I have never been good at discipline. My kids knew that and they sometimes took advantage of me. It’s not necessarily the discipline that I try to avoid, it’s the confrontation that usually happens as a result. When it comes to discipline, someone is most likely going to end up unhappy. But, as a business owner, a mother, and even as a Christian, discipline is a must. One of the biggest lessons the Lord has taught me about running a business that has also applied to my life is that I am not on this earth to please people, I am on this earth to please Him. He doesn’t call me to bend to the feelings and emotions of others, He created me to bend and bow before Him. I must obey Him in all things, whether in my personal life, or my professional life.
But, how do we do as leaders, as business owners, or even as parents discipline the way God wants us to? Discipline, as we are all aware, is a part of life and throughout the Bible we are called as faithful followers of Christ to discipline those who are gone astray from the truth; to discipline our children to keep them in the ways of the Lord, and so on. But it’s hard. It is hard to discipline someone when you are concerned about their feelings, what they might think about you, or even what they might say to you. This question of how to discipline those who work for my company came up when I was faced with an issue in regards to the relationships of my people, the ones who work together within my company. I knew it needed to be resolved because it was affecting the way we do business. However, I was not sure how to do it, or even how to approach the issue. What if this person gets mad and quits? What if this person gets mad and speaks out against me? What is this person doesn’t like me anymore? I did the one thing God has taught me is the best thing to do in a situation like this- I prayed.
“Walk in wisdom toward outsiders, making the best use of the time. Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.” Colossians 4:5-6 ESV
In verse 1 of chapter 4 Paul tells us “masters” to treat the slaves justly and fairly, not showing preference to one above the other. Now, I do not have slaves, but I do have people in my employ and no matter who they are, what they do, or what their title is, I have a responsibility to treat them justly and fairly, the same way Jesus treats me.
Most of the people who work for me are not Christians. There are a few of them that are, a few that claim to be and a few who follow other religions. But I am a Christian, and God asks me to be a light to all, not just some, but all, even those who work for me. I am not only to be a light to them, but I am to be an example as well. Even in the way I discipline them, I am to be an example.
Paul gives us some tools we can apply to our lives when it comes to discipline, for not only those who work for us, but for those we love, and those we care about. First, Paul tells us to “walk in wisdom.” Walking in wisdom does not mean that we have all the answers, are all knowing and all seeing. What Paul describes here as walking in wisdom is a choice to always keep Christ in the forefront of all our dealings with those who are not of the faith. It means that not only in our actions but in our words Christ is to be the focus and the center of our conversations with others. People see Jesus through you and in you. We can feed all the poor in our city and do marvelous things for people, but if you are not gracious and kind in your words to them, then all your works have been for naught. Your works will have more impact when your words are kind and generous. Our speech is going to either be a light to those who sit in darkness, or a brick we bang their heads upon.
Paul then goes on to tell us that we must “let” our speech be gracious. Anytime the word let is used, it reminds us that we have a choice. As you sit down to discipline, or to speak to someone about their behaviors, remember that you have a choice before you. You have a choice to bring Christ to the forefront or leave Him in the back row. You have a choice in what you say and how you say it. You have to choose to let your speech be gracious. The way we treat others in our speech is just as important as the way we treat them with our deeds. Sometimes, what we say to them will have a greater impact on their lives than what we do for them. Sometimes it’s our words that turn people away long before our actions have a say.
Whether its discipline, conversations with friends, family or your co-workers; we would be mindful to heed Paul’s words. Our words need to be guided by the same kindness that God has bestowed upon us. His word exhorts us to turn to Jesus. His word encourages us to increase our faith, knowledge and understanding of Him. His word teaches us, guides us, corrects us and loves us through Jesus Christ our Lord. Our words should be gracious, even in the midst of discipline, our words should point them back to Christ.
Not everyone is going to like what you have to say. That is a fact and a truth that we must all face sooner or later. Our words, our actions and our lives are going to offend someone. Jesus did not walk on this earth without giving offense, and neither will we. But God does not call us to live to please man, He calls us to live to please Him. Your speech today is just as important as the works you do tomorrow. The old Christian Hymn tells us that they will know us by our love, but I also think they will know us by our words. Be gracious therefore to those who are outside, making the best use of your time. Discipline them, love them, and walk in wisdom towards them. They might not like you today, but if it brings them to Christ, they will thank you in eternity. Amen?