Christian Living

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General Bible Courses > Living by the Book > Career by the Book

Chapter 11: Evil in the Workplace


IN THIS CHAPTER, you will discover:

·   That one person can affect the workplace.

·   The difference between legitimate and questionable work.  

AS A RESULT, you will be able to:

·   Make an impact for Christ where you work.

·   Use appropriate strategies for dealing with evil on the job.

Evil in the Workplace

Key Scripture: "Therefore, get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you" (James 1:21).

As a Christian, you live and work in a world infected by sin. Sin is everywhere - in major corporations, in the government, in coworkers, and even in yourself. In fact, after participating in a work environment that fairly bristles with evil, you might be tempted to throw up your hands and say, "What can one person do?" Before addressing this question, however, let's note four important observations concerning God's view of the workplace.

God warns that the world is evil. Since the world is so perverse, you should not expect the workplace to be any different. The same evil that pervades individual lives also seeps into the workplace, either infecting or affecting everyone present. Conflict and confrontation occur daily. Furthermore, non-Christian coworkers are often unable to understand your moral dilemma. "For you have spent enough time in the past doing what pagans choose to do. They think it strange that you do not plunge with them into the same flood of dissipation, and they heap abuse on you" (1 Peter 4:3-4).

God has everything under control. Although your work situation may seem totally out of control, it is never out of the control of God, who is both all-loving and all-powerful. In His sovereignty, He has chosen to act on your behalf. Your obligation as a coworker with Him is to pray and remain steadfast, awaiting His word to act. The psalmist demonstrated how we should wait on the Lord: "I waited patiently for the Lord; he turned to me and heard my cry" (Ps. 40:1).

God expects you to act. When the Holy Spirit prompts you to act, you should be thoroughly prepared. Part of your preparation is learning to love good and hate evil. Because of this hatred, you must determine to do whatever possible to promote good. As a result, you must take appropriate action by using any available influence or power to fight evil. Sadly, some Christians, instead of fighting evil, simply blame others rather than join the struggle. The apostle Paul warns that we are to "hate what is evil" and "cling to what is good" (Rom. 12:9).

God uses evil for your benefit. When the evil that you hate seems to prevail, you may feel powerless to fight it. Nevertheless, God can use the temptations you face and the trials you endure to mold you into a person of integrity. Strong Christians are not born; they are shaped and tempered in the fires of adversity. If the testing seems too harsh, there is hope. Although the situation may seem impossible, "we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose" (Rom. 8:28).

Legitimate Versus Questionable Work

Your job fulfills at least two of the five purposes of work when it provides for your individual needs and for those of your family. Still, you may question your job's legitimacy, wondering if it makes a significant contribution to God's work. In determining whether your work is legitimate, first ask yourself, "Is this job legal?" If the answer is yes, then the next question should be, "Does my work detract from or contribute to God's work?" Although many jobs are legal according to human standards, they do not always honor God. In addition to determining the legitimacy of your job, you must ask these same questions in many of the situations that you encounter daily, both on and off the job.

Previously, we have dealt only with situations that are clearly right or wrong. Since the biblical mandates are clear, Christians have no choice except to obey. The difficulty was in the implementation of biblical principles, not in the scriptural interpretation. However, not all the circumstances in life are so clear-cut. The number of gray areas far surpasses the black and white ones. It is often difficult to determine where right ends and wrong begins.

Not every modern problem is directly addressed in the Bible (e.g., the copying of computer software). For this reason, multiple interpretations of various problems prevail, and even Christians differ as to what is morally right and wrong. In light of these difficulties, believers with the ability to handle the gray areas of life have effectively proven themselves to be spiritually mature. These Christians have discovered a succession of steps to success. Begin to follow in their spiritual footsteps using these principles:

  • Know the Bible and commit yourself to obeying it.
  • Look for principles in Scripture, rather than commands.
  • Use biblical principles to determine your response.
  • Listen to your conscience.
  • Watch out if everyone else is doing it.
  • Depend on the Holy Spirit to guide you through gray areas.
  • Believe that the Lord will never leave you or forsake you.

Now that you have some guidelines for a more mature walk with the Lord, how would you advise the following people who are struggling with their own gray areas?

