How does the Christian thrive in today’s workplace without completely hiding his/her faith? Should any evidence of Christianity in the workplace be prohibited? Can a Christian adhere to his/her standards for living without negatively impacting their career? Should an employer seek to hire Christians or shy away from them? Exactly what should the role be today for Christianity in the workplace?
Yes, answering these questions is more challenging today than perhaps at any time in our modern history. It seems that there is more division now in our society than at any time in my lifetime, at least. And, people are so sensitive and litigious that any real or perceived slight or disagreement results in issues that detract from the real purpose at hand. Entire functions, rules, training programs, and cultural shifts have occurred merely to avoid these issues.
So, how do we address the role of Christianity in the workplace? Let me take a shot at providing some clarity, especially as has been my experience over the last four decades, that might relieve some of the stress that I believe exists.
- Should a Christian attempt to totally hide their faith and beliefs in the workplace? – No, of course not! A Christian (that is, an individual that believes and trusts Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior) should not seek to completely hide his/her faith… even in the workplace. However, there certainly is a line that should not be crossed. Let’s look at three key aspects of living your faith in the workplace:
- For the most part, we are hired to do a job and to do it to our very best ability. We must remember that the primary duty of an employee is to distinguish ourselves as an excellent employee. When we do our job well, we earn respect. The Bible even says, “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters… (Col. 3:23).” So, when you excel at your work, you demonstrate the integrity that should be expected of a Christian.
- Live you life as though you are the only Bible others will ever read. Though at work, every person should exhibit a loyalty to the company that pays their salary, we should live in a way that expresses those positive attributes a Christian should possess. Live in a way that others see the fruit of the Spirit that should typify a Christian (“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control…” from Gal 5:22-23).
- When we live our lives in a way to routinely express the fruit of the Spirit, we are living our faith without stepping over the line of inappropriateness. That line is the point of overtly verbalizing our faith in a way that is not tolerated by others. In other words, we must not push our faith to the point that we become a nuisance in the workplace. Remember, also, that we are to be humble. Paul reminded us of this (Phil. 2:3): “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves.”
- Can you live your faith as a Christian without negatively impacting your career? – Again, I believe the answer is “yes!” Living as a Christian should not negatively impact your career. In fact, I believe that serving in the workplace by humbly living our faith can positively impact your career. Certainly, many of us can recite examples of times that we may have been excluded or worse because of our faith. You may even have been ridiculed by your boss! However, in the end, I believe we can positively influence others by living our faith AND I believe that God will honor our obedience by blessing us. Why do I believe this? Well, you have to look no further than the story of Joseph and Potiphar’s wife in Genesis 39. You will recall that Joseph was pursued by the wife of his boss (his name was Potiphar). She tried multiple times to seduce him, but each time he deflected her advances. Finally, she grew tired of his rejection and lied saying that he tried to sexually molest her. Potiphar became angry and threw Joseph into prison. Eventually, Joseph’s obedience to God was rewarded and he was restored to a top position in the Egyptian kingdom. His career was actually benefited by his adherence to his faith and beliefs. Doing the right thing is always appropriate, even if our reward is delayed.
- How should employers (e.g., managers, supervisors, corporations, administrations, etc.) respond to Christianity in the workplace? – Rather than avoid Christianity (or practicing Christians) in the workplace, I would argue that employers should openly welcome them. As with any group of individuals, there are always exceptions to this rule, but a Christian should be an individual that benefits the team/company by consistently expressing:
- Honest ethics – A Christian should be an individual that can be trusted to do the right thing in the right way every time. Though Christians do stumble (we are all sinners… Christians are just forgiven sinners), a Christian should be an individual with consistently high integrity and character.
- Good teammates – A Christian should consistently exhibit humility and service to others. In other words, they should be the perfect teammates. They should collaborate well, seek the overall good, and do what serves others the best.
- Treat others well – A Christian should not be a trouble-maker. You should not have to spend excess time dealing with poor behavior, unprofessional actions, or inappropriate performance when you hire a Christian. In fact, a Christian should exemplify a love for others that benefits the team.
- How should a Christian respond to others in the workplace? – Despite everything said above, the real onus for the Christian in the workplace is on the individual… not the employer, not your coworkers. The practicing Christian must be obedient and live in the way espoused by Him whose name we carry. So, what should our response be to others in the workplace? We must realize that we will not automatically be embraced by everyone. Some will oppose us simply because of our faith. However, despite that, this is how we should respond:
- The Christian in the workplace must consistently express love to others through our words, our actions, and our service. There is a song that has these lyrics: They will know we are Christians by our love. This song is based on the words of John…”By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you love one another.” (John 13:35). In a world challenged by so much division and enmity, we must be different. Those that believe differently than we do should be able to see our faith day-by-day through the lives we lead.
- We must treat others the way we want to be treated. In Luke 6:31, we find the Golden Rule… “Do to others as you would have them do to you.” This should be the filter through which we consider all our actions. We should regularly pause/reflect before acting and ask, “How would I want to be treated in this manner?” If we consistently do this, we will demonstrate our faith to others on a daily basis.
- We should be known by the fruit we bear (“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control…” from Gal 5:22-23). If our lives are marked by these attributes, we will likely be successful in the workplace (though, not guaranteed!). But, we will certainly be honored by God. When we “…work as for the Lord…”, God will bless us.
So, despite the politically correct times in which we live, I believe there is an important role for Christianity in the workplace. When the Christian lives in a way that honors God, that person will make a positive impact on the organization. A Christian should not attempt to hide his/her faith. They will know we are Christians by our love, not necessarily our words. How we live our lives matters.
Have a great day! And, remember, this could be our best day yet!