Walking in Newness of Life in the Workplace (Romans 6)

Bible Commentary / Produced by TOW Project

What does it mean to be a “slave” of God’s grace in our places of work? It means that we do not make decisions at work based on how things affect us, but about how they affect our master, God. We make decisions as God’s stewards or agents. This is actually a familiar concept in both Christian faith and the secular workplace. In the Christian faith, Christ himself is the model steward, who gave up his own life in order to fulfill God’s purposes. Similarly, many people in the workplace have a duty to serve the interests of others, rather than their own. Among them are attorneys, corporate officers, agents, trustees and boards of direc­tors, judges, and many others. Not many workplace stewards or agents are as committed as Jesus was—willing to give their lives to fulfill their duties—but the concept of agency is an everyday reality in the workplace.

The difference for Christians is that our duty ultimately is to God, not the state or shareholders or anyone else. Our overarching mission must be God’s justice and reconciliation, not merely obeying the law, making a profit, or satisfying human expectations. Unlike Albert Carr’s claim that business is just a game in which normal rules of ethics don’t apply,[1] walking in newness of life means integrating justice and reconciliation into our lives at work.

For instance, walking in newness of life for a high school teacher might mean repeatedly forgiving a rebellious and troublesome student, while also seeking new ways to reach that student in the classroom. For a politician, walking in newness of life might mean drafting new legislation that includes input from a number of different ideological perspectives. For a manager, it might mean asking the forgiveness of an employee in front of everyone who is aware of the manager’s transgression against the employee.

Walking in newness of life requires us to look deeply into our pat­terns of work. Bakers or chefs might easily see how their work helps feed hungry people, which in itself is a form of justice. The same bakers and chefs might also need to look more deeply at their personal interactions in the kitchen. Do they treat people with dignity, help others succeed, bring glory to God? Walking in newness of life affects both the ends we try to accomplish and the means we use to do so.

Albert Z. Carr, “Is Business Bluffing Ethical?” Harvard Business Review 46 (January/February 1968).