You’ve heard the line in countless movies, normally uttered just after a key character suffers a loss. “You have to understand,” the winner will say, “It wasn’t personal. It was just business.” And with that, the winner dismisses the personal hurt he or she may have caused, and separates their actions from their emotions in one swift stroke. But if you’ve bought that line, and even lived it in your own life and business pursuits, then you need to know something. It’s just not true. Neither the line nor the practice are something to be followed in daily life.
Work gives provision and purpose. In Genesis 2:15, God puts man into the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it. Before sin entered the world, while all was still perfect, God ordained man to work. Work was part of the perfect plan, from the beginning. We were designed to do something, not to lay on fully clouds dressed in togas and playing harps. The world in its truest sense was a creation to be tended to as well as enjoyed.
This God-ordained design for work is found in the Old Testament. Proverbs 12:11 reminds us “Whoever works his land will have plenty of bread, but he who follows worthless pursuits lacks sense.” In other words, those who work will eat, while lazy people lack sense. This mandate for hard work continues into the New Testament as 2 Thessalonians 3:10-12 reminds us, “If anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat. For we hear that some among you walk in idleness, not busy at work, but busybodies. Now such persons we command and encourage in the Lord Jesus Christ to do their work quietly and to earn their own living.” Throughout the Bible we see God using the work of man to provide for man as well as to complete those things which God Himself ordains to be done. Colossians 3:17 says our work has meaning, as we are instructed, “And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus.” Work provides us both provision and purpose in God’s creation.
All business is personal. Colossians 3:23 reminds us, “Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men…” Though work is often out of necessity, it should never be without purpose. Our work is in part an act of stewardship toward God. When we work, we are doing more than just providing for our own needs and the needs of others. We are also carrying out our function within God’s creative design for man. In the process of work, we begin and build many of the relationships we have in life. A recent study found that people have an average of just two confidants in their lives, despite the fact they may have dozens of business associates and hundreds of social media connections.
Our associations in business, then, often form the basis for how our lives impact a broad number of people. When we sell something, build something, work on a project together, the long-lasting impact we have in business is tied to how we relate to those we are in business with. Those relationships are import to the stewardship of our lives. With our work we can embody and share our values, give an example of our character and as God opens opportunities, pass along our faith.
Do not look at work, then, as a separate necessity that just provides for your life and family, or that gives wealth with which to pursue your personal interests. Take your work personally, because work devoid of your invested passion is work without meaning. Work is a God-given gift to His creation, and we can use our work to accomplish a higher purpose. And if we are very fortunate, work too can be more than “tending to the garden”, but a joyful experience that uses our talents, skills and abilities in a way that fulfills us personally. In these ways, we must acknowledge that when it comes to our work, it’s not just business.