Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters. 

Colossians [3:23] 

The Epistle of Paul to the Colossians, or simply Colossians, is the twelfth book of the New testament. Likely written sometime between 55AD and 60AD, while the Apostle Paul sat in a Roman prison. Colossians is one of four letters Paul wrote while held as a prisoner. The other three are; Ephesians, Philemon, and Philippians. They are called as a group the Prison Epistles. Even in prison, Paul continued to write to many of the churches he started during his three missionary journeys.  

The letter to the Colossians was written to get these churches back on track in serving only Christ. But, unfortunately, it seems they had started taking shortcuts in their practices and introduced pagan rituals in worship services. One verse that hit home for me was in chapter 3, verse 23, which says, Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters. While a reminder not to take shortcuts in our relationship with Jesus or religious practices, it is also a reminder of how we conduct ourselves when we work. 

Paul is reminding us to work heartily and with quality in all that we do. And there is no better reminder than to always work with all your heart as if we are working for the Lord.  Wow, imagine the change in our efforts if we know whatever we do, we do for Jesus. This thought would undoubtedly make each effort we put into work more meaningful. So while this message was essential to the Colossians two thousand years ago, it is just as relevant today.  

As I was sitting one morning thinking about this message from Paul, it made me think about my brother-in-law Ken and my wife Connie, putting up a picture gallery of our relatives in our new home. There was a blank wall in one of the hallways that seemed to them to be a great place to put up pictures of our grandparents, our parents when they were younger, and even great-grandparents—a wonderful reminder of our roots.  

After visiting Lowes to get all the required material, Connie and Ken looked at the wall and discussed how to make the placements mean something and in what order. Then they began the laborious effort of measuring and rethinking each placement. Next, they carefully prepared each picture to be hung. A process that required exact precision to ensure each image hung evenly. I noticed how much time was spent preparing and thinking before they hung the pictures while wondering if I would have the same patience.  

Soon, they began hanging each picture while continuing to debate, measure, and assess each placement. This was no haphazard effort. So much thought went into each step; no shortcuts! I enjoyed listening to the banter and discussion, and it allowed me to feel the quality of their efforts.  

Then they proudly announced it was done. Both looking at their work, satisfied each picture hung properly. When I walked around the corner to see the gallery, I was stunned! Not just at the quality of the work, but seeing how the quality of preparation showed itself in the results. This is what the Apostle Paul was talking about with work as if working for the Lord. 

While this is a simple story, it is a reminder to be patient in our work. Not just do something to get it done, but to do it well. Sure it might seem it takes longer, but in actuality, it is a shorter and more sustainable effort.  

Sometimes, we might hurry to get something done only to be met with having to redo our work or end up with shoddy work. It is human nature to want to complete our to-do lists quickly. But Paul is telling us not to be expedient, instead to work as if working for the Lord.  

I can only imagine if a workplace had this mindset, what wonderful products would be produced. The decisions that would be made would always represent high Christian ethics, and customers would always be happy—by simply taking the time to work as if Jesus is standing next to us. 

He will show you a large room upstairs, all furnished. Make preparations there. 

Luke [22:12] 

When Ryan first came into my office eight years ago, I noticed something different about him. He was unusually polite and used words like; yes sir and thank you. He listened intently and would wait to insert his opinion politely. Quickly the conversation became a mutual exchange of ideas and methods.  

I had spotted him during my tours through his department and wondered about his skills. The visit to my office was for me to find out more about him, by giving him a project. We reviewed the project requirements and together established a timeline with expected outcomes.  

Before the project deadline, Ryan came into my office with his completed project, which also included extra materials. There were no mistakes in his work. He delivered his work earlier than expected with additional value.  

Naturally, I gave him more work with increasing responsibility and freedom. Again, he consistently exceeded expectations.  

As time went on, I got to know Ryan better. At twenty-five, he had earned his pilot’s license. In fact, he was a flight instructor at a small local airport. He had graduated from college with honors. A quiet person who read the room well and spoke when it was his time. Never insistent he was heard, but always clear with his facts.  

