"Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear." - Ephesians 4:29
If you were to watch a TV show or movie about employees in the workplace, chances are there is one common theme you’ll see across all of them: coworkers hate each other. Of course, there are some exceptions, like Sully and Mike Wazowski, Jim and Pam, and some other outliers in the mix. However, for the most part, it is commonly accepted that coworkers depicted onscreen don’t really like each other and that any interaction with one another is a major inconvenience. While this is often done for comedic purposes, most humorous things are born out of a seed of truth.
We often speak about how our work life feels separated from our spiritual life. It could also be said that our work lives often feel separate from our personal lives. We can look at our coworkers as people we’re forced to spend time with, as opposed to people we choose to spend time with out of a desire to get closer. To be fair, it’s unreasonable to think that we’ll be best friends with every person we work with. However, it’s not unreasonable to say that whether we’re the best of friends or mere acquaintances, our work associates deserve to be cared for and appreciated no matter what.
Consider the woman at the well from John chapter 4. Jesus approaches a Samaritan woman and asks for a drink of water from the well. This was extremely strange. Not because it was uncommon to draw water for a weary traveler but because the Jews and Samaritans hated each other. The fact that Jesus was speaking not only to a woman but a Samaritan woman was about as counter-cultural as a person could get. After an ensuing conversation about living water that only Jesus can offer, he makes a strange request:
“Go, call your husband, and come here.”
While this seems random, we quickly learn that Jesus knows this woman’s story completely, a woman 5-times married who is currently living with a man who is not her husband. She is moved by his knowledge of her story and ultimately proclaims his name to the town, saying:
“Come, see a man who told me all that I ever did. Can this be the Christ?”
The disciples were shocked when they saw Jesus speaking to this Samaritan woman. They saw her only as an enemy due to their upbringing and the cultural expectations in place. Yet, by day's end, many Samaritans in the woman’s town had believed in Jesus. All these incredible events began with Jesus valuing a woman’s story, even if it meant going out of his way and going against the cultural norm. Imagine if it had been the disciples who found her first. They probably would have run her off back to town!
When you step into work and are surrounded by coworkers, be like Jesus, not the disciples. While you don’t have the luxury of divinely knowing someone’s story since birth, you do have a captive audience and time to learn it. Jesus didn’t have to stop for this woman, but he did because it was of the greatest importance for her eternal soul. Consider if you have an associate who may need someone to simply sit and listen to their story. You may need that connection more than you think.
While getting to know an associate's story is important, it’s only a first step in showing care for those in your workplace. Jesus didn’t simply know the woman’s story and move on; he acted on that knowledge by speaking to her in a way that she would respond. Now, this is not a call to be a counselor for each of your coworkers; it’s a means to act in faith by sharing the love of Christ with everyone you encounter. This can be done in a number of tangible ways:
The list of ways you can care well for your associates is endless. It doesn’t have to be anything dramatic. It simply needs to be done in faith. Faith that God will impact that person’s life for the better in ways you could never imagine.
“Don’t withhold good from someone who deserves it when it is in your power to do so.”
“Instead of each person watching out for their own good, watch out for what is better for others.”