When I was about to graduate from high school in 1976, someone in the class was putting together a list of “Senior Predictions”. Mine was kind of amusing. Whoever wrote it knew me well. They predicted that in ten years I would add, “Good afternoon” to my usual greeting of “Good morning”.
Flash forward ten years. I am a Soldier in Basic Training at Fort Jackson, South Carolina, learning how to give the “greeting of the day” to an officer or NCO that I meet while walking outside.
The task is simple. If it is an officer, I initiate the greeting with, “Good morning (or afternoon), Sir (or Ma’am)” and give a salute. If it is an NCO, I would say, “Good morning (or afternoon), Sergeant (or First Sergeant, or Sergeant Major).” The key to success is doing it at the right time before they pass. You must be close enough to identify their rank and gender and give them time to respond.
Flash forward 36 years. I am now a retired Master Sergeant and a Department of the Army Civilian, working at one of our Army training centers. A few weeks ago, while walking down the hall in the next wing from where I work, I passed a Sergeant Major I did not know. I greeted him with a “Good morning, Sergeant Major!” He responded in kind. It felt really good and right. It got me to thinking about how important this greeting is to build a culture of dignity and respect in the workplace.
I would like to take a fresh look at this from a biblical and theological perspective. I will begin by highlighting what greeting God might look like. Then I will describe the blessings that greeting others brings to them as we acknowledge their presence and look for opportunities to serve them.
Greeting God as the day begins
I was recently reminded of the words of a great hymn as I listened to Christian music on the way to work. “Holy, holy, holy, Lord God almighty! Early in the morning my song shall rise to thee.”
When we begin the day with “Good morning, Lord!” instead of “Good Lord, it’s morning”, we will probably have a much better day. When your first waking thought is to acknowledge God’s presence with you, it sets the tone to abide in the presence of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit all day long.
Psalm 5:1-3 is a great Scripture that clearly shows what I have stated. David begins with a sincere prayer to Yahweh, asking Him to listen and consider his lament he is about to share. He describes the words he is using as a “groaning” and a “cry”. He is offering this prayer to God in the morning.
Brother Lawrence, in the book Practicing the Presence of God, illustrated this idea of inviting God’s presence into his workplace. “At the beginning of my duties I would say to the Lord with confidence, ‘My God, since You are with me, and since, by Your will, I must occupy myself with external things, please grant me the grace to remain with You, in Your presence. Work with me, so that my work might be the very best. Receive as an offering of love both my work and all my affections.’”
A greeting can build relationships
An exchange of good mornings between two coworkers is a great way to begin a conversation. It may lead to asking them, “How are you doing?” or, “I haven’t seen you in a while. How are the kids, grandkids, wife, etc.?” It can open up doors for us to show compassion and love to our neighbors.
Greeting our coworkers and others we work with is even more important than greeting those we do not know just as a courtesy. When we do this consistently with our bosses, peers, and subordinates, this deepens the connections we have with them, and provides opportunities to minister to them if we notice something may not be right. (I invite you to read another article I wrote and posted on my blog on several lessons I learned at work where I shared my unique concept of 360-degree mentoring.)
Just like the Soldier who learns that the subordinate is responsible to give the greeting of the day to his or her superior, so we too, as servants of the Lord, need to consider others more important than ourselves. (See Phil. 2:3-4.) Jesus said that those who wanted to be great in God’s kingdom needed to become servants of all. (See Mark 10:44-45.) This illustrates humility.
A greeting can acknowledge the presence of those who feel invisible
In addition to blessing those with whom we work every day, perhaps there are others we should greet.
In the OT Law we read about the plight of the leper. For legitimate medical reasons, their highly contagious condition led them to be considered unclean. (See Lev. 13: 45-46.) They were isolated from Jewish society. And yet, Jesus made numerous efforts to touch them and bring them healing.
There are many people for a variety of reasons are somewhat invisible. (See article on my blog.) For example, among students at a university, there will be the uneducated in their midst, perhaps doing custodial work. Working at the successful business will be those who are not so successful. In the midst of the beautiful, young, and healthy, will be those who are less than attractive, old, and sick. These kinds of people tend to be overlooked at work, in our neighborhoods, and even in church.
However, these are the people that Jesus was drawn to: the least, the last, and the lost. Could we not reach out to them, like Jesus did? How easy would it be to acknowledge their presence with a hello?
When you give someone a cheerful greeting, you may give them a much-needed blessing in ways that you may not realize at the time. My wife recently went to a McDonald’s to get an Egg McMuffin because she had to be out of the house early. The gal at the window gave her such a warm, heartfelt, and joyful greeting that it lifted her spirits after a long, hard week in getting our house ready to sell.
I trust that these concepts will motivate you to pause and greet those who may need what you have.
About the author:
Russell E. Gehrlein (Master Sergeant, U.S. Army, Retired) is a Christian, husband of 41 years, father of three, grandfather of five, and author of the book, Immanuel Labor – God’s Presence in our Profession: A Biblical, Theological, and Practical Approach to the Doctrine of Work, published by WestBow Press in February 2018. He is an ordinary man who is passionate about helping ordinary people experience God’s presence and integrate their Christian faith at work. Russ received a B.S. in Mathematics from Colorado State University in 1980 and an M.A. in Biblical Studies from Grand Rapids Theological Seminary in 2015. He is a former junior/senior high school math and science teacher and youth minister. He served 20 years on active duty. Russ works as a Department of the Army civilian at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri. Since 2015, he has written 180 articles on faith and work topics. Ninety of these have been published on several Christian organization’s websites, including: the Center for Faith & Work at LeTourneau University, Institute for Faith, Work & Economics, Coram Deo, Nashville Institute for Faith + Work, Made to Flourish, The Gospel Coalition, and Christian Grandfather Magazine. (See complete list of published articles on Linktree.)