As time wore on, I tried to have lunch with Ryan periodically. Primarily to offer him my help and learn more about him. I heard the dreams about his life and his pending marriage to his girlfriend. I learned his parents and grandparents were influential in his life. He spoke about his family with pride. Ryan is a person who was grateful for what he has and not one to pick at slights in his life. He is a hopeful person.  

During these conversations, I started to sense he had another mission in life other than being a business person. Aviation was his passion. When he talked about aviation, this subdued person became animated.  

He had been dutiful in following his parents’ lead to pursue a career in business. And he was good at business. But the business world wasn’t his passion.  

At one point, I asked him what did he really want to do in his life? Stumbling with his words, he told me he always to be a pilot for a national airline. He wanted to fly people around the country. He loved flying and all the electronics associated with aviation. Flying was his real passion. 

We discussed this, and I told him, follow your passion. Knowing that passion produces excellence and joy in life. He was surprised I told him this, assuming I would try to talk him out of becoming a pilot. It was his dream, not mine.  

Ryan did leave the company to become a pilot. At first, he was a trainee and flew prop planes. Later rising up to being a regional co-pilot flying Jets. He moved from the area he grew up in to be closer to his work.  

I remember the day he called with pride to tell me he was now a pilot for a small regional airline and no longer the co-pilot. As time wore on, I wondered how he was doing. His name would come up here and there. But like all of us, our life’s paths cross here and there. Ryan was very supportive of my books and has bought everyone. He always gave me feedback on what he thought about my books. 

I don’t hear from Ryan every day or even every month. Maybe once or twice a year. When we talked, it became a time to connect the events from the last time we spoke. Sometimes he needed a reference, which I always eagerly provided.  

Then the day came; he was about to be given the pilot job he always wanted. He was being considered to be a pilot for a national airline. He texted me to see if I could be his reference. And of course, I said yes. My reference was only needed for the airline to verify everything they already knew about Ryan,   

Over the last eight years, Ryan had shared his life with me. I knew what he wanted in his life. I knew when Ryan was disappointed and when he was excited. But on this day, his dream was coming true, and he needed one more phone call from me.  

Ryan hadn’t called just once over the years, but frequently enough for me to know about and watch his life. So when the final request came in, I eagerly helped.  

Unwittingly, Ryan exhibited the real process of networking. Ryan didn’t set out with a plan to call me in exactly eight years and ask for a reference. Instead, he mutually involved me in his life—a relationship where there is both receiving and giving. 

When I speak to students on college campuses and talk about networking, I always tell them networking is a lifelong activity with a genuine effort to be mutual. Nurturing these relationships is vital to them having a solid network.  

In my career counseling work, where I help people find a new job, those with strong networks have an easier time. The statistics bear this out. At the professional level, sixty to eighty percent of all jobs are found through a person’s network.  

People love to help out people that have been positive and trustworthy associates. A person’s network contains people who are like bumblebees that spread the pollen of a person’s ability throughout the business and professional world.  

Even Jesus used his network to obtain what he needed during his three-year ministry on earth. On His last trip to Jerusalem, he needed a room to have one last supper with his disciples. Jesus sent the two Apostles Peter and John, ahead to secure a place for this supper. Jesus sent the two men to a man he knew from the past and told Peter and John. He will show you a large room upstairs, all furnished. Make preparations there. (Luke [22:12]) 

On the surface, this may seem a little odd for Jesus to assume someone would give Him a room. The owner was someone Jesus had met and helped in the past. Who was now more than willing to return the favor.  

So while this could be viewed as a supernatural event, it still contains the value of networking. Jesus spent considerable time during His ministry on earth building social networks. All done through mutual relationships, which included the two most important factors of networking, giving and receiving.  

Networks are built over a lifetime and always need to be nurtured. I know I am not the only one Ryan stayed in touch. He has other friends as well, some of who I know. Ryan will undoubtedly continue to be a great pilot, and he will need help from time to time. He will also, from time to time, help others. We, who know Ryan, know this.

And now these three remain: Faith, Hope, and Love. But the greatest of these is Love. 

