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|Right and Wrong in
by Jim Truesdell
Are ethics so easily sacrificed today as simply "doing business"? Do you find that, as our society has moved away from absolute standards of right and wrong, it has become increasingly difficult for you to live your faith in the 9-to-5 world?
Our Lord Jesus was no stranger to the working world. Most of His life on earth probably was spent working in a small, family business. As He learned His trade in Joseph's carpentry shop in Nazareth, He probably faced many of the same situations workers always face. He had to please His customers, meet deadlines, set fair prices, pay His suppliers and, perhaps, even hire and manage workers.
Jesus understands our lives as working people, and He provides guidance for us in the Bible.
Still, we live and work in 2lst-century American increasingly impersonal, technological world with constant opportunities and pressures to take the expedient, self-serving path to succeed in business and career - whatever it takes. Are the guidelines we leaned from our parents, church and the Bible still practical in the adversarial environment of today's business world? It seems that loving your neighbor and putting others' interests before your own is a prescription for career failure.
We can be tempted to live a double life - to live by Christian principles with family and friends, but to adopt different standards of behavior on the job.
Making moral decisions
As a Christian in the workplace, you face many moments of truth when you must decide whether or not you will live out your faith in actions. Maybe it's an illegal or unethical order from your boss. Perhaps it's pressure from an important customer to skirt the lines of propriety, or to cut corners on safety or the environment. And you certainly can't work with other people without being tempted to join in the occasional cruel ostracism of a fellow worker.
As an employee, you may face temptations to take advantage of expense accounts, to accept bribes or simply to slack off on the job.
As an employer, you may face temptations to take credit for the work of others, to be unfair in sharing business success with employees, or to show inappropriate favoritism in setting wages or dealing with disciplinary problems.
Where do you turn for strength and guidance? Making God-pleasing decisions in your work life can be made easier by taking these steps:
As an employee you should treat your employer with respect and serve honestly as steward of company resources.
As an employer you purchase the labor of the employee - not the employee. Show Christ's love to all those who work for you.
But sometimes we will pay a price for putting another's interests first. That is a cost of living our Christian principles. We are storing up treasures in heaven rather than amassing earthly riches.
Jesus gave us a powerful lesson about His priorities in life when He washed His disciples feet. As He was about to lead them to undertake the great mission, He showed them that true leadership could be demonstrated through humble and caring acts.
In the story of Mary and Martha, Jesus speaks about the priority of the spiritual side of life versus work (daily chores). In chiding Martha for her insistence on completing chores rather than sitting with Mary listening to Him, Jesus is not condemning work; He is instructing us to put it in its proper place and time.
Temptation and forgiveness
In Christian Ethics in the Workplace co-author Dr. Philip Lochhaas says that a source of conflict for Christians is when our actions are evaluated in the light of our postmodern society, "an age in which truth, reality and morals are at best only relative; they are no more or less than a person perceives them to be."
For example, one might have grown up with friends and family who openly viewed employers and businesses as greedy opportunists, thereby justifying shoplifting, cheating or embezzling.
Avoid situations that place these temptations before you. Seek business associates who are men and women of integrity.
Because our places of work are full of strife and conflict, it is easy to be angry toward fellow workers, a supervisor, a rival, a competitor - anyone you feel has unfairly frustrated your efforts or plans. Forgiving them can be hard, especially if they do not believe they need forgiveness. But you have received God's forgiveness through Christ's sacrifice on the cross. You show your thanks to Him by forgiving others for His sake. Opening your heart in such a way reminds you of your own sins and shortcomings and of your constant need for self-examination and repentence.
In Christ you have a Savior who understands your problems and walks with you to bring His ways into your place of work.
Jim Truesdell is a member of St. Paul's Lutheran Church, Des Peres, Mo.
Reprinted with permission from The Lutheran Witness, February 2002. You can subscribe to The Lutheran Witness by calling 1-800-325-3381.
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