Christians in the workplace: What to do (and not to do) in your first job at work
A conversation with Leslie Kho, property consultant and pastor
“Christians don’t lead a double life. What we do ‘in church’, how we behave and how we live should be our ethos in the office. We cannot separate these two spheres.” That is the impassioned plea of Rev. Leslie Kho, an ordained minister in the Anglican Diocese of West Malaysia.
This sounds true and pious, and all good Christians will nod their heads in agreement. Yet as we look in the mirror or around us, we who profess faith in Jesus and participate in ‘religious’ activities on Sundays often live as though we believe that ‘what happens in the church, stays in the church.’
Rev. Leslie is aware that being godly at work is no walk in the park. Nevertheless, because a typical office worker spends a large proportion of his or her waking hours with colleagues, it’s there that we live the Christian life towards the world.
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Rev. Leslie Kho, who hails from Kuching, grew up in a non-Christian home. Although he was invited to an inter-school Christian fellowship many times, he noticed that some Christians did not behave in a way consistent with what the Scriptures taught. Instead, it was his experience while at university in Australia, where he saw the practical outworking of Christlike love and concern, that drew him to dedicate his life to Jesus.
Three Bible verses to hold onto
As a Christian young adult stepping into the workplace, three Bible verses anchored him to Christ. The first was Colossians 3:17 (CSB) “And whatever you do, in word or in deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” That gave Leslie a clear guideline that he must approach work with the goal of glorifying the name of the Lord.
The second was 1 Corinthians 10:13 (CSB), “No temptation has come upon you except what is common to humanity. But God is faithful; he will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation he will also provide the way out so that you may be able to bear it.”
This was an encouragement to be brave when facing trouble. Rev Leslie reflected that “temptation comes in many forms, at any time, and it’s how we react that is important. God will provide a way out – sometimes beyond our imagination. His faithfulness is sure and we must trust Him. At the same time, we must be faithful.”
The third Bible verse was both a rebuke and a message of hope. It was Jeremiah 29:11 (NIV), “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”
As a young person coming to work, one might misinterpret ‘prosper’ in a purely material way. But prosperity from the Lord comes in various shapes and sizes, including friends, health, and peace from knowing our secure identity in Christ. As Rev. Leslie faced difficulty in and between employment, this was a promise from God to which he clung dearly to.
Reflecting God’s glory at work
As Rev. Leslie wrestled with the question of how a believer might give glory to God, two things stood out for him as he searched the Scriptures. Firstly, he learnt that we must trust that God will provide the best for His people.
Now that’s easy to say when things are going well, but what if anxieties about our work causes us to lose sleep at night? What if we wake up each morning dreading what the day might bring – be it interaction with difficult colleagues, managers, or clients? How do we trust God in those kinds of scenarios?
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Even as Rev. Leslie acknowledges that there is no secret formula to solve all these problems, he invites us to choose to respond differently to the challenges we face at work. “Trusting God looks like standing out in terms of our behaviour and conduct at work. It looks like choosing to say no to evil practices, even, or especially when it comes at great personal cost,” he says.
Rev. Leslie shares that if our main aim is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever, then when we face trials, we can pray and turn to Him for strength. We are to get involved in our local churches to find support too.
How much should I invest in my work?
As a property consultant and pastor, this question is one that Rev. Leslie frequently tackles. “Priority is important,” he says. “Many believers feel that they must focus on work first, then after they have established themselves in the world, to direct time and energy to serving God in the church. But that is a wrong approach.” For him, young Christians must be taught from an early age to strike a balance between their commitments, which include family, church and work.
“If we don’t get this balance right, there are dire consequences, not just in terms of our spiritual, mental or emotional health, but that of those around us,” he says. “We must learn to trust God and commit everything to Him. The narrative that the world tells us is that ‘the pursuit of happiness’ is found in one’s career. But too often, we have been defined by the world’s standards, rather than by God’s.”
The father of three, therefore, advises Christians about to enter the working world to consider how choosing a particular job will affect one’s spiritual life. He says to ask ourselves seriously, “Will this role take our 100% and leave nothing for God or for our family?’ Additionally, he also urges younger working adults to “make use of older people at church” and consult them when facing problems.
>>READ: Does our choice of career matter to God?
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Rev Leslie also suggests for churches to run work counselling sessions. “Most churches prepare people for marriage, but seeing how work has adversely affected younger Christians, we must take this matter seriously.”
How about ambition and climbing the corporate ladder?
Regarding this, Rev. Leslie says that believers should be careful. “If a promotion will take us away from our devotion and worship of God, then it is dangerous. We must find our place in God’s plan and story for this world. Don’t become so obsessed with work that we lose sight of God’s mission for us.” What is the mission he envisages? In Matthew 28:18-20, the risen Jesus sends the twelve apostles “to make disciples of all nations.” That is the mission that Christians today are also entrusted.
“One of the great opportunities we have in the workplace is to show the world what it’s like to have been touched and transformed by the gospel of Jesus Christ,” says Rev Leslie. “Our speech and action should cry out that because we have a wonderful Maker who loves us, to the point of sending His beloved Son to die for our sins, we are part of a better story.”
Our story is not about working hard so that we can spend money on pleasure and luxury – no, it’s a story of discovering what it truly means to be human, that our worth and value is not in our job titles or bank account balances, but in the comforting truth that we – individuals and the church – belong body and soul, in life and in death, to our faithful Saviour Jesus Christ.
Rev. Leslie Kho is currently the priest-in-charge of St. Peter’s Church, Kulai. Originally from Sarawak, he received a Master in Missiology from the Malaysia Baptist Theological Seminary (MBTS) and was ordained Non-Stipendiary Minister of the Diocese of West Malaysia (Anglican). Rev Leslie is married to Helen and they have three adult children. He enjoys travelling and reading.
About the Author
Benedict Tan is a regular at St. Mary’s Cathedral, Kuala Lumpur. He enjoys reading and believes that the greatest story ever told is about God’s rescue of his people. He hopes to find his place in that story and to lead others in a wholehearted commitment to the one-and-only God. He blogs at notextbookanswers.wordpress.com.
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