Faith at work within you is one thing; faith in you at work is something else again. There can be a gap between practicing one’s religious faith (being an “observant Jew,” a “practicing Catholic”) and living it.
What does it mean to practice your religion if you don’t live it every day? Having it, so to speak, but not living it, would seem to reduce faith to some kind of label for social identification, instead of making faith the content of a committed life.
The split between the faith that good people profess before God and the horizonless lives they live in their respective workplaces is surely a contributor to the joyless approach so many people in the workforce take to their jobs.
Anyone who succeeds in closing that gap can begin to better understand what the balanced believer had in mind who once remarked to me, “If you really feel called to what you do, you’ll never work a day in your life!”
If you are a believer, a person whose faith commitment is real, free and rooted in God, something of great spiritual significance is going on within you all the time.
Faith works wonders within you in all situations. It gifts you now with a share in God’s own life and love that you would not otherwise have. It promises you eternal security, salvation that you could never under any circumstances gain on your own.
“We hold this treasure,” writes St. Paul, speaking of grace, “in earthen vessels” (2 Cor 4:7). Earthen vessels can drop and break.
We are free to reject God’s gifts; we are thus always at risk of dropping the vessel and losing both faith and grace. Far too many believers live with a dualistic mindset that separates “otherworldly” considerations, like faith and grace, from this world’s workplace realities of give and take, of getting and spending in the human community.
There is an African proverb that says, “This world is a marketplace; the other world is home.” But even the marketplace can be a place of grace.
The whole purpose of a practical workplace spirituality is to help you close that dualistic gap and bridge the “this-world,” “other-world” attitudinal divide.
A healthy spirituality will not encourage you to “hate” or flee the world; it will not reward any attempt to “bury” your treasure for safekeeping. It will encourage your engagement with the world of work for the service of others and the glory of God, who created it all and wants your help in developing the gift of creation to the fullest.
Only a balanced person need apply for this kind of work.
Balance begins with an awareness that faith is at work within you and that you are, therefore, alive in the Spirit. This will set you apart as one who is in balance, on target and at peace — and so much the better the workday world will be!
Faith in you represents transformative potential for the workplace. There is no room for pulpits or pamphlets, sermons or proselytizing in your place of employment (unless you work for church, synagogue, shrine or mosque). Such activity would be altogether inappropriate, unfair and unwise.
The transformation that faith can bring to office, factory, store, laboratory, construction site, transportation systems or any other place where daily bread is earned (including church-related employment), is in the form of human “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.”
Take a look at Galatians 5:22-23 where St. Paul laid it all out for your consideration centuries ago.
Jesuit Father William J. Byron is professor of business and society at St. Joseph’s University, Philadelphia. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.