Near the turn of the last century, America was at war with Spain, and President McKinley needed to get a message to a man named Garcia, who was the leader of a group of Cuban rebels.
Unfortunately, no one seemed to know exactly where in the thick island jungle the rebels were hiding. It fell to a man named Rowan to carry a letter to Garcia from the President of the United States.
Rowan took the letter, traveled to Cuba, and disappeared into the dense tropical foliage. He traveled on foot and in the darkness of night.
Several weeks later, he reemerged. His message having been delivered, he carried a response in his hand. Against all odds and without question or complaint, he had done what he was asked to do.
A journalist by the name of Elbert Hubbard was so inspired by this difficult task being so competently carried out that he wrote a short essay about it in 1899. The essay compared the quiet efficiency of the message bearer, Rowan, to that of the average American worker at the time.
The contrast was stark and anything but favorable to the typical employee of the time, yet the story seemed to resonate with the people who read it.
The essay was soon reproduced and began to spread. It grew into a pamphlet and then a book. Over 40 million people across the world read its message.
And its message was this:
Good workers are hard to find.
We need more men and women in this world who can be counted on to “carry a message to Garcia.”
Eventually, there were several movie renditions and “carrying a message to Garcia” became synonymous with doing your job and doing it well.
Over a hundred years have passed since the story was first told, but the need for competent, dependable, hard working people has not changed.
- Have you ever had to hire someone to work for you, even just for housekeeping, yard work, or babysitting?
- What are some of the things you worry about as an employer when you hire someone new?
- Do you ever find yourself expecting the worst, while hoping for the best?
- Have you ever had to fire someone? What was the reason? Was it difficult, even if justified?
- Is there someone at your company or job who is the “go to” person?
- What is so special about that person?
- Would you say that person exceeds expectations for the position that he/she is in?
- Would your company be better off if there were more employees like that?
- Are those kind of people born or made?
- Are the Christians where you work known as the best, most dependable and diligent workers? Should they be?
- What is your reputation at work? Do you exceed expectations? Do you set the standard of excellence?
- How does the quality of your work affect your Christian witness?
- Dorothy Sayers went so far as to claim that a believer cannot do shoddy work without “bringing Christianity into contempt.” Do you agree?
In the early days of America, the difference between managers and masters was very small. Young children would work long hours in squalid conditions for such low pay that their lives were virtually indistinguishable from those of slaves. It is still that way in some corners of the earth today, but is fortunately becoming less and less so. Christians have often led the charge in giving a voice to the voiceless and improving conditions for the oppressed.
- What is the worst job you ever had or heard of?
- How do these worst case scenarios compare to what you know of slavery? How are they the same? How are they different?
- Should Christians advocate for those being mistreated? What if you are being mistreated? Is there a God-honoring way for you to advocate for yourself?
- What is the best job you ever had or heard about? If you include hobbies or volunteer work, does that change your answer?
- How big a role did your “boss” or immediate supervisor play in making the job good or bad? Did your co-workers have an effect? How about the work itself?
Paul tells workers to work “as for the Lord,” since it is actually Christ whom they serve.
- How does working for Christ instead of “the man” change our approach to our work? Our attitude about work?
- Who wins when we take this better approach? Our boss? Ourselves? Christ?
- Does our work ethic—the way we do the jobs assigned to us—reflect on our faith?
- Have you ever been laid off or been out of work? Were you glad to be employed again?
- Did you have a new attitude about work afterwards?
- Is there a different mindset between “having to do” something and “getting to do” something?
- Is your mindset one of having to work or is it one of getting to serve Christ through your work?
Paul tells masters to treat their slaves with fairness and justice. After all, the masters also have a “Master in heaven” who measures out to them in the same manner that they measure things out to others. (See Matthew 7:2)
Masters also have a “Master in heaven”
Modern business practice talks about internal and external fairness in pay. Internal fairness means that pay is similar for similar jobs within a company and external fairness means that pay is similar for similar jobs at competing companies.
When a company is internally and externally fair, workers are actually happier and do better work. Companies that pay slightly more than their competition get even more loyalty and even better work from their employees.
The opposite is true for companies that are “under the market” in pay.
- Pay is just one aspect of fairness and justice to employees. What are some other ways an employer can bless their employees?
- There are both practical and spiritual benefits to God’s commands. Can you name some practical benefits of fairness and justice, whether in pay or otherwise?
- What might be the spiritual benefits to an employer who is fair and just?
- Do employees expect fairness and justice, or do they also expect the worst, while hoping for the best?
- Does being a good boss honor God in a similar manner as being a good employee?
- Can a boss exceed expectations, as well?
- Are the Christian leaders at your job known for fairness and justice? Should they be? Are you?
Many employers assume their employees will be lazy and dishonest. When Christians are honest and hardworking, they exceed their employer’s expectations and thus honor Christ. In similar manner, employers who are fair and just are also exceeding expectations and honoring Christ.
Both Christian employers and Christian employees are “carrying a message” to the world.
May all of us who carry the message of Jesus be known for doing our jobs and doing them well!
NOTE: This post is adapted from my Life’s Big Questions Series, which encourages readers to examine all of life’s questions in the light of Scripture.
Whether used for personal devotions, as family discussion guides, or in a study group, this series provides an invaluable resource for enhancing your spiritual walk.