Profiles

What if Jesus were your next customer?

Interview by Karen Tan // January 7, 2018, 10:07 am

lucas chow

Lucas Chow needs no introduction in the corporate world. After working in Hewlett-Packard for 20 years, he assumed various chief executive positions in SingTel Mobile, MediaCorp and Far East Orchard.

He was conferred the National Day Public Service medal in 2015 and was on the board of directors for the Health Promotion Board Singapore and the Board of Trustees of National University Singapore until March this year.

But there is another role Lucas cherishes that seldom makes it to his résumé: Disciple of Jesus Christ.

 

Salt&Light caught up with Lucas on his thoughts and experiences of work as service.

Lucas, what is your interpretation of work as service unto the Lord?

Colossians 3:23-24 says: “Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ.”

And Ephesians 6:7-8 says: “Serve wholeheartedly, as if you were serving the Lord, not people, because you know that the Lord will reward each one for whatever good they do, whether they are slave or free.”

Before I share about my understanding of the phrase, please allow me to talk a little about my take on work.

Work in a broader sense covers our daily activities, which are not necessarily just confined to the office or workplace. It includes household chores, looking after the children or our parents, and volunteering to serve others.

Consider the key essentials of daily living, namely clothing, food, our home, transportation and medical care. Few of us are directly involved in creating and providing them.

Hundreds, if not thousands, work along the delivery chain before the goods and services reach us. All “work” is essential to serve and provide for the world.

As a Christian, I see work as God working through us to serve and take care of His creation, in particular human beings.

As a Christian, I see work as God working through us to serve and take care of His creation, in particular human beings.

Work, therefore, is a form of service that God allows us to perform for Him.

So what should our attitude towards work be?

If you are working as an investment banker giving advice to your clients and if Jesus is your next client, what investment advice would you give Him? Will you not suggest investment ideas not only sound but moral?

If you are working as a hotel chambermaid and if Jesus is the next guest to stay in the room that you are cleaning, what would you do? Would you not do your best to make sure that the room is clean and comfortable for the Lord’s stay?

If you are working in sales or advertising and if your target customer is Jesus, what would you say to Him? Would you not be truthful about your product and services?

If you are preparing a dinner for your family and friends, and Jesus is coming to dinner, how would you prepare the food? Would you not do your best to prepare a perfect meal?

Regardless of our occupation, if we work wholeheartedly as if serving the Lord, I think our attitude towards work and the outcome of our labour would be quite different. And the world will be a much better place.

Some would ask if it is even viable, practical and actionable to treat secular work as service unto the Lord?

Take the example of the hotel chambermaid. There are daily targets of numbers of rooms that require cleaning. Of course there’ll be unforeseen circumstances like customers requesting late checkout, causing a problem in the cleaning schedule.

The temptation is to take the short cut like cleaning the whole room, including the toilet, with one single towel without rinsing, or sweeping the trash underneath the bed. That would save some time. After all, no one would know and even the supervisor wouldn’t be able to tell.

But we know that our God sees everything even when no one does.

If our attitude is to treat work as service unto to Lord and it is His wish to work through us to take care of His creation, then we will have to go the extra mile to do our best for the job even though it may cause inconvenience or even some form of sacrifice.

When did you first adopt this principle for your life?

I can’t remember exactly when I first adopted this principle but I can recall the challenges I faced.

It happened shortly after I became a Christian and I was working for Hewlett-Packard (HP). The challenge is to change from a self-centred, me-first attitude to an others-first perspective, and from people serving me to my serving people.

I was responsible for the Singapore Printer Operation (SPO) at that time. In spite of the fact that we were doing fine, the company decided to shut down the operation in Singapore.

I was faced with the difficult task of finding jobs for my people and myself. It wasn’t an easy decision to make it a priority to find jobs for my team first when I was uncertain about my own future.

Through reading of the Scripture, prayers and wise counsel from people around me, I thank God that He gave me the courage to make the right decision and I managed to find jobs for everyone before considering my own.

It was almost as if God closed the door at HP so that He could lead me to a new door and opportunities.

I had worked almost 20 years in HP at that time and was enjoying a relatively successful career in the company. I thought I would retire there (as many others thought).

But with the shutdown, I was blessed with the opportunity to join SingTel and subsequently MediaCorp and Far East Orchard. This became a critical milestone in my career.

Looking back on your career, how has this principle of “work as service” helped you?

I struggled to live up to the principle of treating work as service and I still do. In this time and age, adopting the attitude of work as service is not common.

This made me stand out as the oddball. People around me, Christians included, may not understand when I say, as their leader, that I am here to serve instead of being served.

And whenever I stepped out of line from this principle, I thank God that the people around me pointed this out to me so that I could correct my mistakes.

About the author

Interview by Karen Tan

Karen was a producer at Asia Business News (Singapore), Bloomberg News and CNBC Asia. She subsequently joined the Far East Organisation to oversee corporate social responsibility. Karen is now Associate Editor at Salt & Light.