Doing Good at the Workplace

Doing Good at the Workplace

Al Diestlekamp

    In Writing to Titus, the apostle Paul said “And let our people also learn to maintain good works” (Tit. 3:14). He was not referring to benevolent deeds, but to the occupation we choose. Thus, Christians need to choose careers which are “good,” and which meet “urgent needs.” In other words, we need to do something which is both honorable and useful.

       There are some occupations which do not involve the worker in evil, but might not be “useful.” When I was about to graduate from high school, in anticipation of seeking employment in the printing industry, I took a tour of a major Chicago newspaper printing plant. At one point I was shown a whole department where workers were busy setting type and composing advertisements for the paper. A sign indicated we were in the “Bogus Department.” I asked what that meant, and was told that some advertisers supplied their own ad makeup, eliminating the need for the newspaper company to provide that service. However, because of a union contract, they were required to hire people to set the type, compose the ads, proofread them and then destroy them. These were jobs which served no useful purpose beyond their own paychecks. The Christian will want to do something which will be beneficial to others.

       The one who once chose dishonest means to making a living is commanded to “steal no longer, but rather let him labor, working with his hands” (Eph. 4:28). However, not only must we choose careers or jobs that are useful and honest, but the Bible teaches us to be diligent in our work.

       The Bible was written in such a way as to be relevant for every age. While we are fortunate to live in a time and place where slavery is unlawful, that has not always been the case, and in some parts of the world slavery still exists. Therefore, we should not be surprised that the Bible has admonitions for both slaves and masters.

       Though we are not faced with slavery issues, the principles within these instructions can help guide us to be godly employees or employers. If God expects a servant or slave to obey his master, “in sincerity of heart, as to Christ” (Eph. 6:5-8), I would think we can  reasonably infer that He expects the same of one who is an employee. When one serves his employer “as to the Lord, and not to men” (v.7), even drudgery can be rewarding.

       Christians are admonished to “mind your own business, and to work with your own hands” (I Thess. 4:11-12). That wisdom imparted to Solomon tells us that “The sleep of a laboring man is sweet” (Eccl. 5:12).

       There are some employers that are unreasonable and harsh. Fortunately, unlike slavery, we have the righteous option of finding other work. Until we choose that option, the biblical principle calls for us to “be submissive...not only to the good and gentle, but also to the harsh” (I Pet. 2:18).

One of the greatest points of contention between employees and employers is over wages. Jesus told some soldiers to “be content with your wages” (Lk. 3:14). This was right after He told tax collectors not to collect more than what was owed. Soldiers may have had opportunities to defraud people through intimidation and false accusations in order to supplement their incomes from bribes. What He was calling for was honesty. When a Christian’s income is inadequate any attempts to increase his pay must be honest and without intimidation.

Just as employees should apply principles from biblical directives to servants, those who are employers ought to treat their employees with the same respect and care as masters were told to have toward their servants. The Bible endorses the concept that “the laborer is worthy of his wages” (I Tim. 5:18). That is a mandate from God to all employers and those in management positions.

Though the Old Testament is not our law for today, several passages reveal God’s unchanging attitude. God clearly expects wages to be paid on time (Lev. 19:13). He pronounced a woe on one who “uses his neighbor’s service without wages and gives him nothing for his work” (Jer. 22:13), and judgment “against those who exploit wage earners” (Mal. 3:5). Employers should heed the warning, for “Indeed, the wages of the laborer…and the cries of the reapers have reached the ears of the Lord of Sabaoth” (Jas. 5:4).

Jesus said it best: “Therefore, whatever you want men to do to you, do also to them…” (Matt. 7:12). Ideally, this rule should be applied to both the worker and the employer, resolving all disputes. Certainly the Christian, whether an employee or employer, will be doing good if he acts accordingly.