In the Work Place
The Bible talks of both men and women having careers. We know less of the women though. Many were
employed at something away from home either because of financial need or because they were needed in the
community. Because of their examples, we can know how Christian women in such circumstances ought to act, and
what good works they can do.
Briefly, in the realm of working with their hands, we have the examples of Hagar the maid (Genesis 16), Rahab the
inn keeper (Joshua 2), Ruth the farm worker (Ruth), a maid (2 Kings 5), Rhoda another maid (Acts 12) and Priscilla a
tent maker (Acts 18).
Professional women in the Bible include midwives (Exodus 1:15), Jochebed a nurse (Exodus 2 and 6), Deborah a
judge (Judges 4), Vashti and Esther both queens (Esther), the worthy woman who invested in real estate and retailing
(Proverbs 31), and Lydia a merchandiser of purple (Acts 16).
Did any of these women do anything unusual in the course of their employment to make them stand out? Hagar
started showing up her employer, Sarah, and bragging about it, until Sarah finally fired her (Genesis 16). Rahab, an
inn keeper, used her facilities to harbor people who were trying to stand up for right in an antagonistic society (Joshua
2). Ruth needed a job, so went to a possible place of employment where she worked hard and had a good attitude.
She did not get hired, but did end up marrying the boss (Ruth).
A maid was concerned about her employer's health and told him who may be able to help (2 Kings 15). Rhoda
had a menial task seemingly, but on the day that it could have been the highlight of her life, she got too excited and
didn't carry out her part of the work (Acts 12). Priscilla helped her husband in their business and in the process met
and assisted someone who was able to influence countless others to do right - Paul (Acts 18).
Some nurses (midwives) were told to do things that were morally wrong, and risked their lives to stand up for right
(Exodus 1:15). Jochebed kept herself aware of the problems of a high government official so that when someone was
needed to do a job for which she was qualified, she was already there and available (Exodus 2).
Deborah became a judge during a time when the rest of the government was so corrupt a foreign country
controlled much of it. She was finally able to get some of the men to stand up for right and a godly nation was reborn
(Judges 4). Vashti, the wife of the head of state, was expected to be immoral for the sake of showing the superiority of
her nation; but she left her position rather than compromise her ethics (Esther 1).
Esther, too, was the wife of the head of state. Her husband became the unwitting pawn of the politically corrupt,
and she risked execution to reveal the plot to him (Esther). A certain woman balanced a home and career in real
estate and retailing in such an admirable way that both she and her husband were known and welcomed into the
company of the city leaders (Proverbs 31). Lydia merchandised purple cloth and developed a sizeable company. She
had such influence over her employees that they went to worship with her (Acts 16).
First we will discuss what the EMPLOYEES can do. Employees primarily include office staffs, maintenance people,
sales people, and people in the services such as nurses, teachers, etc. Some of these suggestions are obvious, but
hopefully there will be some new ideas here for you.
You can do as much of a variety of good works among the people with whom you work as with fellow Christians. If
someone stays home from work sick, you can call and see how they're doing (during break time, please). Ask if they
need anyone to stop by the drug store for them. Stop by to see them if they are on your way home from work. Buy a
get well card to send them.
If they are going to be out a week or so and no one else at your job does, pass around a card for everyone to sign
and send that. It would depend on how long you have worked there, how long the person was going to be out sick,
and what office policy may be whether you started a flower fund; but whoever starts it, be sure to chip in and do your
If the person goes to the hospital, try your best to go see them as much as possible. If most of their friends are
"working people" who have very little time for themselves and their families, your sick coworker probably will not get
many visits and your extra effort will mean that much more. This may be your opportunity to tell them God will take
care of them. Do not hesitate to tell them you are praying for them. You might also ask them if they would like a
minister to come by and see them, and that yours would be happy to. If they begin responding to you about religion,
let them talk. Reflect back to them what they are saying, such as:
"I haven't been to church in a long time."