"My friend Anne works in the sewing room at a local cotton mill. She is a single mother who really needs her job. Because Anne has not been making her quota of first-quality pillow shams, her job is in jeopardy. Since I'm an inspector in the same mill, I could pass off a few of her seconds as first-quality. Then she could keep her job and I would keep my friend. Right?"

"I'm a mechanic who recently began working for a large chain of garages. At first, the job seemed too good to be true - fewer hours, more money, and benefits. But I had worked only two weeks when I discovered that my boss had charged a woman for more work than I had done. He did it again today to another customer. Should I confront him and perhaps lose my job - or should I ignore it?"

Direct Versus Indirect Participation in Evil

One of the gray areas you may face is your indirect participation in evil in the workplace. This indirect cooperation with evil is inevitable in our fallen world, and it manifests itself in various forms. Listed below are examples of indirect versus direct participation in evil:

Indirect   Direct
Person doing his or her work for God's glory:   Person deliberately involved in evil:
Company Executive   Employees involved in a cult
Secretary   Coworkers involved with drugs
Real Estate Agent   Company president involved in fraud
Flight Attendant   Airline that minimizes maintenance
Athlete   Customers misusing products (e.g., glue)
Manufacturer   Bank officials who "launder money"
Bank Teller   Manager awarding repair jobs to friends
Insurance Adjustor   Contractor who uses inferior materials

Although your participation may be indirect, evil is inevitable in the workplace. You, however, have been commanded to "overcome evil with good." This mandate evokes two important questions: "When should I act?" and "What should I do?"

When Should I Act?

Four specific circumstances warrant your action as a Christian:

You must act when you are asked to do something immoral or illegal. The Bible clearly states that you are to avoid direct involvement with what you know is wrong.

You should act when your conscience is violated. Since there may be no explicit directions in the Bible or legal statutes involved, you must abide by your conscience.

You should act when it is in your power to end or avoid evil. Any authority or power that you currently have has been entrusted to you by God. Therefore, you are to use it responsibly.

You should act when innocent people stand to be affected by evil. God does not want you to stand idly by while others are endangered or suffering injustice.

What Should I Do?

Now that you have determined when you should act, you probably are saying, "I know I must do something - but what?" The following suggestions will help you to answer this question.

Go to the source, if possible. To deal with the problem, you must first discover who made the decision or who is responsible. If this is impossible to determine, then look for the person who has the power to solve it. Standing idly by and watching evil permeate the workplace is not an option for a Christian. Take steps to stop it by (1) asking questions, (2) bringing out important facts, (3) challenging people to do what is right, (4) raising questions about ethics and integrity, and (5) talking with people who are in a position to do something.

Join the battle where you feel you can be most effective. God can use your particular talents, personality, resources, and relationships as tools in His hand. He may ask you to do something you have never considered. Perhaps you will be called to settle an argument, speak up, prevent an injustice, stand by someone making a difficult decision, pay for something, fire someone who jeopardizes the rights and safety of everyone else, or write a letter of support.

Seek limited, measurable gains. Although it is impossible to wipe out evil entirely from the workplace, it is possible to make inroads and win victories for justice on your job. The key is to be realistic and creative. Be realistic in deciding what you can or cannot change. Be creative in thinking of shrewd alternatives for seemingly impossible situations.

Expect positive results, but also expect some negative consequences. Do not consider losing as an option. You can, however, expect some negative and often severe consequences. These potential costs must be weighed carefully. Sometimes the risk may be too great, and you will be forced to endure the circumstances. Other issues, too important to overlook, may outweigh the risks or consequences. At any rate, you must be prepared to pay the price.

If necessary, leave. Perhaps you have tried everything possible to deal with the problem of evil on your job, and now you feel that your only alternative is to quit. Before you make a final move, however, remember that God values your endurance as well as your integrity. But He does not want you to remain on a job that encourages direct participation in evil.

Use a strategy of prayer. You are to pray for those in authority over you. Develop a strategy in which you meet with others in the same circumstances, thank God for His many attributes, remind Him of His promises, confess any failure on your part, pray that those in authority will be moved to action, pray for those affected by the problem, and ask God to work out the situation according to His will.

Start with yourself. Personal holiness is the basis for all your efforts. Your character and integrity should be so unique and distinctive that coworkers ask about your faith. Peter realized the impact of Christian integrity in the midst of a pagan world. He encouraged the early Christians to "live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us" (1 Peter 2:12).

