In his “Sermon on the Mount”, Jesus calls his disciples to be the “salt of the earth” (Matthew 5 v. 13), and the “light of the world (v. 14):
You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet.
“You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.
John Stott, in his article “Four Ways Christians Can Influence the World”, writes about being the salt of the earth and light of the world:
“The world, he says, is like rotting meat. But you are to be the world’s salt. The world is like a dark night, but you are to be the world’s light. This is the fundamental difference between the Christian and the non-Christian, the church and the world. Like salt in putrefying meat, Christians are to hinder social decay. Like light in the prevailing darkness, Christians are to illumine society and show it a better way.”
Luke Bobo in his book Living Salty and Light-Filled Lives in the Workplace tells us that work is the most logical and likely place where Christians should be making the greatest impact. He states that salty and light-filled workers influence their peers; they push back the effects of sin and expose darkness (corruption). When we live salty and light-filled lives in the workplace, others will witness or see our good works and give God our Father praise.
As a believer, you are salt, which means that you inhibit decay, and add flavor. You are also light, which means that you dispel the darkness, and illuminate the way so others can see. Russell Gehrlein in his book Immanuel Labor—God’s Presence in Our Profession: A Biblical, Theological, and Practical Approach to the Doctrine of Work, writes “We must shine the light of Christ in dark places and become part of His work to bring common grace to all who are made in His image”.
How can we be salt and light in the workplace? Here are 11 ways I found to do so:
- Be a Servant Leader. An important aspect of servant leadership is putting the needs and interests of others above your own. You can demonstrate that aspect of servant leadership whether or not you are in a formal leadership position.
- Do excellent work. Christians should be the best workers. We glorify God when we give credit to Him for what we achieve, rather than claiming the credit for ourselves.
- Maintain a high level of integrity in all your actions. Former football coach Tony Dungy has written that dishonesty will eventually catch up with you. We can’t control our reputation (what others think of us), but we can control our integrity.
- Be a person of character and trust. My favorite definition of character is “doing the right thing when nobody is watching”. Trust is closely related to character. I would tell new team members that they have my trust, that’s how we would start our relationship. They didn’t have to earn it. It was up to them to lose it.
- Be a role model. Dungy wrote in his book The Mentor Leader that right or wrong, someone is always watching you, and that it’s important to see yourself as a role model.
- Serve as a mentor. I see mentoring, or discipling as it is sometimes called in the church, as a way of giving back and pouring myself into others, just as my career mentor poured himself into me.
- Point people to Christ. Our lives at work should point others to Christ. In some cases, you might be able to develop relationships and actually share the gospel with those you work with (but not on work time). We should always be prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks us for the reason for the hope that is in us. (1 Peter 3:15).
- Get to know your team members or co-workers well. As a leader I wanted to serve those that I was privileged to lead. In order to serve them you need to know them. That’s why my initial “Meet and Greet” with them was always about them personally, and not about work. How can you effectively lead someone if you don’t first know about them and what is important to them?
- Consistently demonstrate a positive attitude and approach. A positive attitude has always been something that is very important to me. I find that I am weakened and drained when I am around negative people. Dr. Alan Zimmerman, whose “Tuesday Tip”, I’ve been reading for years, says that a negative attitude is just as contagious as the common cold. We can’t afford to catch it.
- Be mindful of the words we use in conversations at work. Not backbiting and tearing others down to make yourself look good or taking credit for others work. Don’t gossip! If you have trouble with a co-worker, go to them directly or bring your boss into the situation. If someone comes to you with a grievance about their co-worker, encourage them to do the same thing.
- Pray for those you will interact with each day. As I would drive into work each morning, I prayed for those that I knew I would encounter that day in meetings. I prayed that I would shine Christ’s light, representing Him, and serve others well.
There are many other items that we could add to this list, such as demonstrating empathy, kindness and compassion to co-workers and showing humility. What would you add to this list of how we can be salt and light in the workplace?