By Bret Bernhardt
We talk a lot about influencing our culture in the macro, but what about closer to home? What’s the culture like in your office? Is it warm, friendly, selfless, welcoming, and open? Or is it coarse, backstabbing, self-serving, and overly ambitious?
Now, what is your role in that culture? Do you strive to bring it to a higher level or do your actions or inactions contribute to an unhealthy environment? We can look for the answer in the words of Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount.
He said, “You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot.” (Matthew 5:13) What does this mean?
Salt is a preservative, intended to prevent the decay of what it saturates. Likewise, Jesus is calling on us to saturate our surroundings to preserve that which is good and healthy.
Jesus’ words assume that there is something to preserve. You may be thinking you can’t see anything worth preserving. Others may say they see your point and there are some areas worth preserving but mostly not.
As we look at the world around us, we find it in a constant state of decay. However, from God’s perspective, through Jesus’s death on the cross and resurrection from the grave three days later, He conquered this decay and is in the process of redeeming the world around us. Our role is to preserve that which God created and intended for His creation.
Are you salt and light in your office and to those around you? If the answer is yes, or you desire to be yes, then you can be a much greater influence than you might expect. The work of the believer is definitely felt, but not always visible. This is the way it should be.
“Are you salt and light in your office and to those around you?”
This was best described by the former Chaplain of the Senate, Richard Halverson. He described the community of believers, the church, in the form of salt in a glass shaker. In its dormant form, when it’s inactive, it is visible in the shaker.
But, when it’s doing it’s job and is sprinkled into its surroundings, it disappears and becomes invisible as it flavors and preserves. Like salt, we are typically best used of the Lord when His work through us invisibly flavors the environment in which we live and work.
What this looks like in practice is found in scripture. Here’s a snapshot of five characteristics of a staffer who brings salt and light to work:
1) Be a team player. To be clear, this does not mean compromising your beliefs or principles. But be willing to partner with others to accomplish a common goal or mission.
We live in an age where the loners and rogues are idealized. However, this is a losing proposition in practice. Those who are willing to help others succeed find the most purpose and value in life.
2) Be honest. Let your ‘yes’ be yes and your ‘no’ be no, as found in Matthew 5:37. There’s no gain in guessing the answer to a question when you don’t know the answer. It’s okay to say, “I don’t know but I’ll find out.” Your senator or representative, or staff manager, will be well served if you do.
3) Be supportive of others on your staff. Everyone needs help from time to time. Be there for them when they need it, even if it costs you in time or resources. You’ll be gaining riches in friendship.
4) KMS. This stands for “Keep Mouth Shut,” a practical axiom I learned from Senate Chaplain Barry Black. We are often tempted to engage in office gossip, using an abundance of words to impress, responding in anger, or belittling a coworker.
“There’s no gain in guessing the answer to a question when you don’t know the answer. It’s okay to say, “I don’t know but I’ll find out.””
Instead, guard your tongue or follow the admonition of Ephesians 4:29, “Let no evil talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for edifying, as fits the occasion, that it may impart grace to those who hear.”
5) Be prepared to give the reason for your hope. Your life itself is a witness to others as you practice being salt and light. But there are times you will be asked about the source of your joy and peace, either in the form of an honest question or a challenge.
With 1 Peter 3:15, the Lord provides us guidance: “Always be prepared to make a defense to anyone who calls you to account for the hope that is in you. Yet, do it with gentleness and reverence.”
This is just a sampling of what it means to be salt and light in your office. But, reading and meditating on the Word of God will give you an abundance of ways to accomplish this and bring life and freedom to those around you, including yourself.
Bret Bernhardt served on the Hill as chief of staff to senators Don Nickles of Oklahoma and Jim DeMint of South Carolina. He is now a member of the board of directors of Faith & Law and the Conservative Partnership Institute.