How to Have Power at Work

Chained to Work

By Joe Henriques, @MBCTysons Campus Pastor

All I wanted at the pet store were a couple of snails for my small aquarium. I got a bonus deal: Snails plus a mini-workshop on labor relations.

“So, how’s it going today?” I asked the young man who was putting my tiny purchases in water-filled bags.
“Not so good,” he responded.
“Some days are like that for all of us,” I offered, as a way of solidarity.
“Yeah, that’s true,” he replied, but then quickly added, “But, I love my job.”
I looked at him with amazement and exclaimed, “Not a whole lot of people can say that! What makes you love your job?”
“My boss,” he smiled. “She’s always positive, always encouraging me, helps me to do things the right way. She’s awesome.” 
“You’re really blessed,” I affirmed.
“Yes, I am!” he said in hearty agreement.

For this employee, loving his job trumped the hassle of his “not so good” days. He didn’t say he loved his job because of the salary or benefits, or the great customers, or tropical fish and snails that he sold. He loved his job because of the way that he was appreciated and treated by his boss.

“Big deal,” some might say. “Who wouldn’t love their job with a boss like that? What if he had a boss like mine who makes you feel abused, misused, disregarded, harassed and unappreciated?”

If that’s your story, you’re not alone. You’re in the same boat with thousands of others, and you feel powerless to change anything. You can’t even leave. You need the money. You’re stuck!

Well, I’ve got good news. You have power to change the one thing that matters the most in your job: You.

You have power to change the one thing that matters the most in your job: You.

Let’s do an eye exam. When you look in the mirror, what do you see? The eye of your mind probably sees how you think others see you. When you look at your work, what value do you see? You probably see the same value that others tell you they see.

If that’s how you see things, through the eyes of others, that’s a problem. A really big one. God wants you to see as He sees. Seeing and accepting as true what God sees is not a distortion of reality. No one can truly live with freedom in a man-made house of mirrors.

No one can truly live with freedom in a man-made house of mirrors.

Consider this: If Christian slaves in the Roman Empire could change the vision they had of themselves and the work that they did, so can you. Let’s step into their world a few hundred years ago….

In their homelands, before they were conquered by Rome and were torn away by soldiers to be sold as slaves in foreign lands, most were known as successful, prosperous people in their trades and lives. Almost overnight, they slipped from that life to a nightmare, working for owners who cared nothing for them, and as slaves doing work they cared nothing about.

Did the slaves of Rome have reason to be angry, resentful and bitter? I think so. Over time, dehumanization conditioned slaves to see themselves in dark mirrors: Worthless nobodies with meaningless lives until the day they died. They endured dead end jobs and the daily humiliation of doing the dumb, dirty or dangerous work. And, if you couldn’t do your work, you were dumped, discarded as trash. Hordes of other slaves were ready to take your place.

Just as God sent Moses with a message of deliverance to his Hebrew children who were slaves in the Egyptian dynasty, God sent Paul with a message of freedom to his children who were slaves in the Roman Empire. [1] Paul’s message hit the slave world with the force of a spiritual tsunami, shattering in one single wave the mirrors of distortion in which they had been seeing themselves. [2]

“Did you hear?” they exclaimed in amazement to each other, “Paul, the Apostle, the ‘legend’ himself, sent a message to us! He wrote to us from his prison cell in Rome!”[3]

I can imagine Christian slaves meeting secretly to talk in hushed voices about the message that came to them.

One slave starts with, “Paul said, ‘Brothers and sisters, you’re not a slave of men, doing work that has no meaning; you are servants of the Lord Christ himself, doing his work for him, even with him!’”

Another slave chimes in, And, he said that nothing and no one has the power to change who you are, a child of God who has created you for a life of good works. You belong to Jesus Christ, the Sovereign Lord of the universe. No matter what anyone does to you or where they send you, there you are a servant of Christ who has set you free from all sin and its effects. If you have lousy pay, Christ will reward you.”[4]

There was silence for a moment and a third slave says, “Really? Is this how God really sees us?”[5]

That’s exactly how God saw them, and that’s exactly how God sees you. Why not personalize the truth that set slaves free in the spirit of their minds, so that, like them, you can really do your work with the power of gladness?

I am a child of Almighty God, my Father, and a personal servant of Jesus Christ the Sovereign Lord of the universe. For Him and with Him, I am doing the work He has given me to do with the power of the Holy Spirit.

You will experience power at work that you never thought possible. It’s all in what you see.


[1] Paul’s message to the slaves was in his letters to the churches in the prominent cities of Ephesus and Colossae.

[2] This is not to say that all slave owners treated their slaves in this way. A minority of slaves had positions of responsibility in the family business or the household.

[3] Paul was not writing from some posh office as a philosopher with an esoteric, mystic theory or promoting a feel-good pop psychology. He was a brilliant theologian, a devoted activist for Christ who took his faith to the streets and, because of his faith, jailed in a Roman prison. He learned from hard experience that “No person or life situation can take from me the dignity and honor that I have from God. Christ, the hope of glory lives in me!”

[4] To the slaves in Colossae: “Slaves, obey your earthly masters in everything you do. Try to please them all the time, not just when they are watching you. Serve them sincerely because of your reverent fear of the Lord. Work willingly at whatever you do, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people. Remember that the Lord will give you an inheritance as your reward, and that the Master you are serving is Christ.” (Colossians 3:22-24, NLT)

To the slaves in Ephesus“Slaves, obey your earthly masters with deep respect and fear. Serve them sincerely as you would serve Christ. Try to please them all the time, not just when they are watching you. As slaves of Christ, do the will of God with all your heart. Work with enthusiasm, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people. Remember that the Lord will reward each one of us for the good we do, whether we are slaves or free.” (Ephesians 6:5-8, NKJV)

[5] We need to remember that while Paul gave specific instructions to slaves, they were also recipients of the truths of his entire letter to the churches at Ephesus and Colossae. They, like any “free” Christian were given the full benefits of the knowledge of and relationship with Jesus Christ, as described by Paul in the entirety of the letters.

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