Understanding the Job, Workplace Skills

Obedience and the Art of Hearing

During my early days in retail, I discovered that I had been given a valuable gift: I could look at any workplace situation and, without further instruction, know exactly what needed to be done. Without managerial instruction (or sometimes in spite of it), I could tackle and resolve nearly any problem. My managerial skills were evident and were outweighed only by my ability to take the initiative.

The difficulty, of course, was that what appeared from my perspective to be the obvious course of action was not always the course which my boss had previously plotted. More than once, I found myself redoing a project simply because I had failed to carry out her instructions… or even hear them correctly in the first place. I may have shown great talent, but she was not seeking any special innovation on my part: just the careful attention which leads to obedience.

Sadly, many of us face a similar dilemma when it comes to following God’s instructions; especially when those instructions are designed to govern our conduct in the workplace. Looking at the immediate context of a situation, we make our best guess as to the “right” answer. Unfortunately, that “right” answer isn’t always the Biblical answer and, more often than not, we find ourselves embroiled in conflicts and frustrations which might have been avoided if only we hadn’t been so keen to show off our spiritual “managerial” skills.

As with my manager, God is not impressed with our attempts to follow Him if those attempts are not based upon the clear instruction of His Word.  A perfect example of this may be found in Leviticus 10:1-3, “Now Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, took their respective firepans, and after putting fire in them, placed incense on it and offered strange fire before the Lord, which He had not commanded them. And fire came out from the presence of the Lord and consumed them, and they died before the Lord. Then Moses said to Aaron, “It is what the Lord spoke, saying, ‘By those who come near Me I will be treated as holy, And before all the people I will be honored.’ So Aaron, therefore, kept silent.” While God’s decision to incinerate the priests may seem a bit extreme, we need to keep in mind that Nadab and Abihu were in direct violation of God’s direct orders. In approaching Him without regard to His commands, they dishonored Him. They thought they were smarter than God. God reminded them that they weren’t.

While God isn’t likely to use any of us as human barbeque (He did it just once to make a point), Scripture still places a great deal of emphasis upon the need to both hear and obey God’s Word. For example, in Luke 6:46-49 we read Jesus’ familiar words, “Why do you call Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say? Everyone who comes to Me and hears My words and acts on them, I will show you whom he is like: he is like a man building a house, who dug deep and laid a foundation on the rock; and when a flood occurred, the torrent burst against that house and could not shake it, because it had been well built. But the one who has heard and has not acted accordingly, is like a man who built a house on the ground without any foundation; and the torrent burst against it and immediately it collapsed, and the ruin of that house was great.” And again, in Luke 11:28 we read that, “…blessed are those who hear the word of God and observe it.” Our ability to obey both God and our earthy boss is directly linked to our willingness to hear.


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