September 5, 2005
The Master's Program
The Point of View - A Weekly Commentary by Bob Shank

Dear Marketplace Friend, 

    Cindy Sheehan's
protest was the standard lead for most of August. Then, seven days ago, Katrina knocked Cindy off the news pedestal. In America, "big" is always news; the hurricane is already billed as the largest natural disaster to hit America in the last 100 years. And, in the midst of the continuing coverage... Chief Justice Rehnquist lost his personal battle with cancer, creating the eye of a political hurricane that will hit Washington with the new congressional season.

    It's no wonder that the holiday has come and gone... without a whimper. What chance did mere "workers" have? Talk about anticlimactic...

    It was 123 years ago - on this very date - that the first Labor Day was celebrated in New York City. "Workin' stiffs" deserved some recognition - or, so the reasoning went. The movement grew... and culminated in congressional legislation that delivered a national holiday in 1894.

    Back then, "work" involved overalls and smokestacks, or combines and pitchforks. Farms and factories were the workaday reality for most Americans a century ago. Today, the US workforce is more likely to pack a laptop than a lunchbucket. We're educated; we're sophisticated... but, are we world-class?

    The challenges of the 21st Century are not small. In our country, people are highly trained to do what they're paid to do. Does that mean that they're the best... or, that they are the best that they can be?

    The greatest enigma for many management teams today is not the task of instilling skill and knowledge with their workforce. The missing catalyst in most teams is the secret sauce called motivation.

    Usually, motivation is offered as an extrinsic element; it's applied from the outside, with the hope that it will seep into the professional. Money, power, benefits; offers aplenty are dangled as incentive to go beyond the minimums. Sometimes they work... for a while. Usually, they lose their fizz like an overnight glass of Diet Coke.

    Some people are surprised at God's interest in how Christians perform in their workaday roles. It doesn't take much study to find that the Bible encourages the followers of Jesus to find the mean-average performance of the team... and to accelerate their efforts enough to break from the pack! Why?

    The New Testament offers a variety of reasons why that is the expectation of heaven for the Monday-Friday lifestyle. Three good examples of how God wants to motivate Christians who are "clocked in:"

    1. Survival: if you don't work, you don't eat. Believers are sometimes a soft-touch for a hard luck story. It's tempting to be lazy when you're around people who are generous and willing to share. Is that the plan? Far from it; Paul cautioned to "... keep away from every brother who is idle.... We gave you this rule: 'If a man will not work, he shall not eat.'" (2 Thessalonians 3:6-10). Good starting point; hunger talks.

    2. Reputation: God's image hangs on yours. People develop characterizations based on the examples in their immediate field of view. When people who claim to be "transformed" by their faith in Jesus look for ways to cut corners and underperform, the folks in the grandstands watch... and come to some unfortunate opinions about God, based on His kids. "Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not men" (Colossians 3:23) is the way Paul sees it. Whoever your obvious boss/client might be... God is your real audience. Does he applaud, or cringe, when you're "doing your thing," and the folks paying the bill aren't watching?

    3. Rewards: perform now, benefit later. When you've delivered what they paid for... why not stop there? "Serve wholeheartedly, as if you were serving the Lord... because you know that the Lord will reward everyone for whatever good he does..." (Ephesians 6:8). When you over-deliver, it's not wasted motion: God's keeping score... and He promises to pay-up when you get to His place.

    Some people think that Christians are the least-likely to succeed in their marketplace roles; in God's game plan, they are most-likely to set the motivated pace. Does your Sunday change your Monday?

Bob Shank

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