Can I Work at My Job as a Believer?

One of the most difficult places to live out our Christian convictions is in the workplace. So often we’re faced with hard situations that we must sort through and figure out what’s most pleasing to God. What are some principles to bear in mind of how we should conduct ourselves in the work environment?


"Hello, Pastor Tim. I'm a born again Christian and working on that close relationship with Jesus Christ. Your online videos have been a blessing. Here's my dilemma: I work in the marketing department of a hospital that is..." (I find this kind of confusing), " a hospital that is focused on the Gospel and Christianity. However, the base denomination of this hospital system is Catholic. Of course, we have people of all denominations and belief systems throughout our hospitals and clinics. In the last five years that I've worked here, we have never opened a meeting with a prayer to anyone other than God and Jesus. Our health services are directed by the manual: 'Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Healthcare Services,' as set forth by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. Now, I don't put any faith into what the Catholic church teaches or instructs, such as praying to Mary, saints, confessions through priests, etc. What is your opinion and recommendation of me continuing to work in this environment? Thank you for your opinion. Alissa." You know, I find it to be a fairly frequent question, especially when you're in a church where you're seeing some new converts. When we're getting new people saved in the church, this can be a fairly regular thing. And the truth is when we were back at Fatty's, I remember (meeting at the restaurant) - I remember when Charles Leiter came down here. He told me that he was amazed because he was asking people about their testimonies, and he was just amazed at how many of the people had been saved in the last year. In fact, I don't know if anybody remembers that may have been there the very first Fellowship Conference when it was held in Norman, Oklahoma. Charles actually asked everybody there to raise their hands if they'd been saved in the previous twelve months, and it was amazing how many hands went up. When you have that many new believers, you tend to run into a lot of these questions about: okay, God saved me; now I'm having some problems trying to figure out whether my work situation is right; whether this is where I should stay. Now, some are black and white. It's a no-brainer. Give me some examples of some that are no-brainers. (from the room) Working in an abortion clinic. Tim: You work in an abortion clinic. You're an abortion doctor. You're performing abortions. You get saved. No-brainer. You don't kill children. You're Hector Martinez. You're working on the border for the cartel. You get saved. Yeah, you stop shooting people, right? What are some other no-brainers? I mean, I know we've had a young lady working for a gentlemen's club - kind of a no-brainer. What are some maybe other examples? (unintelligible) Well, I'm not going to put that one in the grey area. Being a bartender. Now you may think that's a no-brainer. But I want to put it in the grey area because it's not exactly like these. How about anybody know Richard Bennett? He was a Catholic priest. He got saved. He stopped being a Catholic priest. Here's the thing about all those examples when I say they're no-brainers. The individual themselves were being required to sin to do what they did. When you're a bartender, that's different. You're mixing drinks. Now, if you actually have a conviction that alcohol is absolutely forbidden in Scripture, you may say, well, I believe he's sinning. Now, I don't think that's what Scripture teaches and I'm not trying to advocate you all run out and experiment. But I don't think that that necessarily in and of itself is causing the person to sin just in the way of mixing drinks. Now, it may bring up another question: Am I causing other people to sin? And in causing other people to sin, is that bad? Am I doing bad? But you've got kind of the no-brainer where you are being required to sin. Now, I think even there, even if I'm being required to sin, I need to look at it and ask the question: is the very job itself by the nature of it requires me to sin? Obviously, that of a Catholic priest - yes, it does. Obviously if I'm involved in the cartel - yes, it does. Obviously, if I'm involved in abortion? Absolutely. But I may actually be doing a job where the job itself does not fundamentally require sin. Like, let's say a used car dealership. Let's say it's owned by a guy that's crooked, and if you work for him, you're going to take advantage of people and you're going to lie to people and you're going to tell them - James and I met with somebody today and it's like they basically told him a little old couple owned the van. Yeah, right. Used salesman. A little old lady that only drove it to church on Sundays. If I'm working for a used car dealership and I'm being expected to lie and cheat people, and suddenly I get saved, that job actually is actually a job that could be done honestly and faithfully. So you kind of have to differentiate when you're dealing with: should I quit the job? Ruby's brother was a classic example. He worked for a major shipping company - truck freight. These bill of ladings would come in with the shipments. And you know what they'd do? They would basically look on there and say, okay, we've got 46 stereos on these pallets. And they'd go through and count. And if they counted 48, we got us two stereos. Who can ever account for them? The paperwork says 