Repairing the MarketplaceBlog / Produced by The High Calling
The book of Nehemiah opens with a "state of the union"-like assessment of Israel following Babylonian captivity. The bedraggled remnant is in a state of "great affliction and reproach" and "the walls are broken down" (see Neh. 1:1-3). Nehemiah was not a complainer but a problem solver. He took these issues to God in prayer and after receiving direction set about the long and arduous task of rebuilding the broken walls.
Nehemiah might assess the condition of believers in the modern workplace with similar descriptions. Certainly we can all think of many examples of "great affliction" at work, as well as "great reproach." It is also easy to think of places where the "walls are broken down." The walls of civility and morality—walls that once guarded our behaviors and protected our souls—are now in disrepair wherever we look.
Tools for Repair
God has sent each of us to our unique professional subculture to carry his Good News, to fulfill our marketplace assignments with professional excellence and to demonstrate an uncompromising devotion to him. Today that devotion requires we go beyond our formal job descriptions, being open to minister to those around us as God leads.
The picture painted in Nehemiah 3 is an exciting one. Thousands of laborer-warriors are grouped by family and clan, working together to rebuild the walls. We too can work to rebuild civility, morality, and integrity in the marketplace by being salt and light. No one person has the capacity to repair all that ails institutions and individuals, but each of us can take our place on the wall and perform the work that God has called us to do.
Once, my work on the wall involved Jacob who had lost his job because of sin. Although Jacob had followed biblical principles regarding spiritual restoration, his family was on the verge of losing everything they owned because no one would hire him. After an extended period of prayer, I believe God instructed me to hire Jacob. Jacob humbled himself and accepted my job offer at a much lower pay rate than his previous position. Yet his heart was encouraged, his character strengthened, and he was able to modestly contribute to the needs of his family. After two years of faithful work, Jacob accepted a job with a major salary increase at another company. The God of "second chances" used me to help repair a broken man who desperately needed a new start—and the footing to take his place on the wall!
Here are six steps for working on the wall as described in the acrostic R-E-P-A-I-R.
R – Repent: The first step is to repent for neglecting our responsibilities—for missing opportunities to demonstrate God's love, grace, and mercy (see 1 John 1:9). We must also reject the mindset of a captive and become the watchmen God has called us to be (see Isa. 62:6; Luke 21:36).
E – Entreat: The second step is to entreat God in prayer for our superiors and coworkers, earnestly seeking guidance for responding to them (see Luke 11:9-13,1 Thess. 5:17). As we take our places on the wall, we may see large industry changes on the horizon or something as small as the fact that the usually cheery receptionist seems depressed.
P – Persevere: The third step is to persevere while on the wall (see James 1:1-4). At times, the view may be overwhelming and distracting. Trials will inevitably come too, but the assurance that the Word of God provides is our reward for faithfulness (see Heb. 10:36, James 1:12).
A – Attitude: The fourth step is to make certain our work on the wall is performed with a Christlike attitude (see Phil. 2:5). When we do this, our superiors and coworkers will be drawn to the light of God's love and truth.
I – Integrity: The fifth step is to be a living witness of integrity and righteousness where we work. We stand as God's representatives entrusted with a message of hope and salvation (see Matt. 5:16; 2 Cor. 5:20).
R – Rejoice: The final step is a commitment to cultivate the inner joy that comes from God himself (see Neh. 8:10). When we protect this joy, we will find that others are quickly drawn to the Jesus in us.
There is a righteous call for you and me to be a Nehemiah in our marketplaces. None of us is responsible for repairing the walls alone, but we can all be found faithful where Christ has assigned us.
Dr. Vera R. Jackson is president and CEO of a nonprofit in the Washington, D.C., area and author of Taking Jesus to Work (Chosen/Baker Publishing Group, www.chosenbooks.com). She may be reached by email at [email protected].