The Jews of Paul’s day taught that there were two sides to a worthwhile life – one was the study of the Torah and the other physical work. Excellence of knowledge without excellence of labour was incompatible with greatness.
Not only should you work for your living but your attitudes in the workplace should flow naturally from your belief system. The values you hold would be evident in your work ethics and lifestyle.
So it was natural for Paul to have a job. The records tell us that he was a tent-maker. Yes, he studied harder than any of his colleagues and peers but that was not at the expense of his labour. Both came naturally to him as he moved from place to place.
It is a good model for us too. The most natural place for us to live out our beliefs and Christian lifestyle is at work as well as in the home.
I love the picture I had from the time I worked in banking. One of the roles of a banker was to make sure that every cheque that was presented for payment was technically in order. We had to check the date, the signature and the available funds before payment.
However, there was an even more important issue, and that was – Did the amount in words match the amount shown in figures? You see, all the rest of the cheque could be fine, but if the cheque had been tampered with, it would show up in these two areas.
It is easy to add a nought (or two) behind the figures or a one in front and the value of the cheque would be changed dramatically. It is much more difficult to change words, and if they were changed they had to be correctly initialed for verification. So if the words didn’t match the figures, we would return the cheque for clarification.
The phrase we would use was – “Words and figures differ”. The cheque was then technically dishonoured.
It mirrors our lives. We can know all sorts of information and say we hold wonderful values, but if they are not worked out in the marketplace of life, they are no more than a sham, and our lives hypocritical. When someone does something they regret and they say, “Oh dear, that’s not the real me…,” I’m sorry, that is the real ‘me’, for it is when we are off guard that the real ‘me’ shines through. Often it is not the pretty sight we hope it would be.
Remember, we are challenged to live the lifestyle we say reflects our true values and priorities.
However, there is another perspective that Paul highlights and that is that we should also be prepared, released and happy to tell others our faith story. It is not just for pastors, vicars, priests or the full-time clergy. In one way it is even more important for us to do it, as they so often don’t actually meet many people outside of their church fellowship.
It is even more important, therefore, for those of us who are not in church every day of our lives, but rather in the office, hospital, school, workplace, retail store or factory (or even Parliament), to tell our faith story to those with whom we have an ongoing relationship.
We need to be able to tell others the difference Jesus has made in our lives. What it was that led us to the point of asking Jesus Christ to become our Saviour. Why we wanted to become a Christian and the change in our lives that has occurred since. How it would be beneficial for them, too.
Paul frequently told others how and why he became a disciple of Jesus Christ.