Dealing with Evil in Ourselves

Peter shared hope with the early Christians as he encouraged them to live godly lives in the face of adversity. The lifestyle Peter proposed— - based on the Living Stone and the Word of God - was the same one chosen by the prophet Daniel hundreds of years earlier. Daniel was a man of unimpeachable character. Although he lived in the midst of pagans, he fervently maintained both his faith and integrity. As his adversaries searched diligently to find some fault in him, they declared, "We will never find any basis for charges against this man Daniel unless it has something to do with the law of his God" (Dan. 6:5). What a spiritual giant! Daniel was even able to face hungry lions and remain steadfast, thereby proclaiming that salvation comes from God alone.

Looking at the life of Daniel, it appears that overnight he was changed from an inexperienced youth into an advisor to the king. But Daniel's transformation did not happen suddenly. His character was formed day by day, minute by minute, in the small choices of his life. Because God has blessed humanity with a free will, a Christian's daily choices determine the refinement of character. Decisions must be made as a constant battle rages over the outcome of your choices. Sin struggles for control over the smallest decision, even the temptation to tell a "little white" lie.

Lying is probably the most insidious of all sins, for even Christians have neatly compartmentalized lies as either good or bad. Often camouflaged as compliments and encouragements, lies have so saturated our society that hardly anyone is offended by them - if they notice them at all.

Lying is pervasive, but it is not the only personal problem faced by Christians (see the Life Applications for others). Whatever the area of sin in your life, you must take certain necessary steps to overcome it. First, take the sin to the Cross (Col. 1:21-22). Next, pursue personal holiness (1 Peter 1:15-16). Finally, make restitution if possible (Luke 19:8).

Life Applications:

A. Check your own attitudes and practices concerning integrity by completing the following survey.

1. Which do you think you are?                                             

Basically honest      Basically dishonest


2. Are you more or less honest today than you were ten years ago?

More honest    Less honest      About the same


3. Mark how often you lie for each reason listed below.

a. To cover up something you did wrong.                                 

Frequently   Sometimes    Hardly ever     Never

b. To make yourself seem more important.                                

Frequently   Sometimes    Hardly ever     Never

c. To avoid an unpleasant social situation.                               

Frequently    Sometimes    Hardly ever     Never

d. To get ahead at work.                               

Frequently   Sometimes    Hardly ever     Never

e. To avoid hurting someone’s feelings.                             

Frequently    Sometimes    Hardly ever     Never  


4. Some people rationalize lying by dividing it into two types - a "little white" lie, which is not meant to harm anyone, and a "serious" lie, which conceals wrongdoing and causes harm.

a. Have you ever told a white lie?                                   

Yes   No

b. How often would you say that you tell white lies?                                  

A great deal     A fair amount      Hardly ever

c. Do you think it is usually right or usually wrong to tell a white lie?

Usually right     Usually wrong


5. Following are some white lies that people often tell. Have you ever told a white lie similar to each one mentioned?  

a. Telling someone that you didn't want to see, "How nice to see you."

b. Telling a store manager, "The check bounced because my bank has my account all messed up." 

c. Telling someone who has invited you to a social function, "We can't make it; we've made other plans."

d. Telling someone you did better in school than you really did. 

e. Telling someone you made more money than you actually did.

f. Telling a friend you weighed less than you actually did.

g. Lying about your age.

h. Telling someone you'd rather not see again, "We really must get together sometime."

i. Telling someone asking for money, "I'm a little strapped financially right now."

j. Telling someone who has called for someone else in the office, "He's not here right now." 


6. Have you ever told a serious lie? 


7. How frequently would you say that you tell serious lies?

A great deal   A fair amount    Hardly ever


8. Do you feel that when you tell a lie the person believes you?

Always   Sometimes   Hardly ever    Never


9. Do you agree or disagree with the idea that sometimes you just have to lie?   

Agree    Disagree


10. Do you believe that you are less honest or more honest than most people?

Less honest    More honest

The above survey was adapted from "Lies, Damn Lies, and Statistics" by Richard Morin (The Washington Post Magazine, December 27, 1987).


Test your knowledge on this chapter by taking the quiz at the end of chapter 12.

Take the quiz

Quiz Instructions

Review Questions at the end of Chapter 12.

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