1st Corinthians [13:13] 

Within Catholic theology, there are three theological virtues; Faith, Hope, and Love. These virtues are considered divine and are gifts freely bestowed upon all of us through the grace of God. I recently discussed these three virtues with a Catholic friend and their impact on our perspective on life. He informed me that for Catholics, these three are holy virtues. Thus, sending me to research how and why these three virtues are considered sacred.

As a Methodist most of my adult life, this might seem odd to my fellow Methodists to study Catholicism. However, It really isn’t; as Methodists, one of our fundamental tenets is to explore God all we can. So with that thought in mind, I wanted to learn more.  

It seems that Thomas Aquinas developed this thought, using 1 Corinthians [13:13], where it says, And now these three remain: Faith, Hope, and Love. But the greatest of these is Love. Aquinas explains that these three theological virtues are infused in us by God. Further, we come to know these virtues through our interactions with God. In effect, our choice to activate these virtues puts us in concert with God. 

It seems to me that a life without Faith, Hope, and Love would be a dark and dreary existence. A life of depression without any sunrise on the horizon and the absence of Jesus. Yet, I know people who lead this life. They are not entirely devoid of these three qualities; instead, they tend to see darkness and not light. For some, this perspective is a habit. For others, it was caused by an underlying set of events that causes sustained grief. And even sometimes caused by their environment.  

While not all causes of leading a dreary life can be remedied without outside help, most can. Simply choosing to redirect our thinking to Jesus and these God-given virtues will fix and help our perspective on life.  

For instance, Faith is belief in the unseen. We completely surrender ourselves to following Jesus, even when it’s not explicitly apparent our faith will help. A mindset of not being overly pragmatic about outcomes and changing our perspective from knowing tangibly and precisely what the future holds to being reassured that somehow Jesus is involved.  

Hope is simply knowing good will occur because Jesus exists in our lives. The opposite of Hope is despair. A state where nothing seems to go right. Like Faith, Hope is also a matter of perspective. We can choose to follow the course of hopelessness or believe the valley we are in will eventually end. Many times difficult trials are periods of divine preparation. A time of our growing and becoming prepared for our next challenge. The more we meet these challenges, the greater our growth. In turn, we don’t see the valleys of life despondently but as opportunities to rise up through a hopeful perspective.  

The Apostle Paul declares the greatest of the three virtues is Love. Love is a choice we make, and all have the capacity to love through the grace of God. When we do things without Love, we miss opportunities to lift up other people. Our acts, while honorable, have less value. Love is an act of giving without the desire for a reward: a conscious act to desire a benefit for the other person. Any action done with love is aligned with Jesus.  

Perspective is a matter of our free will. We all can choose to embrace, Faith, Hope, and Love. When we do, we open our hearts to Jesus and activate these three gifts from God. Instead of thorns, we will see roses. Life will become lighter. For some, this is a mighty challenge because of life circumstances. But for most of us, it is simply a matter of redirecting our thoughts to see good and trust Jesus. 

Love your neighbor as yourself 

Matthew [22:39] 

In an age where pronouns are hotly debated and discussed, the pronoun WE seldom comes up. Yet in our lives and especially our business lives, WE is most important. Almost everything we do in business and life is related to combining our efforts with someone else, whether a customer, friend, co-worker, subordinate, or supervisor.  

Every effort in these exchanges requires a sense of goodwill towards those with whom we work. Goodwill towards the other person we associate with is a vital part of being successful. However, goodwill is also a surrendering of our individual needs to a team effort of accomplishment—surrendering what we want to a combined effort of collaboration of team goals.  

While we may accomplish something by ourselves or dictate the actions to someone else, our efforts will always be less without the genuine commitment from and to those with whom we work.  

I have a friend with whom I work, named Bill, who consistently demonstrates this attitude. When we work together, he is very concerned about doing his part. For example, recently, we collaborated on editing and preparing my next book. Bill was apprehensive about making sure he knew my deadlines and what his requirements were.  

As I laid out our goals, Bill added action steps that would make a better product. Not pushy or insistent, constantly probing to look for a better way. When Bill was sure he had the project understood and the timelines right, he agreed to proceed. I knew he would hit his timeline from working with Bill in the past, and the results would be far better than I expected.  

