They are like a thee-legged stool; if you remove one of the legs the stool will fall over.
If you try to just apply the first fundamental without the other two, it will improve your workplace experience, but your effort will be unsustainable.
Why you can’t sustain the effort. If you attempt to do your work with all your heart, you will be better at your job and will enjoy your job more for a while, but if your boss doesn’t notice, or gives you a performance review that doesn’t reflect your exemplary effort, or passes you over for that promotion, you will become discouraged. You will think, “Why should I keep working so hard, if my employer doesn’t notice or reward me for it?”
The second fundamental. The Apostle Paul answered the question as quickly as one could ask it: “. . . do your work . . . as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance.” (Col. 3:23-24).
Why it is necessary. The boss you work for is a human and humans are flawed. They don’t see everything and they misinterpret situations. They don’t always justly reward good conduct. As long as you are working for people they will disappoint you. In fact, if you give the effort God requires of you, you are likely to be more disappointed with your boss because being more deserving of praise and promotion makes it more likely you will be discouraged when it doesn’t come.
Also, when you are working just for imperfect man, you can always justify not giving your best effort because, frankly, your boss doesn’t deserve it. God is the only one who deserves the effort He demands of you.
Inevitably, when you work just for man, you will soon realize it only matters for you to work hard when your employer can see it. It will be easy to default into just doing the things that will get you noticed by your boss. Paul calls this being a “man-pleaser” (Col. 3:22), which is a theological term for a brown-noser.
Working for man will never sufficiently motivate you to give the effort God requires of you. God is the only one who sees everything and always rewards justly. So, Paul says, “Do your heartily, as for the Lord, not for men.”
Something good that will happen with your work. There is something else that happens when you do your work for Lord, and it conspires with the first workplace fundamental to inspire excellence.
A few years back I took a case where a man had been done wrong, but the law didn’t provide a sufficient remedy for the wrong. My intent was to take the case and by the precedent obtain a remedy for my client and those victims who would come after him. As expected, the trial court judge, following the law as it was at the time, dismissed our case. We appealed. The court of appeals ruled in our favor. The company then appealed to the state supreme court.
One of our state supreme court justices at that time was a friend of mine, but he was more than a friend. He was a Christian man of the highest integrity and a Harvard law school graduate whom many considered one of the most brilliant judges in our state. He was the attorney I most wanted to impress.
Because I knew he would be reading my brief, I wrote and rewrote it and polished it. I hired an appellate law specialist to help me with it and I polished it some more. By the time I turned it in it was like a work of art. It was the best brief I ever wrote because I was trying to impress the attorney I most respected.
Your work will generally rise to the level of the person you are trying to impress. Consequently, there is no higher inspiration for excellence than the Lord.
It reminds of the last words of Leonardo DaVinci: “I have offended God and mankind because my work did not reach the quality it should have.” Leonardo had such a high view of God, whom he was trying to impress, that he thought his work–the work of one of the greatest artist’s who every lived–was shoddy.
You now have two of the three workplace fundamentals, but remember, without all three, the chair will not stand. Next, the thing you absolutely must do to enjoy your job. GS