Boundaries and Your Work

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Romans 12:2

Can you develop gifts? A reporter once said to George Bernard Shaw: “You have a marvelous gift for oratory. How did you develop it?” Shaw retorted, “I learned to speak as men learn to skate or cycle, by doggedly making a fool of myself until I got used to it.”

In a Sunday school class they had been studying Adam and Eve. A little boy spoke up and said, “I don’t like Adam and Eve because if it wasn’t for them I wouldn’t have to clean up my room!” It sounds just like a child, thinking that the Garden of Eden was filled with pleasure and leisure. Work isn’t always fun.

Work existed before the Fall; it was always part of God’s plan for humanity.
God gave humanity two jobs. (Gen 1:28) God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and over every living creature that moves on the ground.” The two jobs? Subdue and rule. Gen 2:20 So the man gave names to all the livestock, the birds of the air and all the beasts of the field.

Our difficulties came later after the fall. “Cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat of it all the days of your life. It will produce thorns and thistles for you, and you will eat the plants of the field. By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground, since from it you were taken; for dust you are and to dust you will return.”

We all have a vocation, a “calling” into the service of this world we live in.
Wherever we work, whatever we do, we are to do it as if we are doing it for God. Therefore, our labor (our work) becomes a spiritual activity. In our work, we are made in the image of God, who Himself a worker, a manager, a creator, a developer, labored for six days creating the world.

A lack of boundaries in our workplace creates problems. (1) Getting saddled with another person’s responsibilities. All of us who have co-workers have faced the challenge of doing someone else’s job. It is enough to do your own job and it becomes important to establish our boundaries with our co-workers.
Their anger isn’t as hurtful as their poor work habits. If they get angry at you for saying no, be firm about your boundaries and empathize with their anger. Don’t get angry back. Keep your emotional distance and say, “I am sorry if this upsets you, but that job is not my responsibility.”

(2) Working too much because of misplaced priorities. One can work all hours and make a lot of money but if we lose our families and other significant things in our lives, we have lost what is important. Jesus said, What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul? Set boundaries on your work that, is not allowed to cross. Review your job description and discuss these issues with your boss. Jethro, helped Moses establish boundaries on his work load. When his father-in-law saw all that Moses was doing for the people, he said, “What is this you are doing for the people? Why do you alone sit as judge, while all these people stand around you from morning till evening?” Moses’ father-in-law replied, “What you are doing is not good. You and these people who come to you will only wear yourselves out. The work is too heavy for you; you cannot handle it alone. Listen now to me and I will give you some advice. He chose capable men from all Israel and made them leaders of the people, officials over thousands, hundreds, fifties and tens. When Charles Schwab, the president of Bethlehem Steel Corporation was given advice by Ivy Lee, a consultant. Schwab agreed to pay Ivy Lee “anything within reason” if Lee’s suggestion worked. Lee later handed the executive a sheet of paper with the plan: Write down the most important tasks you have to do tomorrow. Number them in order of importance. When you arrive in the morning, begin at once on Number 1 and stay on it until it is completed. Recheck your priorities, then begin with No. 2. . . then No. 3. Make this a habit every working day. Pass it on to those under you. Try it as long as you like, then send me your check for what you think it is worth. That one idea turned Bethlehem Steel Corporation into the biggest independent steel producer in the world within five years. How much did Schwab pay his consultant? Several weeks after receiving the note, he sent Lee a check for $25,000, admitting it was the most profitable lesson he had ever learned.

(3) Difficult people to work with. You only have the power to change yourself. You can’t change another person. You attitude is the key to the joy of working.

(4) Expecting too much from the workplace. People increasingly come to the workplace wanting the company to be a “family.” The workplace ideally should be supportive, safe, and nurturing. But the workplace is not your family. The workplace will ask from you without giving because they are going to pay you for your work.

(5) Disliking your job. Boundaries establish our identity. Our work is part of our identity in that it taps into our particular giftedness. Finding our life’s work involves taking risks. One must firmly identify his/her identity. One must have ownership of how we feel, think and want. One must assess his/her talents and recognize one’s limitations. One must be lead by the Holy Spirit.

John Smith was a loyal carpenter, working for a very successful building contractor who called him into his office one day and said, “John, I’m putting you in charge of the next house we build. I want you to order all the materials and oversee the whole job from the ground up.” John accepted the assignment with great enthusiasm and excitement. For ten days before ground was broken at the building site, John studied the blueprints. He checked every measurement, every specification. Suddenly he had a thought. “If I am really in charge,” he said to himself, “why couldn’t I cut a few corners, use less-expensive materials, and put the extra money in my pocket? Who would know the difference? Once the house is painted, it will look just great.” So John set about his scheme. He ordered second-grade lumber, but his reports indicated that it was top-grade. He ordered inexpensive concrete for the foundation, put in cheap wiring, and cut every corner he could, yet he reported the purchase of much better materials. When the home was completed and fully painted, he asked the contractor to come and see it. “John,” said the contractor, “What a magnificent job you have done! You have been such a good and faithful carpenter all these years that I have decided to show my gratitude by giving you this house you have built, as a gift!”

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