Moral Quandaries in the Workplace: Vice
The ‘shop window’ of every workplace looks pristine and morally impeccable. Many companies and employers present an image of consummate professionalism; however, behind the polished exterior there are a few skeletons lurking. Since the Bible teaches the depravity of man, we should not be surprised to see corruption and vice in every area of life - workplace included.
This article is using the word vice in a very broad way, meaning crooked or wrong behaviour. This article is not suggesting that every workplace operates like the Italian mafia; but it does contend that wherever we work we need to be on guard against questionable behaviour that inevitably marks every sphere of employment. The different vices we face, may seem innocuous and subtle, but as Christians we should aim to live above reproach.
To some the idea of theft might conjure in their minds the image of a man in a balaclava holding up a bank - and so, because we don’t fit that bill, we can easily wash our hands of the issue. However, theft can take different forms and we need to be especially careful in employment that we don’t take company time, information and resources. It is for good reason that most companies have clocking in systems, a hierarchical checking procedure and 3rd party inspections. Since human nature is crooked, it can be all too easy to take what belongs to someone else. To such Paul says “let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labor, doing honest work with his own hand” (Eph 4:28, ESV). As our personal lives become all the more intertwined with our corporate lives the lines can become blurred about who owns what. However, our motivation at work should be one of giving our all to the company. We should be viewed as those who work hard, not as those who exploit. We should be thinking about what we can do – not what we can take. Again, Paul tells us that “whatsoever ye do, labour at it heartily, as doing it to the Lord, and not to men” (Col 3:23, DBY). Others might have no conscience of taking company possessions however small, but we should be known as transparent and honest in everything we do.
Inevitably most workplaces have some sort of social scene. Getting to know others on a personal level is helpful, and certainly has witnessing opportunities. However, the difficulty comes when socialising involves drinking and partying. The motto ‘work hard, play hard’ is not one that the Christian should adopt. Rather we should remember the motto of the apostle who said; “bad company ruins good morals” (1 Cor 15:33, ESV). As Christians we can have a testimony in the workplace by abstaining from certain activities, we should not walk as the Gentiles do (Eph 4:17); the bar and the club is not a place we should frequent. However, we need not become monastic in our approach to individuals in the workplace. Certainly, there are places that we can’t go, but we should remember that the Lord was one who mixed with tax collectors and sinners (Lk 5:30). A lunchtime dinner, a break-time stroll or an out of hours coffee with a colleague can certainly be an opportunity to share the gospel or show an interest in a lost soul. Let us try and maintain the balance of being sanctified in our character and conversation, as well as, abstaining from the socialising hotspots of the world.
When writing about this particular vice Joseph in Egypt comes immediately to mind as day after day (Gen 39:10), Potiphar’s wife sought to entice and ensnare him. The world may laugh at such temptation, but the apostle is pointed in his injunction to every Christian to “flee … youthful lusts” (2 Tim 2:22) and “flee fornication” (1 Cor 6:18). There is nothing to be gained by waiting around for temptation to overtake you. Joseph did all he could to physically remove himself from a highly compromising situation (Gen 39:12). This was no time for chivalry or courtesy – he would rather lose his coat, than his character and testimony. A different job, a demotion, a change of department is better than the unwanted advances of a tempter. Follow Joseph, and get out.
Solomon said “wealth gotten by vanity shall be diminished: but he that gathereth by labour shall increase” (Pr 13:11). This verse certainly applies to the vice of gambling that goes on in many workplaces. It could be that your’e asked to contribute to the communal lottery fund or some wager that is going on. People in the world do so, pinning their hopes on money as an answer to their needs. However as Christians we do not need to love money, our hopes are set on concrete and eternal realities. Our future is sure, we don’t need to dabble in the fleeting treasures of the world. This is another example where by our abstinence and an informed explanation we can testify to the joy of eternal life. By our actions we can witness that we rely on the Lord to supply every need - “let your conversation be without covetousness; and be content with such things as ye have” (Heb 13:5).
Every sphere of employment has some form of vice to avoid. The world may “think it strange that ye run not with them to the same excess of riot, speaking evil of you.” (1 Pet 4:4), but we do well to remember that we seek the approval of the Lord and not men. It can be easy to get lured into and ensnared by the standards of the world, but may the Lord gives us all help to be “blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world” (Phil 2:15).