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At Work: Practicing What We Preach

by Buford Smith

I am a high school counselor and administrative assistant to the principal. My philosophy in the work place rests on two particulars from God: “Whatever you do, work heartily as unto the Lord” (Col. 3:23), and the Golden Rule (Matt. 7:12). Understanding the theory is easy. Application is difficult.

A major problem is the expectations of our co-workers. On the one hand, Christians are expected by some to be above all reproach—in fact, perfect. That’s obviously impossible; we all make mistakes. On the other hand, many people feel that Christians aren’t really all that different from them. “I did such-and-such an unethical thing, and you would too.” Their perception is, “When the chips are down every man has his price.” The “everybody does it” attitude toward stealing and lying, for example, is accepted by the world as standard. Let me illustrate.

One year when I signed on for a job I told the principal I had a series of church meetings scheduled for October and so would miss several days. He said that would not be a problem. When I returned from the meetings he asked if I wanted to “run it through” as sick days, and thus not miss a paycheck. I was surprised and embarrassed at his offer, which then embarrassed him as well. He expected me to lie about the week, for the love of money. He saw nothing unusual about making such an offer; to have it turned down was unusual.

Then when my car was stolen, and the insurance representative did not expect to see it again, I was told to list everything lost in the car. One of my co-workers said, “Too bad you lost a trunk full of clothes.” I responded, without thinking, “No, only our coats and my camera bag.” He grinned, raised an eyebrow and repeated, “And a trunk full of clothes!” Then I understood. The sad part—he himself is a professing Christian.

I attempt to apply the Christian principle of honesty on my job. That way I don’t have to remember which lie I told to which student or co-worker. As years have rolled on, I believe I have achieved at least that status—“He is honest.”

The theory is simple: work as unto the Lord, and treat others as you wish to be treated. Jesus provides the sustaining power.

[In addition to his career in school administration, Buford Smith was and is a minister of the Gospel.]

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That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

2 Corinthians 12:10