Monday, July 30, 2012

Employment done God's Way

My wife, my "Christiana," if you are familiar with Pilgrim's Progress by John Bunyan, has reached a milestone or marker of sorts.  She's been nursing in one form or another for almost forty years now.  She's almost 60 years of age as well.  Employment at one agency has lasted four years running, the longest employment she's had since being married to me. 

But it's not been without pain.  Never being told you are doing a good job, always being told of your deficiencies, and seeing an office staff that once was on the top of their game descend into abysmally poor morale while their accreditation is currently in jeopardy is hard to take.  So it's time for her to go and work elsewhere.  It's not like I didn't counsel her to get out of there. . . I did that over and over for months on end.  It's due to her being fired. 

Now, regardless of whether or not the firing is justified or not, how ought one's attitude be toward an employer in this case?  Generally speaking before a firing, how ought an employee's attitude be?  How about that of the employer?  Does God have anything to say on the topic?  You betcha he does!

I used to have a yellow legal pad paper sheet entitled "Employer-Employee Relationships" that had a plethora of applicable scriptures on the topic at hand.  I gave that paper away years ago to a young, enterprising, personable, charismatic (in the relational, not theological sense) pastor friend, Todd DuBord.  Todd these days is the Chaplain to none other than Chuck Norris of Walker, Texas Ranger fame.  Check out what he's done on the subject of America as a nation with foundational beginnings in the Christian faith. . . quite a bit of good research, actually.  Good stuff that goes along with what David Barton of says.  Anyways, like I fool I was then, I didn't make a copy of my paper.  I sure would like to have it now.  Nevertheless, the Internet is your friend when it comes to the Bible and what it says on virtually any topic, including this one.  So I've been able to some degree recreate my list of verses to some extent below.  All passages from the ESV unless otherwise noted. 

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From Colossians 3:22-25:

Slaves, obey in everything those who are your earthly masters, not by way of eye-service, as people-pleasers, but with sincerity of heart, fearing the Lord. 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. For the wrongdoer will be paid back for the wrong he has done, and there is no partiality.

A lot of people forget that the Bible is replete with imagery concerning slaves and masters.  Why?  Because that was the way it was back then, for starters.  The bigger reason, though, is because in reality, if you belong to Jesus Christ, he is your Lord. . . that is, your Master. . . and you are his bondslave, as the Apostle Paul put it over and over in his letters.  That's right.  A master/slave relationship.  Not a bad thing if and only if you have a good master.  Jesus is in fact that good master.  Modern day 21st Century sensibilities and North American cultural views often occlude these facts. 

From Colossians 4:1:

Masters, treat your slaves justly and fairly, knowing that you also have a Master in heaven.

Aha!  Masters have a master too!  That's right. . . and one reason why it's important for a supervisor or manager, or executive not to become too arrogant in their business dealings involving employees.  They have someone to answer to, just like the employee does.  The Lord God Almighty himself.  So they'd better be just and fair now. . . or pay the price later before their master, the Lord.

From Ephesians 6:5-9:

Slaves, obey your earthly masters with fear and trembling, with a sincere heart, as you would Christ, not by the way of eye-service, as people-pleasers, but as servants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart, rendering service with a good will as to the Lord and not to man, knowing that whatever good anyone does, this he will receive back from the Lord, whether he is a slave or free. Masters, do the same to them, and stop your threatening, knowing that he who is both their Master and yours is in heaven, and that there is no partiality with him.

So. . . employees are to act as though they are working for Christ, servants of his, doing his will from the heart, and not any people pleasing (or watching the clock).  Whole different work attitude than what most encounter on the job.  Employers are to have true consideration for their employees with fear and trembling and a sincere heart, and stop their threatening, knowing that the Lord is impartial in judging all concerned.  That awareness of the Lord as everyone's judge puts a lot of bad behavior in its place, as it should.

From Leviticus 25:43:

You shall not rule over him ruthlessly but shall fear your God.

From Leviticus 19:13:

You shall not oppress your neighbor or rob him. The wages of a hired servant shall not remain with you all night until the morning.

From the last part of this verse one may infer correctly that prompt payment of wages is what pleases God.  Yet in modern day society, how many let pay accrue on a every two weeks or twice a month basis, much less monthly?  A whole lot.  See, it really should be pay at the end of the day like one pays a farmhand in agriculture.  How do I know that?  I've picked in the field for pay before.  Not afraid of work, you know.

From 1 Timothy 6:1:

Let all who are under a yoke as slaves regard their own masters as worthy of all honor, so that the name of God and the teaching may not be reviled.

