The last several months we have heard
a lot about the separation of Church and State. For some
reason this issue continues to be a hot button. Now I have
spoken on this issue in the past so I don't want to
necessarily spend time today addressing it again other than to
say, " at what point do we move beyond a separation of Church
and State issue, which is basically referring to the notion
that no one specific religion will be sponsored or mandated by
the government, to creating a separation of Work and Faith
The other day I caught a quick answer
from Alex Mooney, a local politician, to a question regarding
how he separates his faith from his political work. He
responded, "I can't separate the two because my faith is who I
I thought about that for a while and
he's absolutely right. Yes we can make decisions, which have
no bearing on our faith such as laws regarding road issues and
so on. But if as Christians we are doers of the word and not
just hearers, as James suggests in our scripture reading, then
our faith in a very real way defines who we are. So how then
can we put our faith to work where we are employed?
And for the purpose of today's message
when I say employed I'm not just talking about jobs where we
are paid a wage, I'm talking about all manners of work whether
it's raising kids, volunteer work or the like, although most
of my references will be to the wage earning type of job.
Today's scripture reading from James
challenges us to go beyond simply hearing and acknowledging
God's word to truly living God's word. In affect we are called
to embody our faith with our lives, to not only believe in
Christ, but also to work on his behalf. And as I thought about
this more and more this past week I began to realize what a
challenge it can be for Christians to remain faithful in our
pluralistic society. It's really tough isn't it?
According to research done the past 20
years, Americans are working more hours now than they ever
have in our history, and with the need, or desire, for two
wage incomes both parents are logging more time at the work
place then ever before.
Also, with the increase of single
parent families, working long hours just to make ends meet,
has become a necessity.
Unfortunately for many it's gotten to
the point where the job define who they are, not their faith.
But James challenges us to rethink this attitude. James
challenges us to put our faith to work, to allow our faith to
define who we are. As a matter of fact later in his letter,
James says, "As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith
without deeds is dead."
Now James isn't saying that you earn
your way to eternal life by doing good deeds, but he is saying
if you are truly faithful you can't help but do good deeds,
out of love for God. And I suggest this means we can't divorce
ourselves from our faith when we walk through the doors of our
employers. We can't simply drop off our faith in a faith
holder at the entrance, like we place an umbrella in an
umbrella stand, and pick it up when we leave. If we are able
to do this then I have to question how faithful we really are.
If we are truly faithful people, are
faith resides within us, it's who we are, it's what we do. And
it's through living out our faith that we encounter God on a
One of the problems we have today is
our ability to stay focused on God during the week. We come to
church on Sunday and get recharged, but lose our charge as the
week moves on. This is because we don't encounter God during
the week. We don't embody our faith in what we do, we're to
quick to drop off our faith in the faith holder.
The truth is the place you encounter
Jesus is on the way to serving and working with others. You
see it in the face of others, particularly those who don't
live like us.
To help us better deal with this issue
I want to suggest there are four basic Christian virtues we
can employ to remain faithful at work, without compromising
our Christian values or teaching. They're not always easy to
stay on top of, but they are essential to putting our faith to
work. The first virtue is we are to have a pure heart.
Now to have a pure heart means our
mind and spirit are to be in tune with the Holy Spirit. A pure
heart implies having a deep humility, remembering we are not
required to carry out God's plan.
Now last week, you'll remember, I
mentioned humility as well, when speaking of spiritual
formation, so it makes sense that humility would be an
important issue for us if we are to have a pure heart. And the
fact I mentioned it two weeks in a row further emphasizes just
how important humility is. The humility I speak of today means
having an honest opinion of ourselves. It means removing any
conceited ideas of our goodness, abilities and personal goals
from the forefront of our minds.
In the workplace Christ-like humility
manifests itself in different ways. One is humble when they
aren't concerned about who gets the credit. One is humble when
they strive to help a co-worker when they are struggling with
a task. One is humble when "self" takes a backseat to the
"group." Humility is being focused on the heavenly reward not
the earthly reward.
This can be tough because often times
we are in competition with our co-workers for promotion and
raises. So we have a constant tension between wanting to be
Christ-like and wanting the raise and/or promotion.
In my previous profession this tension
was very present, and constant. I know folks who received a
lesser raise or bonus then a peer because they were more
focused on someone's well-being rather than profit. But you
know what, I also found these same people happier and more
content. They may not have driven the fanciest cars, and lived
in the biggest homes, but they were happier people, making a
good living, and spending more time at home than in the
Also, many of these folks who moved on
to other employment opportunities have done much better
professionally then some who were seizing the moment, sounding
their own horn, and focused on making a name for themselves.
There's more to life than work and getting ahead personally,
and a humble person recognizes this truth. The second virtue
is having a love that is blind. In other words a love that is
Love is considered to be the essence
of all virtue. Love is not only the first and second greatest
commandment; it's really all the commandments rolled into one.
Paul tells us in Philippians (4:8), "whatever is true,
whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure,
whatever is lovely and whatever is admirable," they are all
summed up in one word, love.
