Work Ethic: Character and Perspective Part I

15 Aug

“Work Ethic”. You’ve probably heard the term before. Webster’s Dictionary defines it as “the discipline dealing with what is good and bad and with moral duty and obligation… the principles of conduct governing an individual.” In other words, you may say, “A day’s work for a day’s pay,” but if you slack off every time the boss isn’t watching it will quickly become clear that this isn’t your ethic.

A good work ethic is more than words; it’s a character trait. Who you are when no one is looking matters. Setting the dictionary aside, you might define a good work ethic as, “Knowing what is right and doing it, even when you don’t feel like it.” Since you’re probably used to doing this with at least a few things in your every-day life (like taking out the trash, finishing an assignment for school or work, or paying your utility bill), it shouldn’t be hard to transfer the principle over to your paying job. At least, theoretically.

You see, a good work ethic isn’t just about our action, but about our attitudes. The question isn’t just, “Do you take out the trash each week,” but “Do you take out the trash without grumbling and complaining.” Most of us will recall that in Colossians 3:23 we are told to, “Work hard and cheerfully at whatever you do, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people.” This command is easy to remember and act upon when your work environment is a pleasant one, but much less so when the task or the person(s) for whom you are performing it are not.

While our attitudes govern our actions, it is our perspective which governs our attitudes. The result is that forming a proper perspective is the ultimate key to a good work ethic. The Apostle Paul recognized this, declaring in Philippians 4:12,13 that, “I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little. For I can do everything with the help of Christ who gives me the strength I need.” He understood that contentment in his line of work was not the result of an individual situation, but of how he viewed that situation. And this godly perspective gave him the ability to perform at his best even in the worst of circumstances.

We see this particular perspective prominently displayed in the story of Jacob. According to Genesis 29:20, “Jacob served seven years for Rachel and they seemed to him but a few days because of his love for her.” While Laban’s goal was to use Jacob for his own personal gain, Jacob was able to see past this own frustration by focusing on his own long-term goal and not on his immediate situation.

You might call this “big-picture thinking.” It’s what happens when you recognize important factors like that work is only a small portion of your life and that it doesn’t have to influence you any further than the revolving doors leading into the parking lot. Like LasVegas, whatever happens here stays here… if you let it. And that requires a conscious, committed decision. (To be continued…)

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