Salary and Finance

God, Our Job, and Our Wallet

I’m pleased to state that my initial response to my need for speed (or at least for a vehicle that didn’t guzzle gas) was the correct one. I took my bank statement to God and presented it to Him complete with a detailed account of the current fuel prices, available work hours, and the cost of health insurance. I pointed out that He had led me to believe that I was to live debt free and asked that He provide for my need. Since I was already putting the matter before Him, I thought I’d also tag on a few extra requests. “And if you wouldn’t mind, Lord, would you please make my new vehicle a little white pickup truck with four wheel drive and air conditioning.”

Two days later, there it was, sitting beside the road: a little white pickup truck with four wheel drive and air conditioning. Price tag? $2,200. Since I had cash on hand, I was able to talk the owner down to $2,000 and used the remaining $200 to purchase a truck box and a new radio for the cab. I knew that God wasn’t just meeting my need; He was making a point. He didn’t need my salary in order to provide for me.

Jesus commanded His disciples, “do not be worried about your life, as to what you will eat or what you will drink; nor for your body, as to what you will put on.” Then He asks, “Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air, that they do not sow, nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth much more than they? And who of you by being worried can add a single hour to his life? And why are you worried about clothing? Observe how the lilies of the field grow; they do not toil nor do they spin, yet I say to you that not even Solomon in all his glory clothed himself like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the furnace, will He not much more clothe you? You of little faith! Do not worry then, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear for clothing?’ For the Gentiles eagerly seek all these things; for your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” (Matthew 6:25-33 NASB)

The truth is that it can be difficult to see life from this perspective. After all, our jobs give us a place to work, work produces money, and money produces… well, stuff. Or does it? Is it possible that God really does provide for our needs not just through our paychecks, but also independent of them? Over the next few weeks, we’ll be taking a look at what the Bible has to say about our income – where our financial resources come from, how we should use them, and why the money we get from our jobs should not be the driving force behind what we do or how well we do it. In the meantime, feel free to share your own stories about God’s provision in the comment box below!

Salary and Finance, Workplace Issues

Contender to the Throne

My first car was a 1972 Lincoln Mark IV. While it’s been years since I last sat on its slightly worn emerald green leather seats, I still remember it with fondness. Like Gaston in Disney’s “Beauty and the Beast”, it was “roughly the size of a barge” and, due to its pale yellow exterior, was affectionately dubbed “The Banana Boat.” Built like a tank, I could have been in a head on collision with a freight train and expected to have (at very least) come out as a reasonably intact corpse.

The one real detracting feature was the gas mileage. My beautiful green machine got a whopping 8 miles to the gallon. The expense was offset by the fact that my dad was able to fix nearly everything that went wrong with the vehicle (with the noted exception of the headlights which, for some reason we were never able to identify, would blink on and off whenever my mother or I drove the car, but behaved quite normally whenever Dad was behind the wheel). It was a teenager’s paradise… until gas prices began to rise.

I laugh today when I consider the major panic which overtook me when the sign at the pump first informed me that my fuel would run $1.769 a gallon. I nearly hyperventilated as I calculated the cost of filling the tank in proportion to the salary I was making. The numbers were not positive. In fact, when all was said and done, I was working simply for the privilege of paying for my health insurance… and being able to drive myself to and from the job which covered that expense. Something needed to happen and it needed to happen fast.

I went home and checked my bank account. The sum total of my savings amounted to $2,200. It wasn’t much. Years earlier, I had been convicted that God wanted me to live debt free (a conviction which I still hold quite deeply). Keeping my promise to ensure that I owed, “nothing to anyone except to love one another” (Romans 13:8) was going to require some financial wrangling. And I wasn’t sure if God would replicate His loaves and fishes miracle with my nickels and dimes.

To be honest, my experience wasn’t a unique one. Most of us have encountered some type of financial need at some point in our life. At times like these, when the money is short and the need is great, it can be tempting to shift our focus away from the Provider and onto the provision. The funding we lack takes center stage while the Giver of all good things slips to the sidelines.

Perhaps it is for this reason that Jesus warned his disciples, “No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.” (Matthew 6:24 NASB) And few things bring this caution to the forefront quite as vividly as the recognition that money (or at least a little bit of it) still plays a vital role in the life of the Believer.