Really, what it gets down to is this: recognize the earthly master or employer as in the place of the Lord himself, and treat him as such.  If one does, the name of God and the Scriptures of the Bible aren't called into disrepute. . . harmony and respect ensues.  A happy situation, instead of the rebellion and resistance people like the Occupy Wall Street crowd have done in the last year.

From Luke 3:14:

Soldiers also asked him, “And we, what shall we do?” And he said to them, “Do not extort money from anyone by threats or by false accusation, and be content with your wages.”

Being content with your wages is beginning to be a recovered art form once again in the face of a stagnant and uncertain economy.  People realize that they are blessed to have employment these days. . . any employment.  A chastened attitude towards obtaining wages is a good thing.

From Ecclesiastes 9:10:

Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might, for there is no work or thought or knowledge or wisdom in Sheol, to which you are going.

So give your work your all.  Do it with all your might, and don't hold back in your efforts.

From 1 Timothy 5:18:

For the Scripture says, “You shall not muzzle an ox when it treads out the grain,” and, “The laborer deserves his wages.”

Employers, don't hold back wages.  An uncertain economic stream of income increases irritability and anxiety, which you by a faithful rendering of accurate wages paid can eliminate.  No commission reductions to please the home office, kickbacks to the owner because he doesn't think you deserve the pay, and that ilk (and believe me, I can cite more personal examples here).  Be straightforward and honest in your accounting of pay.

From James 5:1-6, (Easy English):

“Now, you rich people, weep and cry aloud. There are terrible troubles that will soon be coming to you. Your riches have lost their value. Your beautiful clothes are as if moths had eaten them. Your gold and your silver have become dirty and stained. The dirt and stains will be evidence against you in the judgement. They are like poison that will eat up your bodies as with fire. That is because you have heaped up a lot of riches in these last days. Listen! You have not paid the wages of those who worked in your fields. The money you kept from them cries out to God against you. The Lord of all power has heard the cries of the workers. You have lived on earth in luxury. And you have had all that you wanted. You lived to please yourselves. You have made yourself fat, like animals ready for men to kill. You have accused. And you have caused the death of those who were innocent.”

It's not a sin to be rich, but it is a sin to have a wrong attitude towards workers (employees) and deliberately withhold wages due.  Pretty ugly picture here.  Dickensian imagery to boot.

From 2 Thessalonians 3:6-13 (Easy English)

“Brothers and sisters, keep away from Christians who are lazy. Such people do not live in the way that we taught you. We tell you to do this by the authority that the Lord Jesus Christ gives to us. You yourselves know very well that you should live as we did. We were not lazy when we were with you. We did not depend on any of you for our food without paying for it. No, we worked hard night and day. We earned what we needed. So we did not have to charge you anything at all. We did this, not because we do not have the right to expect such help. But we did it so as to be an example of how you should live. Because when we were with you, we gave you this rule: Whoever refuses to work should not eat.

We say this because we hear that some among you are lazy. They talk about other people but do no work themselves. By the authority that we have in the Lord Jesus Christ, we urge them to work quietly. They must earn the money to buy their own food. But you, brothers and sisters, must never tire of doing good things.”

Whoever refuses to work should not eat.  Not whoever does not work should not eat.  See the difference?  If one has the ability, one should be working for what they need to eat.  Pretty straightforward.  No entitlement society going on here for the able bodied, unlike a lot of North American society today. 

From Ephesians 4:28 (Easy English):

“If you were a thief, you must stop stealing things. You should work and do something useful with your hands. Then you will earn something that you can share with other people. They may need your help.”

This is such a good and useful verse to use with my incarcerated juvenile students in the county camp system, I'm going to be memorizing it and quoting it liberally.  Lots of theives behind bars there where I work. . . trust me on this.  Yes, those friends and relatives outside of their confinement in juvenile camp need their help.  I raise that point up to them over and over, and talk of legitimate employment they don't know about as a way to do it once they're released.  Often these kids don't know there's any other way of getting money other than burglary, grand theft auto or drug running.  I have a big job to do in that regard, for sure.

Finally, some reminders on the bigger picture on the matter from where God sees it.  There's no place for bitterness towards an employer, even when one may be (justly or not) fired from a position.

Hebrews 12:14-15:

Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord. See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no “root of bitterness” springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled;

What God really wants is renewed minds in sync with him, walking with him, depending on him, trusting him, communicating all the time with him.  That's a lot of him. . . and not a lot of me!

Romans 12:2:

Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.

Hope you've profited from this time together in God's Word as much as I have.  Until next time. . .


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