Why would one drive-thru restaurant close early, with cars in line, and make excuses to their customers while another restaurant, just a few blocks away, stays open and warmly greets their customers as they take their order? Why would the second restaurant announce to their last customers that there will be “no charge” and no payment accepted?
Both restaurants want to close and send hard working employees home on time. Both restaurants are under pressure from all the factors of the pandemic that have created shortages of supplies and workers to serve customers. Yet, one of those restaurants puts employees first in a way that empowers them to “wow” their customers, instead of resenting them at the end of a difficult day. Yes, that’s the same restaurant with a team of employees of various ages and ethnicities dancing and singing inside as they close and respond to their last customer’s “Wow! Thank you!” with a final “My pleasure!”
The difference starts with why the organizations are in business. The difference is fueled by the purpose of the leaders involved (from corporate to local team lead) and is accentuated – and given personality – by the ones that interact with customers as they deliver on the brand’s promise. This same scenario plays out, positively and negatively, every day in restaurants, retail stores, manufacturers, consulting agencies, accounting firms, construction sites, branches of the government, non-profits, and churches.
In our current age, work is meant to be redemptive, however, most work falls short. In our three part series, we saw how work was designed by God to be Very Good from the very beginning through His creation. We also covered how Work Is Broken through the impacts of human sin and the results of the Fall, the anti-creation. Now, as we wrap up the series, we will see that – just as Jesus came to redeem sinful humans and present them brand new and spotless before a Holy God – those who follow Him are made redemptive agents. Therefore, our work is meant to be redemptive.
Redemptive Work Does Not Exploit
The best way to describe redemptive work is to start with work that is clearly not redemptive. We are all familiar with work that has greed and self-interest at the center of its motives. We all know, and have dealt with, organizations that seek their own good (1 Corinthians 10:24) over the good of those they claim to serve. Praxis, a creative engine for redemptive entrepreneurship, calls this the “win at all cost” approach to exploitive work. Work by individuals or organizations that uses people as a means to their ends is not redemptive.
Redemptive Work Is More Than Ethical
Today, throughout the world, we are seeing a resurgence in work that seeks to do good for their customers and the communities they serve. Not surprisingly, these companies are doing well for all of their stakeholders. Just Capital, the ESG investing research non-profit co-founded by hedge fund billionaire Paul Tudor Jones, ranks the top companies in the U.S. stock market on environmental, social, and governance metrics. They call the ranking the JUST 100. The top component in this year's JUST 100 was paying a fair and living wage, resulting in "workforces that are taken care of by far and away on a variety of fronts relative to the rest of corporate America," Jones said. But the most important thing these companies are doing, he added, is "being just and being in line with Americans' views on what is just is great business."
The hedge fund icon says the data is already proving this view is the best view for long-term investors. “Companies on the JUST 100 list give 19 times more to local communities and provide pay gap disclosures more often, but they also notably pay 20% more in dividends and earn 4.5% more than the rest of corporate America.”
Praxis calls this type of “doing good and doing well” approach to work ethical. Ethical work is good, but work that is only done for others temporarily (2 Corinthians 4:18) falls short of being redemptive because God made us for much more than temporary flourishing. He made us for His glory and praise (Isaiah 43:7 & Isaiah 43:21).
Redemptive Work is work done by those that have been redeemed. Redemptive work is an outpouring of love by individuals and organizations that know the supremacy, love, and sacrifice of Jesus. The tent maker who met the Son of God on the road to Damascus and became an Apostle explains it perfectly this way.
The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross. - Colossians 1:15-20
Receive God To Redeem Work
In creation, God made all humans in His image (Genesis 1:26-27) and God makes clear that all humans are witnesses to Him in some way, but far too many people’s hearts have been darkened by their sin and they follow the way of the world as they live for temporary gains and pleasures. “Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God — children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband's will, but born of God” (John 1:12-13). Those of us who know we are God’s children can surrender our needs with joy, instead of living for temporary gains, because we know God has eternal pleasures (Psalm 16:11) in store for us beyond what we think or imagine (Ephesians 3:20).
A child of God can follow the call of Jesus to be a servant leader in the workplace because they know they do not want to win the transactional moment in a way that results in losing their soul (Matthew 16:26). The servant leader knows they are a child of the King, a prince, and a priest (1 Peter 2:5) created to share the love of God and point to His glory. Individuals and organizations that operate redemptively know they are to give love and shine light far and wide like a city on a hill (Matthew 5:14-16).
It’s freeing not to work for yourself or for other men and women, but to do all things for God (Colossians 3:23). Working for God means to do all work the way Jesus lived, worked, and died for us (Colossians 3:17) with our eyes fixed on the prize of our great reward (Philippians 3:14). Working for God, rather than man, is freeing because the success of our work is not contingent on our earthly boss’ approval. Rather, our work rests secure in the God who died for us.
Redemptive Work Is Fulfilling
Work where we get to use all of our creativity and gifts in sacrifice to God and others (Romans 12:1) is what Praxis calls Redemptive. When we work redemptively, we find this world more peaceful and fulfilling. Here is how one founder of a restaurant explains it.
I believe that being in the restaurant business is an opportunity to serve people—their physical and emotional needs, and sometimes their spiritual needs. A lot of people come out to eat who aren’t even hungry; they’re just looking for a pleasant experience. We believe that God is glorified in the service that we render.
In 1982, when we moved into our current headquarters, I called a meeting of our executive committee to ask ourselves some important questions: “Why are we here?” “Why are we in business?” “What is our corporate purpose?” We established the purpose that drives our company: “To glorify God by being a faithful steward of all that is entrusted to us. To have a positive influence on all who come in contact with Chick-fil-A.” - Truett Cathy
In redemptive work, individuals and organizations love and reward employees, customers, suppliers, investors, and everyone they come in contact with because they know they have the love that surpasses understanding (Ephesians 3:19). They are filled with the love that allows them to sacrifice and dance at the same time as they say “my pleasure!” and close for the night.