The book of Proverbs may have been written centuries ago for an agrarian Middle Eastern society, but its wisdom isn’t bound by the confines of the “B.C.” era or the lifestyle of the ancient Israelites. From marriage to money to food, this book has something relevant to say about numerous aspects of living right—a compendium of biblical life hacks, if you will. One area in which the book of Proverbs offers a lot of insight is work.
Work comprises a major part of most of our lives. Wouldn’t we all like to say we’re good employees? Whether our work is agrarian like the Israelites’, industrial, corporate, or something else entirely, we can glean a surprising amount of solid advice about how to work well from various proverbs.
Here are five favorites to take to heart to become a better employee.
1. Take criticism graciously
“To one who listens, valid criticism is like a gold earring or other gold jewelry.” — Proverbs 25:12 (NLT)
In the moment, taking criticism rarely feels like being given a gift—it usually feels more like a slap in the face—but with the right attitude, criticism from a co-worker or boss truly can become constructive. We all make mistakes, and we all have blind spots. Gaining awareness of our missteps is an opportunity for growth and improvement. The miracle of perspective turns an affront into a gift of precious gold.
2. Stay out of office gossip
“A gossip goes around telling secrets, so don’t hang around with chatterers.” — Proverbs 20:19 (NLT)
Workplace gossip can be tempting. When juicy secrets about your boss or rumors of the upcoming corporate shakedown get passed around, it can be hard to tune out. But the more you hang around with gossipers, the more susceptible you become to getting gossiped about yourself. After all, if a co-worker unloads to you in whispered tones about others, they’re probably doing the same about you, too. Making a commitment to keep yourself out of such discussions sends a message to everyone around you about your integrity. Plus, when you stay out of gossip, you won’t be burdened with information you didn’t really want to know.
3. Bring your company good
“[The wife of noble character] brings [her husband] good and not evil all the days of her life.” — Proverbs 31:12 (NASB)
Bringing your workplace good things is a win-win. It benefits from what you bring to the table (new business, positive representation in the marketplace, or just plain old outstanding day-to-day work), and you get recognition for being a rockstar.
So, put your thinking cap on: How could you go above and beyond to bring blessing to your organization? Do you have a great connection that could open doors? Is there an opportunity for distinction that your workplace could earn (like a grant, if you work for a non-profit, or an award of excellence, if you work for a school)? Could you organize a social or volunteer event to boost morale? Great things may result.
4. Take advantage of opportunities
“He who gathers in summer is a son who acts wisely, but he who sleeps in harvest is a son who acts shamefully.” — Proverbs 10:5 (NASB)
If this proverb had been written today, it might be summed up as “Don’t miss out.” When summertime comes, run, don’t walk, to get some of that harvest! Many jobs present seasons of opportunity. If you find yourself in a position you don’t love, try staying on the lookout for projects that could highlight your skills or fit your passions, even if they aren’t part of the on-paper job description. (And as long as they don’t take away from your regular work.) Eventually, this may make you stand out as the go-to employee for these tasks. Your job might even get upgraded to something more in line with your interests. Harvest time!
5. Give it your all
“Those who work their land will have abundant food, but those who chase fantasies have no sense.” — Proverbs 12:11 (NIV)
Especially in a less-than-satisfying job, dreaming about better things to come can feel like a relief. This proverb reminds us that hunkering down and doing the work in front of us at the moment yields more positive results than fantasizing about the future. It’s not wrong to dream big, but couple it with consistent hard work. Your efforts will develop character and lay the foundation for a successful career.
Doing well in the workplace is an ongoing journey. It’s so good to know God has given us a resource that’s always available for advice.
Originally published September 16, 2019.