Most of you have probably shopped at a J. C. Penny store. The Founder, James Cash Penny, called his first dry goods store The Golden Rule, because he believed in that principle and intended to build his business as its philosophical cornerstone.
“I believe in adherence to the Golden Rule, faith in God and the country,” Penny said.
I don’t know Penny’s religious affiliation, but it is said that he didn’t smoke or drink, and in the early days of his stores demanded the same from his employees. He once said, “I would rather be known as a Christian than a merchant.”
Regarding his attitude in dealing with customers, J. C. Penny said, “The friendly smile, the word of greeting, are certainly something fleeting and seemingly insubstantial. You can’t take them with you. But they work for good beyond your power to measure their influence. It is the service we are not obliged to give that people value most.”
J. C. Penny’s spirit toward the marketplace is encapsulated in one of the great Bible verses, Colossians 3:23. “Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men”
It is important to note that the context of this verse in written to slaves. Possibly one-third of the Roman world was in slavery. A slave had no rights. He was not a person, but piece of property. Aristotle said, “For a slave is a living toool, just as a tool is an inanimate slave. A slave’s life was a miserable, pathetic, pitiful and appalling life.
Yet, Christian slaves were commanded to work heartily. Literally it means to “put your soul into your work.” Paul was saying to be a conscientious worker. Be efficient. Effective. And enthusiastic.
The spirit of Christianity ultimately eradicated slavery, but the values of industry, honesty and honorable effort still apply in the work place. This verse suggests several implications for Christians.
(1) The quality of your work has a new importance. No matter our job, profession or occupation, we are serving the Lord. As John Garden expressed it, “The society which scorns excellence in plumbing because plumbing is a humble activity and tolerates shoddiness in philosophy because it is an exalted activity will have neither good plumbing nor good philosophy. Neither its pipes nor its theories will hold water.”
(2) The focus of your work has new purpose. Your job is more than just a way to make a living, pay the bills, and save for retirement. An Alan Perkins put it, “it’s an assignment from Christ.” In reality your boss on the job is not really your boss.” Your work for the Lord. You serve Him. You seek to please Him. You honor him with the quality of your work.
(3) The spirit of your work has a new demeanor. Our efforts on the job should not be half-hearted, but whole-hearted. They should not be done carelessly, but carefully. Our disposition toward our employer ought not to be disagreeable or difficult, but agreeable and management. And our relationships with our co-workers should not be critical or caustic, but kind and complimentary.
The farmer, the pharmacist, and fireman can find a greater sense of accomplishment and a deeper dignity in their work when these principles are applied.
Indeed Sir Theodore Martin was right when he wrote, “Work is the true elixir of life. The busiest man is the happiest man.”
–Ken Weliever, The Preacherman