutually serve each other, the level of productivity in the organization will rise because each colleague will be seeking the benefit of others.
Seek Eternal Value in Our Work
This third principle is built on the first two. When we love the Lord and our colleagues well, we will be making eternal investments. The Lord has called each of us to advance his kingdom through the work he has given us to do.
As we go to work each day, let us be mindful that there are people the Lord is putting in our paths who need to experience the love of Christ. As we have received the love of Christ, so we must give that love to those with whom we come in contact.
The bottom line in our jobs is not just dollars and cents; it also includes souls. Jobs will come and go, but lives changed by the Gospel will produce an eternal investment that cannot be stolen by this world. As we work to love, we will find increased fulfillment in our jobs because we will be more aware of the eternal purpose God has placed in our work.