Bill called a few days before the deadline and asked if we were still on track to meet to discuss his work. The day before our meeting, Bill sent me his work to review. When I reviewed the material Bill sent, I was elated. Not only had he achieved what was expected, but many other things were also added that made the project so much better than if I had done the work myself. I remember sitting at my desk, amazed at what Bill had done.  

Later, when we met, Bill laid out how he accomplished his task. Telling me, he had found a person who was better than him at consolidating words, which made the book more concise and readable. He relayed how he had spent a few nights checking references and citations to make sure they were accurate. A process typically done when the project was completed. In our conversation, I could actually feel his total commitment to living up to his personal standards.  

Bill had complied with all the standards required by the pronoun WE. Working with Bill is always refreshing because he adds value and makes projects far better than what I usually envisioned. Bill’s commitment to WE inspires me to do the same with him. His commitment to WE sets a standard for whom and how I work with other people. 

Bill is a very committed Christian, and long ago, he surrendered to Jesus. Knowing all that he accomplished was through the grace of Christ. In turn, this surrendering moved himself from to WE. And there are few Bible verses more important to Bill than love your neighbor as thyself. In all of Bill’s work and our relationship, he exhibits this trait.  

Bill lives this commandment not only as his duty but through his heart. We all know these people in our lives. When something needs to get done, they are always early in showing up. They add value in surprising ways. They surrender their needs for the overall good, and their reward is only with a job well done.  

It seems to me, we need more Bill’s in our business and personal lives. In a time of discussion about pronouns and which are best, I think we would all be better at what we do if We were our first thought. Try it out with your next engagement and watch the results become better than what we thought.  

Work as if working for the Lord Christ.

Colossians [3:23]-24

Recently I received an email promotion that said I had won a free airline ticket. Immediately I opened the email to see how I had won a free airline ticket. Suspicious, I scoured the fine print and discovered I really hadn’t won a ticket. It was just a request to read more about the company and had a minimal chance of winning the ticket. In return, I would have to fill out a lengthy form, which asked for things like a phone number, my address, and email address. Quickly, I deleted the email and thought to myself, why be so deceptive?

It probably seemed like a good idea to the company, hoping to land new customers. In reality, it likely turned off a lot of potential buyers. Why not just send an email that explained the benefits of doing business with the company. Or better yet, provide excellent customer service to the loyal customers and let word of mouth generate more sales.

Too often, we receive these suspicious emails, which do nothing more than clutter up our email. It makes me wonder, How would Jesus want businesses to create raving fans? I am pretty sure Jesus would want these businesses to take a different approach. He would like them to treat their customers as they wanted to be treated. Jesus would ask them to hire people committed to providing great customer service. These businesses should also produce a product as if they are working for the Lord. And finally, always be truthful. Four simple but essential business practices to attract lifelong customers and, in the process, create raving fans.

The Golden Rule

In Matthew [7:12], Jesus says, whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets. This is wise advice. Before we put any marketing effort to work, we should ask ourselves, Is this the way we want to be treated? If our answer is no, then we shouldn’t. Deceptive methods in marketing will never produce raving fans of our business. Instead, our reputation will be sullied.

Loyal customers who are raving fans will create a firm foundation for any business. Not only that, they will provide repeat business and attract other customers. We should never forget that most purchases from new customers come from the reviews of the existing customers. Yes, Jesus is giving us wise customer service advice with the Golden Rule.

Hire Great People and Pay Them Well

In the Parable of the Talents, Jesus tells the story of a manager who had to leave for a while. The manager gave his three employees tasks to perform while he was gone. Two of the employees did their job and doubled their efforts. When the manager came back and saw the bounty created, he gave them a raise and more responsibility.

I am sure all current business managers would want these two people working in their company. These workers are the type of people who will also treat customers in the same manner by going the extra mile to make sure the customer is satisfied. Over time having workers like this changes culture and helps sales.