The most important law in the whole
universe, regardless of what a lawyer or court might say is to
love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your
soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength (Mark
12:29). And if we love God, it implies we love our co-workers
as well, and want to see them do well and prosper.
Focus on God in all you say and do,
and allow God to reign supreme in your hearts. Don't tear down
you co-workers, lift them up and actively help them. This is
putting our faith to work
Several years ago there was a popular
phrase used, especially by the youth, "what would Jesus do?"
WWJD. Folks were challenged to consider what Jesus would do if
confronted with a similar situation that you were
But I wonder if the real question we
ought to ask is, "What will I do?" We ought to quit pointing
fingers everywhere else and just follow the Word of God. What
would Jesus do is an important question, but "what will I do"
is what leads us to action. Once again, putting our faith to
The third virtue is that our faith has
to be firmly grounded in Christ. Our faith is only as strong
as our willingness to rely on God. Our faith must be strong
enough to overcome all the prejudices of human reasoning, all
evil and immoral acts, and all humanly wisdom.
You know we exercise our bodies to
make them fit, trim, and strong. Well we need to exercise our
faith so it to remains fit, trim and strong. Much like our
bodies, just reading about exercise doesn't do a thing.
Believe me I've tried it and it doesn't work. Perhaps some of
you have also.
The same is true about our faith.
Reading about it isn't enough, hearing what we ought to do
isn't enough. We must exercise our faith to keep it strong.
All things are possible, to those who have a well-exercised
A faith that is firmly grounded in
Christ illuminates our minds and makes us see that our chief
purpose in life is to glorify God who created and redeemed us.
In this light we feel the power of God. We remember God's
power was strong enough to raise Jesus from the dead, so we
too are confident that God's power is strong enough to raise
us from the shackles of sin. "John says, "We win the victory
over the world by means of our faith." (1 John 4: 4). By
working together in the name of Christ, ordinary people can
accomplish extraordinary things.
A faith firmly grounded in Christ
believes in the truths proclaimed in the Bible, in a general
sense, and a belief in the following truths in particular: ¢
Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners, to save you
and me ¢ Jesus bore our sins in his own body on the Cross, the
atoning blood of Christ is real ¢ Jesus is the means by which
everyone's sins are forgiven
Faith also is:
- The revelation of Jesus in our
hearts, knowing Jesus is with us always through the Holy
- God's evidence of his unconditional
love to all people
- A sure conviction of God's
pardoning mercy through the Holy Spirit
- An unwavering conviction that Jesus
is our redeemer, our advocate, our Lord
A faith like this is firm and
unshakable even if we don't get the promotion or the raise.
And quit frankly, in the end the promotion and raise won't
make an eternal difference, but our faith will.
Also, realize that work, in whatever
form, helps our faith to grow because, faith cannot grow in
isolation. Faith only grows in community. Faith is experience
not thought. The fourth virtue is that we have a hope that
endures for all time. Our relationship with God begins with
faith, which helps us realize that we are delivered from our
past by Christ's death.
Hope grows as we learn all the things
God has in mind for us. And as hope grows we begin to realize,
in a more profound way, God's promise of the future.
Today in our culture the word "hope"
has become a weak word meaning, "hoping against hope," or
"hoping for the best," which actually implies we're not
hopeful at all. But this is not what "hope" means in the
Bible. In the Bible hope means certainty, and the only reason
it's called hope rather than certainty is that we don't fully
possess what is hoped for yet, although we will.
So even though we are not yet in full
possession of what is hoped for, we are nevertheless certain
of it, since it has been won for us by Christ and has been
promised to us by God "who does not lie."
Too many people focus on the negatives
of the work environment, but that's not scriptural. God has a
plan for this world and the Bible says Christ will return and
reign forever, and we will experience eternal life.
To help bring hope to our workplace,
and in deed to the world, we need to become incarnate in the
situation. This means being present in the areas where there
is need, not just ignoring a co-worker or problem, out of
selfishness. The Word became flesh, the apostle John reminds
us, as should we.
All too often we wake up in the
morning, we put on our Christian clothes. We get in our
Christian car, put up our Christian windows, turn on our
Christian Air Conditioning, and then drive right through the
kingdom of God, simply focused on the task at hand, or on the
job we're off to do. When we reach our destination or place of
employment we leave our Christian identity in the car or at
best at the front door, until it's time to go home.
I want to challenge us all to put our
faith to work in all we do. Faith must spill out into the
world if it's to grow.
You can see in many gardens today an
excellent illustration of faith spilling out into the world.
Many of you have probably seen the flowerpots or barrels
tipped over on their side with flowers planted such that it
looks like the pot or barrel tipped over and the flowers just
spilled out all over the yard.
The same is true of our faith. God
didn't intend for us to keep our faith within us. True faith,
is faith that is spilled out into the world so it can grow. We
are called to be ministers of the faith not consumers of the
faith, which implies being doers not just hearers of the word.
Mercy may brighten one's day, and empowerment may prepare a
person for a lifetime, but when a person comes to faith their
life is changed for eternity. Thanks be to God for the gift of
faith and for standing by us even when our faith may waiver.
Read other messages by Pastor Wade