Dear Friends in Christ,
Here’s a question raised in the text we studied in our Wednesday Night Bible Study last night (Genesis 30. 37-43): If a white sheep is drinking from a water trough while being bred by a black sheep and, in the process, the white sheep is looking at a poplar or almond branch with its bark peeled off will the white sheep give birth to a speckled or spotted lamb? ‘See what you miss by not coming to Bible study on Wednesday nights?!
Questions of animal husbandry aside the text raised another question that might be a bit more relevant to life where you live and particularly life where you work. The question is “How can one thrive and prosper while working for a difficult boss?” Genesis 30. 43 says that Jacob “grew exceedingly rich, and had large flocks, maidservants and menservants, and camels and asses.”
Such a declaration is significant when you consider that Jacob worked for someone for 20 years who in modern terms would be described as “a real _______ (you fill in the blank)!” Laban, who was also Jacob’s father-in-law, being the father of Leah and Rachel, was devious, deceitful, dishonest and selfish. He tricked Jacob into working for him for seven years in order to gain his daughter Rachel in marriage. At the end of the seven years Laban would only give up his older daughter Leah. After another seven years of work Laban finally gave Rachel to Jacob. When Jacob negotiated a payment plan for his fourteen years of labor during which Laban’s flocks thrived and grew to huge proportions Laban tricked Jacob once again, requiring Jacob to work for an additional six years. When Jacob finally took his wives and his children and left to return to Canaan Laban pursued him and was incensed over the injustice that had been done TO HIM.
I hear a great deal from folks about the struggles they have with the people they work for. Sometimes I’m told that a particular boss is a real gem and a pleasure to work for. The work environment is good, the boss is encouraging, helpful and supportive and has his/her employee’s wellbeing at the forefront of all interactions. Alternatively, I often hear horror stories of what a train wreck someone’s boss is. It’s like they are working for Laban. The boss is nasty, vindictive, harsh, unsympathetic, always looking for a way to shift blame downward and draw benefit upward: a real ______!
Are there lessons to learn from Jacob on how to thrive in the negative work environment inhabited by so many today. How is one to prosper in such a poor situation? Is quitting and moving on the only answer? Time and space will not allow me to elaborate on my answers and, of course, every situation comes with its own set of complexities and appropriate potential choices and actions. However, Genesis 29,30 which I encourage you to read and ponder seems to suggest the following points to consider in answer to the question – the work question, not the animal husbandry question:
- Jacob recognized that though he had an earthly boss who was unbearable at times he was, in the final analysis, working for God. Jacob knew the goodness and grace of God at work in His life and that God was a God of promise and of faithfulness in response to which Jacob promised to obey Him and serve Him in the context of His sovereign good purposes (Genesis 28. 20-22). Though Laban made Jacob’s life difficult Jacob subscribed to the challenge that would later be given by the Apostle Paul in Ephesians 6. 7-8: “Whatsoever you do do it heartily as unto the Lord and not unto men, knowing that of the Lord you shall reap the reward of inheritance for you serve the Lord Christ.” Everything we do, including and especially our work, must be done for the glory and honor of God…He is the “audience of one” Who ultimately counts.
- Jacob did not set out to become wealthy. Jacob wanted a wife, children, a family, a home and meaningful work to do. He wanted to be faithful and use his obvious knowledge and gifts for the benefit of his employer, trusting that the rest would be taken care of. Again, Jacob subscribed to the truth that would be later declared by the Lord Jesus when He said “Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness and all of these things will be added unto you” (Matthew 6. 33).
- Jacob worked hard for his employer. Jacob could have said “Laban cheated me so I’ll take from him what I can because I deserve it and he’ll never affirm me for my work” but he didn’t. Laban could have simply dogged it and did the least of what was required of him but he didn’t. Laban could have just thrown his hands into the air and said “God doesn’t want me to work in this environment so I quit and I’ll let the Lord take care of me” but he didn’t. In fact Jacob did everything he could to work for the benefit of his employer. Genesis 31. 36-42 gives a wonderful account of how hard Jacob worked, including absorbing his employer’s losses himself. As bad as Laban was to Jacob Jacob always had Laban’s benefit on his mind and in his work.
- Jacob trusted God for the outcome. Because God was a God of promise, a God of goodness and grace and a God who was faithful to those who loved and served Him Jacob could count on things working out. That is not to say that Jacob had a guarantee of becoming wealthy or of ultimately seeing Laban get his comeuppance but Jacob could trust that whatever the Lord had for him was for his benefit.
It turns out that Jacob ended up wealthy and benefiting far beyond what he could have possibly imagined. That will not always be the case for those who work for difficult people. But if not wealthy (and there’s nothing wrong with becoming wealthy if that is what the Lord has in store for you) then prosperous which is a whole other kettle of fish. To prosper is to know the pleasure of the Lord, to enjoy fellowship with Him, to delight in seeing His will being worked out in our lives (that’s what “joy” is), to have a peace and confidence that comes with being in an intimate relationship of love and trust with the one, living and true God through faith in Jesus Christ.
This is what Jacob had and what I wish for each of you who live strategically and purposefully for the cause of Christ wherever He has sovereignly scattered you each and every day, with bosses who are both great and bosses who are “real____!”
Faithfully in Him,
Posted on Fri, March 18, 2016
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