God’s mission in the world includes the efforts of his people in every line of work. Even beyond Christians, God is concerned about the outcome of all work endeavors, for good or ill, because of their effect on the world he created and especially on the well-being of people, made in his image. That means God wants to provide wisdom, guidance, and encouragement for people as they plan their projects at work.
A genuine love for God always goes with a love for other people, ready to act in order to meet their needs. A genuine love for one another is also a deep, heartfelt love. These two features of love, readiness to act and heartfelt affection, each resonates with work or play. One of the main ways that we act to meet other people’s needs is through our work, while one of the main ways we express affection and connection is through play.
The landscape of Scripture is populated with saints who faced unmerited deprivations that affected their whole lives, including their work. Joseph was enslaved and then imprisoned on a false accusation. David was on the run for years despite being the rightfully anointed king. Esther survived being held captive in a pagan harem, and found a way to advocate for her people in such circumstances. I may feel the allure of achievement telling us, “If you work hard and do the right thing, you’ll get ahead.” In contrast, Jesus tells me, “In this world you will have trouble” (John 16:33 NIV).
Bad news about work situations is par for the course. I shouldn’t be offended by it, as though I deserve better or are somehow above the vicissitudes of life that common mortals face.
A micromanaging boss can get under your skin. There’s something about having someone breathing down your neck—it’s not just annoying; it can feel infuriating. It makes you want to shout, “Just let me do my job!”
At the other end of the spectrum, there’s the boss whose expectations are a mysterious void. You want to do a good job, but you’re hard-pressed to say what your job is. Sometimes you just make something up and do that for a while, because getting a straight answer or clear instructions is impossible.
The sweet spot for empowering leadership is between those two extremes: The boss who provides clear expectations and helpful guidance, but leaves the details of execution up to you, because you’re smart enough and competent enough to figure it out.