Unpacked #5: Conflict of Interest | City Bible Forum

Unpacked #5: Conflict of Interest

I want to be committed to God but I have to work

Shernese is a young worker and regular at Headstart. Easy going, smiley and a knack to summarise discussions in a poignant way, you'd think Shernese works in marketing and guess what, she does! She loves live concerts, ice cream bread (ask her about her trip to Singapore) and when the tune is right, will bust a move on the dance floor but now, she's writing our summary for Unpacked #5: Conflict of Interest - I want to be committed to God but I have to work.

Ever feel like a filing cabinet?

As young workers, you’re probably familiar with the filing cabinet. You know, the ones with wheels that sit under your desk and have two drawers – the smaller top section for stationery, coins and random USBs, and the larger bottom section, often reserved for food, old documents and maybe a pair of shoes. While these are a great storage solution, on Monday night at our last Headstart for Term 1, Tim very rightly called out that there’s a problem with these filing cabinets: if you’re in the top drawer, you can’t open the bottom drawer and vice versa. You can only choose to be in one drawer at a time. It was here, that Tim coined a new term, the “filing cabinet mindset”. We live as filing cabinets as our faith is separate to our jobs. No one can live in both realms at the same time. Our faith has no place in the office.

An old filing cabinet

But this "filing cabinet mindset" is not a new phenomenon.

Let’s take a step back, way back to 16th Century, when Martin Luther was walking the earth. Tim explained that back then, the “filing cabinet mindset” was a part of everyday life, only back then, the two drawers were formally defined as the Spiritual Estate and the Temporal Estate. Like our modern-day filing cabinets, society were split by the two – either they were in formal ministry and lived a life dedicated to God, or they were working in secular vocations. It was one or the other.

Why is this a problem?

We might not have even noticed that this is a thing! But have you ever felt the pull and push of these two drawers? Perhaps you’ve felt conflicted between wanting to live in a God-fearing manner and the reality of living in a secular world. Or maybe, life is exhausting because you’re saying ‘Yes!’ to everything church/ministry/faith related and balancing that with work? Or potentially, it’s the other way around – you’ve said ‘No’ to a church event but are wracked with guilt because you’ve prioritised something else. All of these feelings can stem from a “filing cabinet mindset” – trying to juggle two drawers that are deemed mutually exclusive. And this in turn, can lead to more dire situations; feeling like you’re a disappointment to God and aren’t giving Him enough, or even feeling disdain towards God for the frustrations that you can’t shake. Either way, this mindset isn’t sustainable.

God’s better story

Luther, faced with the same struggles, began to delve deeper into the Bible. In Romans 3:22-25, he saw that we’re saved by faith in Jesus alone. In essence, it doesn’t matter which estate we sit in, or what we do for a living! Because all Christians are of the Spiritual estate and moreover, we are all priests in God’s kingdom (1 Peter 2:19), no matter what our vocation.

But if we are called to be priests, we need to know how to be priests. And who better to look to for guidance, than Jesus Christ, our very own High Priest (Hebrews 4:14). There were four things that priests, and ultimately Jesus, provided for God’s kingdom: Access to God, Sacrifice, the Word and Reconciliation. For the modern-day young worker, Tim helped us think through some practical tips that would kickstart our “royal priesthood mindset”:

  • Access: Praying to God is foundational if we are to be priests and evangelists in the office. Try choosing something regular that you might see on your way to work, and use this as a trigger to pray. It could be as simple as your company’s logo or a train station that you go past on your commute.
  • Sacrifice: Jesus ultimately sacrificed himself on the cross for our sins. Looking at your behaviour, language and mindset at work, what could and should be killed off?
  • Word: Could you introduce more God-speak into your office language? Or why not prepare yourself with an answer should a colleague probe about your faith in Jesus?
  • Reconciliation: Is there someone at work who you could show the love of Christ to? At the end of the day, we want our colleagues to also share in our reconciliation with God.

I think that as young Christian workers, we can subconsciously move between filing cabinet drawers. Personally, as I reflect on my last five years of work, I’ve noticed that the fire has dimmed a little, my resilience to share my faith has taken a few beatings and I can see myself hopping between drawers more and more. Since Headstart last Monday, I’ve been using my company’s building logo as a trigger for a simple prayer that God would help me to be a priest in the office. It’s been a refreshing start to my day and helps me to put God’s better story for work in full view. Jesus is Lord over the whole filing cabinet of our lives, not just the top drawer.

So, what’s next?

Hopefully, you’ve been able to come along to Headstart in Term 1 and have been encouraged and challenged each week as we've unpacked topic after topic together as a community. If you’re keen for more, Headstart Term 2 commences on April 29 where we’ll take what we’ve unpacked in Term 1 and take the next step under the theme of ‘Unchartered’ - having unpacked these topics, how does a Christian young worker chart a course? See you there!