"You seem to miss it."
"Yeah, I was always so busy on weekends catching up with my house work, you know."
"Oh yes, I know all about that! It's hard getting up early enough for church. But I'm always glad I did afterwards."
"Sometimes I miss things like that."
"Have you thought about going back?"
"Sometimes, but usually I'm too tired."
"When you get to feeling better, would you like to go with me? If Sunday is a problem, you could go on
Wednesday evening. Want to give it another try? Which would be a better day for you?"
Another situation that you will occasionally run in to in your work are people with family funerals. It's startling the
number of people who do not have church affiliation any more. If someone takes off work for a funeral, you know it is
for a close relative. Be sure to send a sympathy card to their home. You may wish to call them the evening after the
funeral and ask them how they are doing, if you are fairly close to them. They may say that funerals are frustrating to
them and they don't like to go and don't like to talk about it. Or they may tell you how many people were there, how
things were at the cemetery, and so on.
You may ask how the immediate family has been taking it. There will be different responses to this. It is likely to
lead to difficult questions that they may be searching for someone to answer for them. There will be questions such
as, "If God is so good, why does he allow suffering and death?" Such questions are dealt with in the chapter on "Loss
of Loved Ones" and Appendix B.
Depending on how close they were to the one who died, they may need someone to talk to. Visiting them in their
home and having them in your home to get them away from the reminders of their loss temporarily are thoughtful
gestures. You may kind of keep an eye on them at work to see whether they are able to concentrate or if they rush off
to the restroom suddenly. Depending on them and the situation, you may wish to go to them and quietly give them a
hug and tell them you'll say an extra prayer for them. If they seem to need extra time off at lunch, it may be possible to
ask your supervisor if you could work through your lunch hour in place of that person. And if you know part of their
job, you could try to do some of their work for them.
Of course at such times people are thinking of their own eternal destiny, are searching, and are open to teaching
and going to church more than at any other time of life. Do not pass up any opportunity to encourage them and teach
Is someone engaged or going to have a baby? Again, depending on your office, how long you've been there,
etc., the office may want to have a "Jack-and-Jill"l shower. The shower may be on a lunch hour or it may be in a
home. You may wish to make it simple with a gift and card on their desk during break, or stay after work an hour and
have something in a conference room. But be sure to have something.
If, for some reason, the others are not interested in doing anything for this person, that is all the more reason for
you to. They may not be very popular, or they may be too new, or she was told to get an abortion and refused, or
whoever they're going to marry nobody likes. Whatever the situation, they have announced that they are going
through with things and may need all the moral support possible. In such case, take them out to lunch if you can
afford it, or buy a little something and give it to them before or after work. If a year later, for instance, they decide they
made a mistake choosing their spouse, you may be the only one they feel comfortable talking with; they definitely
wouldn't go to the "I-told-you-so's."
How about your fellow employees? Do they tend to gossip? Gossip can be defined as talking about any situation
of a person not present that is negative and uncomplimentary. Gossip does not necessarily have to be false. Also it
does not necessarily have to be something that is unkind; it may be about the trouble someone is having with a
relative. A safe rule is to not say anything about a person unless it is obviously complimentary.
If there is a compliment, save it for when the person is with the group and give them an audience for the
compliment. This sometimes helps keep gossip under control. If someone in your group does begin to gossip, very
subtly change the subject. You do not have to embarrass anyone by pointing out the error of their way in front of the
others. You could change the subject by complimenting someone in your group and talking about that.
Is there ever a time when telling something negative about a person not present is not gossip? A general rule of
thumb would be to only tell it to someone who could be of assistance. And even then make your conversation short to
eliminate the temptation to be judgmental.
All the above has been devoted to good works to reflect the love of God to those with whom you work. These are
things that atheists might also do but just to show their love, not God's love. Therefore, whenever you do something
kind and someone expresses appreciation, you might say something like, "Well, I feel I have been blessed with a pretty
good life and just wanted to pass it on." They may look at you strangely for such a statement, but they'll store it away
in their minds until such a time they feel a need to find out why you've been blessed and how they can have such a
life. You'd be surprised how many times this works.
