The Christian in the Workplace: As an Employee

Employers, small business people and executives are not the only ones who face difficult decisions in the workplace. The changing and complex “global economy” has brought many changes to the local factory, office and shop. Our brother has offered some very helpful suggestions which will certainly stimulate your thinking.

General Comments

Off to work! These words may elicit a whole range of emotions, varying with individuals and their work environment. Some with exciting motivation eagerly bound out of the house, back to “the job,,, and the day passes quickly while having fun. Others drag themselves out of bed in the morning with a hot sweat as they think of going back to face the ordeal ahead. Many will be somewhere in between on any given day.

Before the fall, God placed Adam alone in the garden of delights (Gen 2:15) “to work it and to watch” (Septuagint), suggesting a pleasant task with a predictable, great result. God was therefore the first Employer or Master (Col 4:1). He delegated to Adam defined authority and responsibility for the care of the garden and also the generous remuneration, “of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat…” But only 3 chapters later (Gen 5:28-29), Lamech says concerning his newborn son Noah, “This same shall comfort us concerning our work and toil of our hands, because of the ground which the Lord hath curse.” God’s judgment on the workplace, because of Adam’s transgression, had indeed come to pass: “In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread till thou return unto the ground” (Gen 3:19), and it is the basic explanation for the difficulties faced by employees to this day.

Abraham in Gen 24 and Laban in Gen 29-31 are examples of the best and worst kinds of bosses, respectively, with the resulting best and worst kinds of working environments. The servant of Gen 24 shows how exciting and enriching work can be when it is properly defined, delegated and entrusted, and when the employee acts responsibly, obediently and thoughtfully. Alternatively, Laban’s deceit and unpredictability and Jacob’s responses show not only poor management/employee relations, but also how God is able to judge situations and deal effectively with them, causing loss to the unjust and rewarding the just.

As we move through the 1990’s, the causes of sweat, worry and negative stress are multiplied and complex, and God’s people everywhere are affected. “Labans” continue to inflict pain. As technology drives change at an ever-increasing pace, organizations and governments are forced to re-engineer their processes and re-think their goals. People’s lives become disrupted and forced down avenues that are new and strange, often affecting where one must work, live and fellowship. In short, every aspect of our lives may be affected, not to mention the local assemblies. As these changes have taken place, many young people emerging from schools and universities have found a cold and harsh reception when job-seeking. They have been termed the forgotten generation”.

The circumstances referred to above, and many others, have brought challenges for the faith of God’s elect. Is God able to provide jobs for His people in the 90’s? Does the Lord really care when circumstances shout “perishing!”?

Specific Issues

How do I know where to work? The question raises the subject of guidance in the Bible. There are general and specific principles for guidance. We can be sure the Lord is very concerned where we work. Proverbs 3:1-10 lists general conditions for guidance: vl) Obeying God’s word; v3) Developing godly, balanced character, mercy and truth; v5) Trusting and acknowledging the Lord; v7) Fearing the Lord; v9) Honoring the Lord by giving of your income. The promises of blessings are five as well and include: v4) Favor with God and man and v6) He shall direct thy paths – just what a person needs when seeking employment! Specific guidance includes 1) Prayer (Jas 4:2), 2) Confidence in God, (Psa 23) The Lord IS my shepherd, I shall not want; 3) Putting out “the fleece”, like Gideon. That is, apply for the job(s) and ask the Lord to show you the right or wrong one by shutting or opening doors. Then trust Him for the results. He IS your shepherd. He DOES care. He IS able. Don’t forget to thank Him. The preceding conditions preclude a job that will force you out of the Lord’s general will. Would the Lord guide me contrary to His own word? Is an assembly near at hand where I may fellowship? Will the job itself lead me to compromise obedience to the Lord? These are general principles but the Lord does exceptional things under unusual circumstances. Our responsibility is to do what we know to be His will.

What if the boss asks me to do something questionable?

When this occurs, the issue may or may not be clear when it happens. Ask your boss for clarification. Often, misunderstandings occur in communications. If clear, pray a short prayer like Nehemiah and respond kindly but firmly, giving a “reason of the hope within you with meekness and fear”. If still not clear, “buy time” (Dan.1:12) by promising a response later. This will give you time to ponder the issues involved, pray about it and seek help from the Bible. If you are still uncertain, approach a godly elder or trusted Christian friend who is more mature, and ask for his help to make a decision. Once the issue is clear, respond, as you promised, but carefully Ask the Lord to deal with the boss and change his mind if necessary. See Daniel 3:16-18. Be prepared to accept the consequences!

What about unions?

Working for an employer with a union that requires your membership and dues is a matter of individual faith and conscience. I Cor. 7:21-24 seems to apply here. But if you can work without union membership it is preferable. The difficulty arises when a strike or “work-to-rule” happens. Such action violates Eph 6:5 and Col 3:22. Many union/employer relationships are good and the employer is content in it because the contract clarifies many issues and is a forum for communication.

What about contributing to “good causes” where a raffle is involved?

People do many good and beneficial things to help those in need, etc. We do not despise such either privately or in the preaching of the Gospel. But motivation for and association with such work are the issues for a Christian. If done for any motive other than love to the Lord, no reward from Him is forthcoming (I Cor.13). If the “cause” is mixed with a spirit of covetousness, it is wrong, and the Christian should refuse. Far better to give and refuse any “raffle ticket”, contributing with no element of “gambling” for a prize.