46. And that kind of stuff would happen on a regular basis. Rick said they had lots of stuff. In fact, often when they're shipping, it seems like they overship. And so these guys, they skimmed off all the extra, all the time. Rick got saved. Now he wasn't being specifically asked to do it. But see, these are the kinds of things we have to ask. Is the job requiring me to sin? Is the nature of the job that I can't do this job without sinning because it's like an abortion doctor - you can't do the job without sinning. Obviously, that's a no-brainer. But then you have to kind of look at: okay, is this a job that causes other people to sin? Now what are some examples of jobs that could cause other people to sin? Perhaps the bartender. Anybody got any others? I mean we've had a young lady in our own church that has wrestled with being a pharmacist because pharmacists are supposed to dispense abortive-type birth control and she won't do it. So there's something. You know one that's often a big one that people wrestle with is being a soldier or perhaps being a police officer. Or, could you imagine being on a SWAT team? Something like that. And these are areas where people have to wrestle. I mean, if you got saved and you were the janitor in a casino, could you keep going? I mean, is there anything about that that in and of itself - could you do it? Or how about if you're a biology teacher and they are absolutely expecting you to teach evolution and suddenly you get saved? Can you do it? See, these are the kind of questions. And another big one that comes up oftentimes is like David Gonzales. He told his work: Look, don't schedule me for Sundays. And whether you're a Sabbatarian or not there are Christians who say don't schedule me on Sundays. And some people are pretty adamant about it. Even when they interview. And then you get tested. They try to get you to work on Sunday. Whether it's a conviction or it's just that you want to be in church and you don't want to miss the meetings. So we have to ask ourselves this: Am I being required to sin all the time? Then I should leave. Am I not being required to sin all the time but perhaps by what I do, I encourage other people to sin? Can anybody think of a time when it would be okay to stay in a job that encourages other people to sin? (from the room) I'm not exactly sure, but sometimes I struggle with this. We're Microsoft and some of the products we make are benign like Office, but also we make things like XBox, and some kids get addicted to this thing. And I know some really bad things have happened around the XBox and being addicted to games, so sometimes I feel kind of convicted and I support different servers that support XBox and all these different things of that nature. So sometimes I struggle with that a little bit. Tim: It's understandable. Even Craig and I worked for a firm up in Michigan where we were basically dealing with spectator seating. Now, spectator seating you could say, yeah, could somebody go to Madison Square Garden and listen to a preacher preach? Well, they could. By and large, what are they doing? They're watching basketball games, they're watching hockey games, they're watching boxing matches. So is that bad? Well, it's like, here I'm throwing my life into designing these components for massive spectator facilities, and I wondered, is that the best thing to be throwing my life into? I was able to work. I was able to give from it. Is it possible that those things could be used for good purposes? Perhaps. Are people by and large wasting their lives away watching balls get put through hoops and pucks getting put in nets? On Judgment Day is it going to be worth anything? But I think we should conscientiously be exploring those things when it comes to our work. What happens is it's pretty often that we get faced with situations that test our convictions. Did you have your hand up? (from the room) I was just thinking about Daniel working for Nebuchadnezzar and Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. I don't know what exactly they were doing. Tim: They were counselors. They were basically brought into the wise men that counseled. But God specifically told them to go there. Basically in their good, you'll have good. And go there, plant, live. Bless them. I think the thing we have to ask is is there any crime? Is there any sin? Is there any immorality? I mean, I think, is there any false teaching? Am I expected to proclaim lies if I'm a teacher of any sort? What are the expectations? I can remember one time, we got the Madison Square Garden job. And this whole massive seating structure, the whole understructure - they didn't prime that properly. And they came in there and they sat that whole thing down. In most facilities it would not have been an issue. They set it down on the New York Rangers ice rink and all that moisture coming up, and it rusted the whole thing. And I remember sitting in a meeting in the firm I was in, a great big table, and all the engineers and all the big wigs from our company were in there because this was a major catastrophe. And I remember the vice- president of that company, he said: You (talking to all of us) - you will lie to them if they inquire or ask any questions about this. And I was there saying, uh-huh, I'm not going to lie. And I was thinking about it today as I was walking that I wasn't going to. And I did not challenge the vice-president right there. I wrote him. And I told him that his soul's in danger and he really needs to repent. But I wondered if I actually should have (incomplete thought). Because here's the thing, what are children of light called to do? I