Now we come to a work that not only shows the love of God in this world, but his desire to extend that love on in to
eternity. It may be that you could start a Bible study with one or more of those with whom you work. The suggestions
following would apply in part to studies in your home, but will be directed more specifically to the work environment.
One day when you mention God's blessings casually (please don't talk about God much though), someone will
ask you a question. It is likely to be a hard question, a challenging question about how God has let them down. Or it
may really have nothing to do with the Bible, but they think it does, such as, "Yeah, idleness definitely is the devil's
workshop." This is your opportunity to respond with a suggestion such as this:
"You know, I'd like to know more about that too. Let's get together and do some research on that. How about on
our lunch hour next Thursday?"
You do not have to make it sound like a long-term situation. If you plan it that way and it fizzles out, you could
become too discouraged to try again later. But if you plan for something temporary to just answer a few questions and
fill some curiosities about the Bible, and then later the group decides it wants to keep meeting, that's like a bonus.
At first, however, you will not have a group. Start with one person. Once that person says they'd like to do
something like that once or for a couple weeks, you might add, "Do you think any of the others would like to come?
Should we keep it just the two of us or let anyone join us who wants to?" Unless your friend is shy or would be
embarrassed by thinking s/he knows less about the Bible than anyone else, s/he will probably agree to invite others,
and may get excited about it. When you approach the others, be casual and say something like, "Hey, Joe and I are
going to get together in the conference room next Tuesday, eat our lunches together, and look up some things in the
Bible we're curious about. Want to join us? Got anything about the Bible your curious about and want to look up?
For your studies you should bring the same version of Bible if possible. Also bring a small paperback
concordance to look up the main word describing a topic and find all the scriptures listed which include that word. With
a concordance you can look up anything and get God's complete point of view on that subject. Options may include
something like a Halley's Bible Handbook in paperback, giving a brief description of each book in the Bible and some
archaeological discoveries. Probably everyone should have a note pad to write down the gist of each passage so a
conclusion can be drawn easier, especially if there are many scriptures to look up. If someone brings up something
that you know is about a very personal problem, discuss it briefly if there are others present and then ask in private if
she'd like to study that topic with you alone, even if it's at home in the evening over the telephone.
If this develops into a long-term situation, you should eventually bring in to the discussion studies of how
first-century people became Christians so you can all make sure you have followed or will follow the same example.
Now back to your desk and back to work. Under no circumstance should you compromise your ethics. In some
company cultures, people are expected to say certain unchristian phrases, lie at certain times, take home some of the
office supplies, drive the company car for personal use, etc. In many cases you can work around a problem so that
you can handle the situation satisfactorily and do not have to compromise your standards. In such a case, you will be
an example for good to those around you, because they will definitely notice it. In other cases you may not be able to
work around it. You may prefer to go to your supervisor and just say, "I just can't do it that way. Is there some other
way I can accomplish the same thing?" Many times the supervisor will appreciate what you are saying; if they don't,
you don't want to work there. Even if your standards may be higher than theirs, often they respect that, they definitely
will learn you can be trusted, and sometimes that leads to company opportunities for you.
Up to this point we have been primarily concerned with what you as a Christian employee can do with your fellow
employees. However, something more should be mentioned about what you can do for your employer. Although the
following passage refers to slaves and their relationships to masters, it still applies to the work situation. Therefore we
will substitute the word employees and employers:
Employees, obey your earthly employers with respect and fear, and with sincerity of heart, just as you would obey
Christ. Obey them not only to win their favor when their eye is on you, but like employees of Christ, doing the will of
God from your heart. Serve wholeheartedly, as if you were serving the Lord, not men, because you know that the
Lord will reward everyone for whatever good he does,whether he is the employee or the employer (Ephesus 6:5-8).
