If you are reading this on a weekday, then there is a good chance that like me, you are on your way into work, at work or on your way back. Most of us who work have a manager. Your manager plays a major role in assigning the objectives of the team within which you work. If you work for a large corporate, then there are company values as well. These could be cultural, customer-focused or both. These company values tend to be the framework within which the team and individual objectives are set. Something similar also happens within political parties. There are slogans which define the primary ambitions of the party and there is also a manifesto which outlines the aim and objectives of the party. As with objectives in the workplace, a political party is judged against how well they abide by their manifesto.
At work, periodically, I sit down with my manager for an appraisal. The appraisal tends to be in two parts: how I have done the things we agreed would be my objectives at the start of the year and setting new objectives to be achieved by the next formal appraisal. On both counts, I am not only appraised on what I do but how I do it. Armed with that knowledge, if I am a good employee, I will endeavour to tailor everything I do in the workplace to meet those objectives. I distinguish myself by how well I meet my objectives and what my attitude is like. Do I come to work and operate in my own bubble, doing what I feel like doing when I feel like doing it? Is my work about me or about the goals of my team or my company? Does my employer care about my attitude?
If you are wondering what all this has to do with the Christian life, then my question to you is: do you consider yourself a servant of Jesus? The Oxford dictionary defines a servant as someone employed by another to perform duties. So often, I hear the phrase ‘I gave my life to Christ’ and on a very practical level we understand this to mean, ‘my life is no longer my own’. It means I am in the service of another or to use a workplace colloquialism, ‘I am no longer my boss, I have a new boss’. If being a Christian means that we become servants (employees) of the Lord Jesus, then by extension, it must mean that Jesus sets out the aims and objectives of our lives. Furthermore, drawing on the allegory of the big company that has its company values, we can parallel this with the kingdom of God. So as Christians, we are given individual objectives which are set within the framework of the Kingdom’s manifesto. To be good employees, we must operate within this context.
Very few of us go into work and dictate terms for our bosses. We do not tell them when we are going to come into work, what hours we are going to work and set our own objectives. In essence, we do not work on our terms. However, in the Christian life, I find that I often try to do this. I tell God after I have made plans about my life and I ask Him to bless it. I make big decisions concerning my life without asking God about it. I go about the business of my day often without taking the time to invite God. How often during the day do I stop to acknowledge God? How often do I pause in the busyness of life to hear what God has to say about my day? Or my choices? It doesn’t matter how often I say that God is the most important Person in my life if the way I live my life doesn’t reflect it. A good employee is not judged by what they say, but they are judged by what they deliver and their attitude. This is exactly the same for me as a Christian.
In the parable of the talents in Matthew’s gospel [Matthew 25:14-30], Jesus tells the story about a master who went away on a journey and left his property in the care of his servants. This can be compared to Jesus, the Heir of all things [Hebrews 1:2], after His ascension, entrusting His mission to us. As with the servants in the parable, we have also been endowed with talents and our objectives as servants of Jesus is to make the best of the talents we have been given in the service of our Master’s mission. What are we doing in His absence? Have we buried our talents in the ground and gone about our own business? Have we deprioritised His work and prioritised what is important to us instead? Are we preoccupied with our own lives, our own ambitions while our Master’s mission languishes? What will the Master say to us on His return about the talents He endowed us with? Will He judge us as good employees when it is time for our appraisal?
While William Ernest Henley can say ‘I am the master of my fate, I am the captain of my soul’, I cannot as a Christian. While I want to remain in control of my life, go where I please and do what I choose, giving my life to Jesus means I must yield that control, however painful the process. I must accept that I am a servant in the employment of Another. Jesus reminds us of this with words that challenge me: “so you also, when you have done everything you were told to do, should say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done our duty.’” [Luke 17:10 NIV].
From the moment we give our lives to Jesus, we are called into His service. As a result of this calling, we are to yield control of every area of our lives and present ourselves for duty. In doing so, I must get rid of any ambitions I have that do not serve God’s purpose. I must dethrone anything that would take the place of Jesus in my life. I must also address my attitude towards others for if my attitude is to serve Jesus, then it must draw people towards and not away from Him. I must spend time in prayer to seek God’s face about life’s choices. I must consult Jesus at the start of my day, commit my thoughts, words and deeds for that day to the service of His kingdom. In hard times and with hard choices, I must seek His glory over and above my comforts or desires. In essence, my life must be about Jesus. However, unlike an earthly employer, Jesus gives us the grace and the Holy Spirit to instruct, strengthen and guide us to serve Him. And our reward will far exceed any sacrifices we would have made in His service.