Blog - Embodying Truth

When the Boss Says "Go" and God Says "No"

Thursday, February 05, 2009

God has placed you to shine his light into the dark corners of your workplace, to embody truth both by speaking it in love and living it out with integrity. You know your sharp-eyed co-workers are watching closely for mismatches between talk and walk. So squeezed between the rock of your faith and the hard place of this assignment, what are you to do?

Each situation, of course, is unique. In rare cases, the boss may engage in either-or-ing or if-then-ing: Either do what you're told or clear out your desk. If you don't do as I say, then here's your pink slip. More often, although it may feel like a catch-22, the God who promises an escape route for each temptation, will provide a creative and less-catastrophic way through.

In Chapter 5 of their book, Integrity at Work, Norman L. Geisler and Randy Douglass outline what they call an “Ethics Compass.” Built around the word E-T-H-I-C-S, their compass points to six points to ponder as you decide how to respond as a Christian in the workplace. Those points are: E—Examine the Facts; T—(Seek the) Truth; H—Hesitate; I—Identify the Greater Good; C—Consider Consequences and Creative Alternatives; and S—Stand for God.

Daniel—a Jewish teenager forced to work as a Babylonian bureaucrat in 606 B.C.—soon found himself sandwiched between this rock and hard place. During his apprenticeship training program, his employer (the king) expected him to eat whatever the royal kitchen dished out. The king had not ordered this menu for his young trainees to harass them. Instead, he saw the entrees as health food that would make them strong and smart. But Daniel saw the diet differently. Eating the palace cuisine would contaminate his relationship with God. When Daniel first approached his immediate supervisor and asked to be excused from the prescribed menu, he met stiff resistance. If the exception were permitted and Daniel's health deteriorated, the king would blame and behead the supervisor.

Daniel 1:8-21 tells how this young Jew found his God-given escape route. In their book, Geisler and Douglas trace out how Daniel worked through each point in the Ethics Compass. By proposing that his supervisor put him and three Jewish friends on a ten-day test diet, Daniel found the creative alternative and stood for God.

But that biblical account took place more than 2,600 years ago. Given the pressures in today's workplaces, can Christians still find those creative alternatives and stand for God while continuing to work in so-called “secular” jobs? The experience of a woman who works as a warranty submission specialist for an automobile dealer, illustrates most of these compass points. Here, in her words, is her story:

“In the course of my job, there are times when a less-than-desirable situation comes up that is very distasteful to me. It has to do with 'doctoring' a document so the company can profit from the job that was done. I am aware in my profession that it 'happens all the time' but the issue of truthfulness is very important to me. So importantthat when I applied for my current position, knowing that this type of practice goes on, I made it clear that I would not create or falsify information andI would not lie for my superiors.

“This has been interesting in several ways: I have never been asked to create or submit a document of this nature. If one comes across my desk, it is already finished and I just need to file it. If conversations pertaining to that type of situation begin in my office, it is moved to my superior's office and finished there. Finally when situations arise such as periodic audits that have to do with documenting the end result, I am likewise excused so that I do not need to defend something that I do not believe is right.

“My supervisor has been very astute in never placing me in a position to go against what I believe is right. From time to time I am able to have a conversation about the importance of being above board in everything we do and if I am ever asked to back up what I'm presenting, I am always prepared with a 'by the book' proof. If I am told that doesn't matter, I generally drop the conversation but create a document stored on my computer that briefly summarizes the dialog and lists specific details that would result. That helps me to cover my part to discourage the practice and keeps me from being part of the problem instead of part of the solution.”

Has your work ever pinched you between that rock and hard place? If so, what creative alternative has God provided? If you describe it in the box below, you may encourage other believers to stand for God where they work.

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