think this is an important point. What does Ephesians 5 say that children of light are supposed to do? Expose the works of darkness. And here's the thing, we want to be careful that we don't run from every situation out there. I think in a lot of situations, what we want to do is seek to be light. You know, my brother-in-law openly confronted the people. He sought to be light. (incomplete thought) We had a friend out at Community Baptist Church - he was a soldier. And this big auditorium full of people, and I think he said like a five-star general was up on the platform and he started by telling some crude joke. This brother from down there, he got up - he's a soldier - he got up and he was walking out down the aisle, and Mr. Five-star General called him out and said, son, where are you going? And in front of everybody, he said, Sir, I have the highest respect for you and I just think that this is inappropriate. And you know what? He stopped that story, and he said, son, sit down. And he didn't tell the story and he went right into his thing. And I was like, John, you did that? But you know what? That's good. That's being light. And we need that. The last thing we want to do is every difficult work situation, we extract the Christian. We don't want to do that. Now, you don't want to stay in a position where you're being required to sin, or where you're requiring somebody else to sin. But I think the thing is before we just abscond and run from situations, we should seek to stay, if possible, and never sin. That's one thing when you're thinking about this. Whatever situation you determine to remain in, you just have to take this stance: I am not going to sin. And there's a place that if you're being surrounded by sin, where the job doesn't necessitate sin, but you've got people around you that are being dishonest like at the car lot or in the shipping company, or even in the engineering firm I worked for where you've got people that are lying or their conduct isn't (right). Oh man, I remember one time Brother Craig, he went back to the tool room - this was when he worked in Seguin - he went to the tool room and he had to get something, and the man there that operated the tool room had a foul mouth, and he just went off and said something, and Craig called him out on it. And Craig said the guy just blew up. But again, I think that's what's critical. We're supposed to expose them. So okay, it comes back to: You've got somebody working in a Catholic hospital. What do you think? I suspect this: I suspect that the average Christian, if it was a Lutheran hospital or a Methodist hospital wouldn't think as much about it as they do if it's a Catholic hospital. But I'll tell you this, the Catholics don't have the Gospel, but most Lutherans and most Methodists don't have it either. (Incomplete thought) And in fact, a lot of Baptists don't have it. And so, here's the thing, you're working for a Catholic hospital. And I would say this - she says, "a hospital that's focused on the Gospel and Christianity." I just put a question mark by that because I'm not certain exactly what that means. I'm not sure that Catholics are typically focusing on the Gospel or true Christianity, but she's working for a hospital in the marketing department. And I'm thinking she's probably not teaching. She's probably not being indoctrinated herself. She's probably not being put in a position where she's being expected to embrace Catholic doctrine or to propagate that doctrine. I'm thinking if you work for a hospital... James: Well, she's a marketing person. She could be involved in publishing content. She mentions specifically, "they just pray to God or Jesus" - I guess her point was not to Mary. My question would be: are you sharing stuff on your Facebook? Or other places on the Internet that promotes Mary and Catholic dogma? Tim: Yes, if you're in a marketing situation and you're having to compile literature, websites, any type of social media, any type of advertisement whatsoever where you are actually promoting the Catholic church or its teachings, I think you're dead wrong. Because look, when it comes to the actual teaching, we have this reality in 2 John. Do you know what it says about greeting people? (unintelligible) Well, the thing is if you've got somebody that's departed from the truth, John says don't even greet them. That's if somebody else is the one doing it, let alone if you're the one propagating it. No way should you ever be put in a situation where you're propagating error or teaching error. And if I'm that biology teacher (incomplete thought). See, I think there's always a place for the Christian to go to their higher-ups. Go to their supervisors, go to their foreman's, go to the boss - whoever that is - and say... I think there's a place for being honest. I'm a Christian. This is my conviction. I can't do that. I really like working here. I want to continue to work here, but I can't do that. And look, I can teach - perhaps somebody could say this - I can teach evolution, as long as you let me explain to the students that there are other thoughts and worldviews than that one, and if you allow me to indicate to the children that perhaps that's not the one that I think is correct. I think this one over here's correct. If you won't let me do that, then I probably can't teach science. Maybe I could teach math. But you let your convictions be known. I think that's critical for being salt and light. Wherever you work, they know who you are. They know what you are. They know something about your testimony. They know something about what you believe. And you're there confronting the darkness. Jesus