I am researching an article that I have been asked to write on “Why did Jesus spend so much time in the Marketplace”, so I have started reading through the Gospels to look at all the times Jesus was in the marketplace, encountered others in the marketplace, and taught about the marketplace. I only managed to get to Matthew 4 when something struck me about Jesus’ temptations in the wilderness… The temptations he faced typify some of the struggles Christians face in the workplace.
Temptation 1: Feed yourself (Matthew 4:3)
In the workplace, if we are not taught well by our churches, we may be tempted to think that all we have is a result of our efforts, our intelligence, something we have earned. This is because we think that God is only interested in our spirits, and there may be little teaching about the world outside church, or the activities that take up most of our lives. However, God is very interested in every area of our lives, and chastised the Israelites when they were similarly tempted (see Deuteronomy 8:10–18).
Reminder: God provides for all our needs. (Matthew 4:4)
Application: Prayerfully remember that we are stewards of the gifts of work and wealth that God gives us.
Temptation 2: To be risky in the world (Matthew 4:6)
In the workplace, we sometimes stretch God’s grace. Since it is somewhere outside our comfort zone, and the comfort zone of the church, it is easier to play hard and fast with the rules of godly character and behaviour that might normally apply. It is easier to consider being relatively better behaved than others as being Christian: if I swear less, drink less at social functions, tell less riské jokes, work slightly longer hours… Sometimes, it can extend to making risky decisions and praying that God will bring it off, to “glorify” himself.
Reminder: Don’t put God to the test (Matthew 4:7)
Application: Instead of acting, and then asking for God’s blessing or forgiveness, we should be working with God, alongside him, in the light of his presence, and relying on his wisdom (Proverbs 3:5-6).
Temptation 3: To be a master/mistress of the universe (Matthew 4:9)
In the workplace, we can get sucked into the culture of “win” whatever it costs. We can chase the career, and rationalise it on the basis of how God can use us. God is always as interested in the means as the ends. Ambition is not wrong in itself, but if it climbs over other people, or if it steals our soul or spirit, then it is not worth it.
Reminder: Worship the Lord, not your career (Matthew 4:10)
Application: Start every day in submission to Christ as the lord of our thoughts, words and working (Colossians 3:23). We need to make decisions bathed in prayer, and have a couple of people who can hold us accountable, and keep us grounded.
These temptations can trap us, wherever our workplace is, even if it is Christian organisations, even if it is a church!
Kara is Associate Director of the Marketplace Institute, which aims to bridge the Sunday–Monday divide, and help churches reconnect with their workers, and the marketplace. (https://marketplaceinstitute.org/)