I sit at a weird juncture between two seemingly opposite majors: Bible and Business. You would think that because of these two I would be an expert at business ethics. I should be an expert in integration knowledge, which must be in the realm of ethics. Where else could two cross?
Yet somehow, I’ve managed to finish my degree without taking an ethics specific course, neither in the core curriculum nor in an integration seminar. But I wouldn’t say that I’m deprived of ethics. They’ve been woven in throughout all my business classes (especially promotions). I’ve studied and discussed the issues of how advertising agencies should charge their clients (which is more difficult than you would think).
But is ethics the only area of true integration? It’s easy to say the Bible speaks against lying (think about false images in advertising or skewing numbers), greed, and how being rich makes it more difficult for someone to enter the kingdom of heaven (can anyone get in?). And while these are all true applications, they’re limited to ethics. We can read Aristotle and get the same results.
On the other hand, sometimes we go too ‘spiritual’ and make even vaguer applications. We give commands like “be more Christian in the workplace” or “preach the gospel always; use words when necessary”. Though I have severe issues with the later statement (both who didn’t actually say it and the necessity of words), these commands don’t seem tangible.
So what are we to do? As a Bible major, shouldn’t I be able to conjure up some super deep application from all my studies, or have I locked myself up in the ivory tower of Biblical and Systematic Theologies (I have to admit, the view is nice up here)?
While often times my studies are done (seemingly) separately to focus on the tasks at hand, they have to meet at some point. Even my Great Books education has to kick in at some point. So here are a few points that we as Christians need to keep in mind in the business world. I’ll be writing a few more posts about this in the future, but here’s an introduction to what happens when theology meets business.
Do your best at what you do.
After my ranting about vague applications, I give one myself. However I think this is a point that needs to be foundational. As a Christian in the workplace, we must push ourselves to higher standards.
And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him
When you’re working on that project for your boss, whether you like him/her or not, you have to work as unto the Lord. Would you do a bad job and cut corners for your God if he gave you a project? I know we do that in our spiritual walk and we hide behind excuses like “I didn’t know you wanted me to do that”, but at our jobs we know what we’re supposed to do. We should be motivated to work as unto him, which means do your best!
Don’t hide behind the fish.
One of the worst things we can do is hide behind the fish. By that I mean using the Christian card to get out of trouble. “Oh you got screwed over by my mistake? I’m sorry. You have to forgive me because we’re Christians and that’s what Christ would do.”
We have to hold ourselves accountable for our actions. If we make a mistake and someone else looses their job, what would you do? How can you fix that? If you say that feeling sorry for a person is enough to get you off the hook, that’s not thinking biblically. When David slept with Bathsheba and murdered her husband, he was sorry for his sin. He fasted and mourned, but he still suffered the consequence of losing his son. I’m not saying if you make a mistake you’ll lose your child, but you do have to accept responsibility.
Be gracious workers.
While we should take responsibility for our mistakes and should hold people to their mistakes, we need to be gracious. As Christians we have a higher call to do this than anyone.
First, we were given grace and called to give grace to others. I’m pretty sure in that business meeting in the garden that Adam and Eve were involved in a terrible acquisition of Apple that the CEO had to pay his life to correct it. If we’ve been given such a grace as that, how can we not show it to others.
Second, we know that people are fallen. We know to expect mistakes. Without a theology of sin, you could assume that people can function perfectly and not make mistakes. At a certain point “I’m only human” gets thrown out the corporate window as they expect you to operate with machine like exactness. The logical thought process is “If you’re only human, then you’re bound to make mistakes. Why should we raise you any higher, much less keep you where you are?” Instead we should expect mistakes, and, while administering consequences, be gracious.
Be gracious consumers.
I get it. Customer service is huge. As a business student, I know that customer experience is key. As a consumer I should have a flawless experience and write up whoever messes it up. There are times for that, for sure. I’ve seen people justly get written up for acting completely inappropriately. However, we should consider how we go about writing people up. Do we need to chew out the person taking down our complaint? If one small thing went wrong on a busy day, should we demand their first born? I mean, I got my food five minutes later that expected! That’s worse than murder and adultery, right? (If you say right, I’m praying for you). But you get my point.
Also, Christians should be the most generous tippers. Servers should want to serve on Sundays. Enough said.
To be a Christian is to be human. We aren’t perfect angels or programmed robots. Have relationships with people. Get messy. Have friends. Dare I say, go out for drinks with people (just don’t get drunk, that’s a big problem). You don’t need to ‘spiritualize’ everything. Christian living should be as natural as breathing, not on edge waiting for that one moment to go down the Roman Road. Use words to preach the gospel, but let all your words be gospel words (I know vague, right?). Meet people on their levels. Talk to them about issues like the glass ceiling, how their kids are sick, and TED talks. I know many Christians already act this way in the workplace. I just want to affirm and encourage you to continue. This is still the work of God.
So here are a few things to think about in the work world. Whether you’re in it now, about to enter it like me, or no where close (hopefully not like me). I hope these ideas, while simple, leave some impression or give you some encouragement. So get out there and go work!