Continually seeking great employees and treating them well will always produce excellent results. And managers should be quick to reward, and these rewards will reinforce what is required.

Produce Products As If They Are For the Lord

Having the right attitude and the right employees is very important. Equally important is to produce quality products. Jesus has a simple mindset to accomplish this facet of business, work as if working for the Lord Christ. (Colossians [3:23]-24) What a great perspective! Simply work and produce products you would proud to give to Jesus.

All flaws in production would be attended to immediately. Saving money at the customer’s expense by not addressing product quality is a flawed strategy. Companies that employ this attitude will have people meet to collaborate to make sure everything has been properly thought through.

The company would quickly become a place that desires to create raving fans. A commitment to excellent customer service will replace a penny-wise, dollar foolish mindset. In turn, the company will become far more sustainable than one which cuts corners.

Never Deceive Customers or Employees

In business, there is always the temptation to stretch further than you should in generating sales or a better outcome. Perhaps the pressure of making sure you hit a certain sales number to make the month-end goals. We have all witnessed this in our business careers. And perhaps in the short term, these efforts produce the immediate desired results.

However, lurking in the future is a payback moment that will often be greater than short-term gains. Customers will sometimes complain about the deception. But most will avoid the confrontation and silently begin moving away. It will show up in reviews posted on the internet. Soon, the once-strong sales base will become weak.

Maintaining a strong sense of Christian ethics will help avoid this dilemma. It may sound corny, but if all our actions are connected to the often-used phrase; What would Jesus do, short-term decisions will be replaced with longer-term choices.

Customers are the life-blood of every business. Serving these customers well will ensure a great future for any company. Every company’s goals should start with making their customers raving fans. It doesn’t happen with deceitful marketing efforts. It happens with a company’s commitment to excellence, great employees, truthfulness, and empathy for the customer. We only need to turn to the lessons of Jesus to create an environment that, in turn, makes raving fans.

“. . . just as the son of man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many.”

— Matthew [20:28]

SERIOUS AND FOCUSED ON BEING A SERVANT

I remember him from early in my career. Don was the CEO’s chief assistant. I also remember that he never used the power of his title to accomplish his tasks. When he came to a meeting to discuss an item, he was focused and serious. Don’s goal was resolution: How could he help? Over time he was sought out by all of us for help. He was calm, insightful, and asked good questions. He knew his role, to help the company. Seldom was the solution about him; his only concern was solving the problem.

Don helped us get many things done. His contacts and relationships could broker many solutions. His reputation transcended the title he owned. His day was spent going from meeting to meeting. Sometimes one-on-one meetings, sometimes large meetings. Don waited to hear everyone’s point of view. His solutions came in the form of questions. He would say things like “What would you think if we did this?’” or “How about trying that?” Don could go anyplace in the company and be well received.

“Jesus knew his role, to help humankind and ultimately to pay the highest price for humankind.”

Notice in today’s verse that Jesus refers to himself as the son of man, not the boss of man. This perspective of servitude opened many doors for Jesus. Jesus knew his role, to help humankind and ultimately to pay the highest price for humankind. All of his activities were serious and focused on this goal. Throughout his short period of service, three years, he touched many. He performed miracles. He healed the sick and comforted the poor. Overtime, his reputation grew and became sought out by others. Jesus developed a great reputation.

His reputation was so good, Jesus could borrow a donkey for entry into Jerusalem. For his final staff meeting called the Last Supper, he was able to secure a room at no charge. In fact, his burial tomb was given to him by a rich merchant. His actions of service got many things done and, as with Don, allowed him to go into many places.

“When we serve, where are our hearts?”

When we serve, where are our hearts? Are they set to help or express our desires? Do we have a clear view of our true role and do we stay focused on that role? When we do, doors open up. Not all will agree with us, but all will welcome us. In the marketplace, producing honorable results should be our primary goal. Each of us has a role to play in this, and when we stay within that role we succeed. The hardest part is remembering we are a servant in our roles.

Blessings, until next time,
Bruce L. Hartman

 


PARTING THOUGHTS

When we work, does it have to be our way?

How do each of us serve in our work?

How do we search for the common good?