The primary concern of someone who has been hired to do a job should be to do whatever the employer needs
done. Remember, the owner of the business is trying to earn a living, and needs the assistance of others to build the
business up. It is not your money that they are giving you, but rather the business's money earned as a result of many
people working together. You are receiving a portion of that. That is called wages. If you do not help in some way to
earn more money for the business, you are taking wages you did not earn.
It may be that your job is to make sure the floors are clean; this can help the business by making a clean
atmosphere for people to work in and customers to come to that otherwise would not go there. So whatever you do,
you were hired to help build up the business. If you do not do your job but just show up to fill the time and collect your
wages, you are stealing from your employer, taking their money without having earned it. Ecclesiastes tells us,
Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might (9:10a).
What if your employer is not kind to you? First, be sure they are not angry because you are having private
conversations outside of break times, not doing your work, etc. You can take Paul's counseling to heart as we saw in
Ephesians, and consider yourself working for Christ. If your employer or supervisor is so bad they seem to be your
enemy, then consider what Jesus said in his Sermon on the Mount, to pray for those who despitefully use you
Truly we love others as we love ourselves. Therefore, you could help your employer or supervisor love
themselves better by leaving a note on their desk of appreciation for what they are accomplishing. You can
compliment them on their shoes, ask about the family, recognize their frustration occasionally with a "You're under a lot
of pressure, aren't you?". Remember Paul's advice on how to relate to our enemies:
Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse....Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what
is right in the eyes of everybody. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take
revenge....Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good (Romans 12:14-21).
Be careful that you do not begin telling others about how unlikable this person is, for in the very process of doing
that you become an unlikable person also. When you think about it, most people who treat others unkindly think they
are just defending themselves. They do not think of themselves as the unkind person. Therefore, it is vital that you
not let that cycle begin but rather speak only good of others, for your own well being as well as theirs.
Now we will discuss EMPLOYERS. Those of you reading this who are self-employed or who have hired people to
assist you have some added opportunities. One opportunity is in the realm of advertising. Your business cards could
be printed with a statement of your Christianity, or variation of a Bible verse such as "Do unto others as you would
have them do to you."
You could advertise your company in the newspaper by saying you follow the golden rule. Or you could run an ad
with a Bible verse applicable to current times and add your company name and service at the bottom. On the radio
you could sponsor a spot such as a single Bible verse read, children singing a church song, or your minister saying a
few words. Your contracts or stationery could refer to the golden rule.
Keep a Bible on your desk, even if you never read it there, not to show off but as a symbol of what guides your life
and business. People will be able to tell the difference as to why it's there by your attitudes and language. Invite your
employees to start out the day with you with a Bible reading, and a prayer asking God to be with everyone through the
day. Have a different Bible verse on the bulletin board each week.
Contact the benevolent committee of your congregation telling them you would be willing to consider hiring any
people who come to them for monetary assistance. People with financial problems are likely to have optimism
problems, as discussed in the chapter on benevolence. You would need to work with them to develop their
self-confidence and confidence in others. Keep your standards high and show such people how to lift themselves up
to those heights.
In general treatment of employees, these Bible passages show ways to handle them. Where the word slave may
appear, the word employee is substituted:
Do not take advantage of a hired man who is poor and needy....Pay him his wages each day before sunset,
because he is poor and is counting on it (Deuteronomy 24:14,15). Employers, treat your employees in the same way.
Do not threaten them, since you know that he who is both their master and yours is in heaven,and there is no
favoritism with him (Ephesians 6:9).
Yes, whatever your vocation, you are ultimately working for God, whether you are an employee or employer,
whether you are a laborer or professional. Therefore, let us take Ephesians 4:1 and 2 and apply it to our work
situation as Christians:
I beseech you that you walk worthy of the vocation wherewith you are called, with all lowliness and meekness, with
longsuffering, forbearing one another in love (KJV). God be with you and shine forth from you to those with whom you