Careers and employment Refs
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Paid employment is an important part of the life of many believers. In this chapter we look at what the Bible says about employment, and we consider what are appropriate attitudes to employment for followers of Christ.

1 Peter 2:11-25

Peter’s first letter was written to believers scattered throughout much of the area now called Turkey. He provides advice about the life and duties of believers, including our responsibility to submit to rulers (governments) and masters (employers).

1. Why does Peter describe us as “aliens and strangers in the world” (v11)?
2. We are instructed to submit to legal authority (v13-14). Yet Peter and John refused to do so in Acts 4:18-20. Why?
Are there circumstances under which you might refuse to obey the law?
3. How can our freedom be used as a cover-up for evil (v16)?
4. Are the verses addressed to slaves relevant to employees today?
5. What implications does verse 18 have for trade unions? Should you take industrial action when you feel your work conditions are unfair?
6. What should you do if your employer is mistreating you?

Employer-employee relations
Paul also taught that slaves should be submissive to their masters.

Slavery was common in Bible times and God provides instruction to ensure slaves are treated fairly. The Bible does not encourage or discourage slavery, and it forbids slaves to revolt (1 Corinthians 7:20-24).

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 3:22-24)

Clearly this has relevance to all employees-they are to work hard as if they are working for Jesus himself. In fact, employment
is an opportunity to share your faith with others. 1 Timothy 6:1; Titus 2:9-10

Paul also had instructions for masters:

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

Believers who are employers have a similar responsibility to treat their employees fairly and gently (Ephesians 6:9).

Master-slave relations:
Exodus 21:20-21; 23:12; Leviticus 25:42-44; Deuteronomy 23:15; Jeremiah 34:8-22; 1 Corinthians 7:21-24; Ephesians 6:5-9; Colossians 3:22-4:1; 1 Timothy 6:1-2; Titus 2:9-10; 1 Peter 2:18.
Being content:
Luke 3:14; Philippians 4:11; 1 Timothy 6:6-10; Hebrews 13:5-6.
Ambition:
Psalm 49:10-13; Luke 9:25.
Pursuing riches:
Matthew 6:25; 1 Timothy 6:10.
Warnings against idleness:
Proverbs 13:4; 20:4; 21:25; 24:30-34; 1 Thessalonians 4:11-12; 2 Thessalonians 3:6-15.

Trade unions
The primary purpose of trade unions is to pursue better employment conditions for their members. Trade unions have helped to improve work conditions, and almost all employees today enjoy benefits that have resulted from trade union activity.


However, the Bible teaches that we should be content with our employment conditions. Peter instructed slaves to submit to their masters, even to those who are harsh (1 Peter 2:18). John the Baptist told some soldiers to “be content with your pay”
(Luke 3:14). All believers are told “to be content with what you have” (Hebrews 13:5). Even when other workers seem to get a
better deal, Jesus taught us to be content with what we receive (Matthew 20:1-16).
Are there any situations where it is inappropriate to submit to your employer?

Therefore, a believer cannot become involved with trade union activity such as industrial action. Would it be wrong for a believer join a trade union, but take no part in its activities?
If we were to go on strike, or participate in a picket, or bring pressure on our employer in some other way, then we would not be obeying the command to “work . . . with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men” (Colossians 3:23).
Is it wrong to ask for a pay rise?

Climbing the ladder
Ambition is a common trap and many people spend too much time pursuing promotion or financial gain. The Bible has something to say about this too. See also Psalm 75:6-7

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 6:24)

Sometimes, long hours and overtime might be expected of an employee, and a person can spend a great deal of time at work
instead of concentrating on serving God. In such cases, it is better to try to find a new job than persevere with one that can lead you away from God.

Potential problems

There are some careers that can involve a person doing things which are not acceptable for a believer.

1. Consider the following occupations and think about what possible problems (if any) might arise if you were employed in this way.

• Criminal lawyer • Medical practitioner • Teacher
• Solicitor • Soldier • Accountant
• Salesperson • Security guard • Electrician
• Police officer • Journalist • Receptionist
• Prison warden • Real estate agent • Chemist
• Nurse • Politician • Dentist

2. What occupations do you think a believer should avoid?
3. What ethical problems have you experienced in your own employment?


1. In some industries, it is not possible to work unless you are a member of the trade union or the professional organization.
In such circumstances, what should a believer do? Is James 1:12 relevant here?
2. What would you say if your boss asked you to lie to a client so the company did not have to admit an error?
3. Read 2 Thessalonians 3:6-15. Would it be wrong to choose not to work while receiving unemployment benefits or being supported by your family?
4. Is there any difference between being a member of a trade union and being a member of a professional organization?


1. What are the advantages and disadvantages of being selfemployed?
2. Talk to two or three older believers and find out what ethical problems they have faced in their employment.
Write about half a page describing their experiences.


• The gospel and work, by Dennis Gillett (published by The Christadelphian, 1972). 13 pages. This booklet examines several issues associated with believers at work including ambition, career choice, and the intensity and quality of work.
• The disciple of Christ and trade unions, by C.T. Butler (published by The Christadelphian Military Service Committee, 1990). 20 pages. This booklet carefully sets out the issues involved in trade unionism.


26. War and conscientious objection
56. Honesty
58. Wealth and money
66. Medical ethics

 
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