Careers and employment

The Bible gives good advice about what believers should do in their life and obligations – part of this includes submitting to the government (rulers) and employers (masters).

Submit yourselves for the Lord's sake to every authority instituted among men: whether to the king, as the supreme authority, or to governors, who are sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to commend those who do right. For it is God's will that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish men. Live as free men, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil; live as servants of God. Show proper respect to everyone: Love the brotherhood of believers, fear God, honor the king. 
Slaves, submit yourselves to your masters with all respect, not only to those who are good and considerate, but also to those who are harsh. For it is commendable if a man bears up under the pain of unjust suffering because he is conscious of God. But how is it to your credit if you receive a beating for doing wrong and endure it? But if you suffer for doing good and you endure it, this is commendable before God. To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps. 
"He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth." When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly. He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed. For you were like sheep going astray, but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls. (1 Peter 2:13-25)
The relationship between employee and employer

Slavery was common in the times of the Bible and God gave instructions to both the slaves and masters on how they should interact (note: the Bible does not encourage or discourage slavery).

A employee and employer have a similar relationship except the employee is usually paid for his services by the employer (except charity/voluntary work).

The Bible teaches that slaves should be obedient to their masters.

Slaves, obey your earthly masters in everything; and do it, not only when their eye is on you and to win their favor, but with sincerity of heart and reverence for the Lord. Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving. (Colossians Ch.3:22-24)
Diligence at work

As can be seen from this verse these words can apply just as easily to employees. They are to work hard as though their supervisor was Jesus Christ.

Employers (masters) are also given instruction as to how they should treat their employees.

Masters, provide your slaves with what is right and fair, because you know that you also have a Master in heaven. (Colossians Ch.4:1)

Employers are to treat their employees fairly and with respect.

Questions to ask yourself:

  • Can you be trusted to do your best, even when your boss is not present?
  • Do you work hard and with enthusiasm?
  • Do you treat your employees as people, and not as machines?

For the believer, no matter who you work for, and no matter who works for you, the One you are ultimately trying to please is your Father in heaven.

Slaves, obey your earthly masters 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 slaves 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 slave or free.

And masters, treat your slaves 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 favouritism with him. (Ephesians Ch.6:5-9)

Employers should treat their employees both fairly and gently.

Employees should be trustworthy
Employees should be hardworking and trustworthy

In this world we live in it is sometimes difficult to find people you can really trust.

Like the coolness of snow at harvest time is a trustworthy messenger to those who send him; he refreshes the spirit of his masters. (Proverbs Ch.25:13)

A faithful employee (“messenger”) has the following characteristics:

  • Punctual
  • Responsible
  • Honest
  • Hardworking

The person is invaluable to the employer as he or she helps out and takes some of the pressure off that person’s employer. A way to do this is to find out what your employer needs from you to make his or her job easier. Once you found out go and do it!!

You should be known as someone who does their best
Employees should have the reputation of doing their best

The Bible sets high standards for the employee / employer relationship.

Teach slaves to be subject to their masters in everything, to try to please them, not to talk back to them, and not to steal from them, but to show that they can be fully trusted, so that in every way they will make the teaching about God our Savior attractive. (Titus Ch.2:9-10)

Employees should always do their best possible work and be trustworthy, not just when the employer is watching. Companies throughout the world lose millions of dollars a year to employees stealing and wasting time. If everyone followed the advice of the Bible what a difference it would make to the world’s productivity!

Be diligent at work

Employees should make a habit of doing more than is expected from them.

If the God of my [Jacob’s] father, the God of Abraham and the Fear of Isaac, had not been with me, you would surely have sent me away empty-handed. But God has seen my hardship and the toil of my hands, and last night he rebuked you." (Genesis Ch.31:42)

Jacob worked hard even after several pay cuts. His diligence eventually paid off and his flocks began to multiply.

Making a habit of doing more than is expected of you has the following benefits:

  • Pleases God
  • Earns recognition and respect from your employer
  • Improves our reputation
  • Builds other confidence in us
  • Gives us more experience and knowledge
  • Develops our spiritual maturity
Trade unions

The main goal of trade unions is to gain improved employment conditions for their members. Over the history of the trade union movement it has helped gain better work conditions for many employees.

But what does the Bible say about this? At many places in the Bible it teaches that we should be satisfied with our current employment conditions.

Then some soldiers asked him, “And what should we do?”

He replied, "Don't extort money and don't accuse people falsely—be content with your pay." (Luke 3:14)

All believers should be happy with what they have.

Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, "Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you." (Hebrews 13:5)

Employees should submit to their employers, even to those who are strict.

Slaves, submit yourselves to your masters with all respect, not only to those who are good and considerate, but also to those who are harsh. (1 Peter 2:18)

Believers can’t be actively involved with trade unions especially when this involves industrial action. If believers were to pressure their employers by going on strike or taking part in a picket then they would not be obeying the following command from God:

Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, (Colossians 3:23)
Ambition at work

Some people spend a lot of their time at work chasing after a promotion or perhaps trying to get additional financial gain (earn a bonus/pay increase). This may require them working long hours – late at night or weekends.

This is what the Bible has to say about this:

What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit his very self? (Luke 9:25)
"No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money. (Matthew Ch.6:24)

Some employers may expect employees to work long hours which may lead to the employee spending long hours at work instead of focusing on serving God. If this is the case, the solution may be to change jobs and find a employer with expectations of more reasonable hours so that you have more time with God.