While we may not bow before mounds of gold coins on a regular basis (or at all), we can be certain that our earthly boss is far from being the only “contender for the throne” to be found in the workplace. During times of perceived famine, our salary can also put up a good fight. (To be continued…)

Job Security, Workplace Issues

The Sovereignty of God and Why it Matters in the Workplace

Returning to the story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, we find that there was a second important ingredient in their success: they recognized their Boss’s sovereignty. When the fire threatened both their careers and their lives, they responded with confidence, “Our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the furnace of blazing fire; and He will deliver us out of your hand, O king. But even if He does not, let it be known to you, O king, that we are not going to serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.” (Daniel 3:17-18 NASB)

Like Joseph (Genesis 45:4-5) they knew that what man meant for evil, God meant for good. If they did have to face the furnace, it would not be because God was unable to deliver them, but because He had a bigger plan… and that the bigger plan was also a better plan. Their bold confidence is echoed repeatedly throughout Scripture.

Jeremiah 29:11 affirms, “I know the plans that I have for you,’ declares the LORD, ‘plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope.” (NASB) And in Romans 8:28-32 the Apostle Paul declares, “We know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren; and these whom He predestined, He also called; and these whom He called, He also justified; and these whom He justified, He also glorified. What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who is against us? He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him over for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things?” (NASB)

Understanding both God’s sovereignty and His love for them before they faced the fire was the key to the Hebrews’ boldness when they found themselves standing in the midst of the fire. And the same holds true for us, today.

So before you head off to work each morning, determine that God is your Boss – not your manager, the company president, your customers, or your coworkers.  Once you’ve made up your mind beforehand that God is the One whom you really serve, you too will have the courage to stand up and speak the truth – regardless of the consequences.

An added bonus?  When God is your Boss, most of the time it’s easier to earn the respect of your earthly boss!  But more on that, later!

Listening Skills, Workplace Skills

Becoming an Active Listener

Memorization plays an important part in our ability to remember God’s instructions. Unfortunately, it isn’t very practical when it comes to the orders given by our earthly employers. Most bosses don’t have the time to wait for us to commit their commands to memory and, if we don’t want to lose our jobs, we don’t either. If we’re going to carry out their instructions both effectively and efficiently, we need to master the art of “active” listening. And this requires focus.

I probably don’t have to point out that for many of us, focus is not our default setting. Monotone speeches, warm rooms, and entertaining side-bar conversations all have the potential to distract us. Give us a second to glance through the window and our attention has shifted from where we are to where we’d rather be. Tell us something that merely sounds like something we’ve heard before and we immediately zone out. Fighting this default can prove to be quite a challenge, so here are a few tips to help you stay on task when your boss is delivering his directions:

  1. Take notes. It sounds a bit old school, but a pocket notebook and a pencil can go a long way towards helping you remember key points – like which project your boss wants you to finish first or exactly where on the sales floor he’d like to see that new display.
  2. Listen with intention. The human brain is capable of processing information at a much higher speed than the mouth is able to present it. The result is that many of us multi-task as we listen to others speak. While our boss is telling us what he’d like us to do with that shipment of exotic vegetables, we’re busy trying to decide what other duties we need to put on hold. While he’s delivering instructions on where to place the water coolers, we’re trying to decide which color ought to be placed there first. Good remembering begins with intentional listening… and that means we need to put the multi-tasking on hold.
  3. Ask questions. No, you shouldn’t be making a mental list of these while your boss is delivering instructions, but you should be able to ask a few when he’s finished. Make sure that when he says “to the left of the registers” he means “to the left coming into the store” not “to the left going out.” Ensure that ambiguous words like “big” and “little” are qualified. (After all, your idea of a “little display” and his may be drastically different.) And don’t worry about asking for specifics. Is a three foot tall stack of hairdryers too tall? You won’t know unless you ask!
  4. Clarify through repetition. Once you’re pretty sure you understand your task, take a moment to repeat your boss’ instructions back to him in your own words. This will help both of you to ensure that any confusion about his orders is cleared up before you start performing the required task.

These, of course, are only a few ideas to get you started. Being an active listener is a bit of an art form and it can take time to master its nuances, but once you have, you’ll be well on your way to becoming a top-notch performer.