said, "If you deny Me..." that He would deny. We don't want to deny Him. I think for the Christian to be able to work somewhere and nobody ever knows they're Christians, they're certainly not being light. So yes, a lot of this, as far as this Catholic hospital would depend on what she's being asked to do. The reality is if her primary responsibilities all wrap around people's healthcare, I mean, it's a hospital - if their primary driving reality of the majority of the people's jobs there has to do with people's health - getting people well, getting people healed - certainly, just because it says "Catholic," if a doctor told me, well, I went to work at Shriner's - I don't know, there might be better choices, but we all have to weigh these things out. And I think as a Christian, one of the things we have to weigh out is: look, I might be the only Christian in that place. So is the best thing for you to do is leave? We have to measure what does it say about our testimony. We have to weigh all these things out. It's kind of like the money situation. Is there an exact right answer? You know what? Whatsoever's not of faith is sin. We have to measure these things. We have to weigh these things out. And I would say this, there may be an environment that a weaker Christian says: I can't be here. Where a stronger Christian could say: Perhaps I can work here. Perhaps there's an individual that says at one point in time: I can work here; and then at a different point in time, he says, I no longer can. I don't think that's impossible for two Christians to be confronted by the same job, and one feels like with a clear conscience he can work there, and the other feels like with a clear conscience, they can't work there. I think that's what Romans 14 is all about. Some observe a day. Some don't observe a day. Some eat vegetables. Some eat meat. It's the kind of thing where we're trying to wrestle, we're trying to have our conscience constrained by the Word of God; constrained by the truth that we know. And we have to live up to that light, but I would say any one of us, if we're in a job, if we're in any kind of position, we need to be light. And we need to reprove the works of darkness. That's what we're called to do. You know, a holy life in itself will have a tendency to reprove, but I think the reproving is oftentimes necessary to be done by our mouths. And yeah, it can be uncomfortable and it can be confrontational. And at times, it can cost you your job. But that's okay. I mean, if you stand for what's right in some place and it ends up costing you the job, then that's okay. Those who want to be godly in this present world, they are going to face persecution. Look, the reality is take somebody like Jesus and throw Him into humanity, and what happens? They killed Him. And the more you're like Him and you throw you into that darkness out there, the more you are like Him, the more the world is going to sit up and take notice and often hate you. Anything more to say about that one? (from the room/unintelligible) Like you mentioned early on, in Luke 3, these people had these jobs. The jobs weren't sinful in and of themselves. (unintelligible) Tim: Yeah, what James is talking about is this: Do you remember when John the Baptist came on the scene? And it says specifically that the soldiers came to John and said "what must we do?" He was saying: bring forth works that are in line with your repentance. And the soldiers said what do we do? And it's very interesting that John did not say: all you soldiers need to stop being soldiers because there's no way for you to live righteously as a soldier. That's not what he said. Soldiers were big. Soldiers were strong. Soldiers were fighters. They were armed. Very easy for them to extort people. And he said don't do that. Really? Soldiers have to go to war. They have to fight. They often have to kill. How come you didn't address any of that? Well, you know what? Actually, Scripture says that God has given the sword to governments. That's God-ordained. Governments are God-ordained, and them bearing the sword is God-ordained. Personally, I would never tell anybody - any Christian - that being on a SWAT team, being in the military, being a police officer is sin. They need to sort that out before the Lord, but if a Christian decided before the Lord that he believed that was what God was calling him to, I could not say based on what Scripture teaches, I can't say that that dogmatically is sin. Now, if you take the position like what's that old Gary Cooper movie? Sergeant York. Remember Sergeant York? Anybody know about him? He was the most decorated war hero - U.S. war hero of World War 1. He was the real deal. He got saved shortly before World War 1 broke out. He was minded not to go. He believed God did not want him to kill. (Incomplete thought). He started out as a conscientious objector and he ended up going. And if you watch the movie and if the movie's true to real life, which I never actually read a Sergeant York biography, so I don't know how true the movie is to real life, but he says in the movie that he killed to save; that taking out the Germans that he took out actually ended up saving many, many of the allied soldiers. And he was the most decorated. He was a hero. He went up through all these machine gun nests. You know, if you're a conscientious objector and you choose not to do it, and you do so before the Lord? Amen. If you feel like you can go into battle, personally if I were to ask the question: does Scripture specifically forbid - if God gives the sword to the government, and you're a police officer and you're bearing that sword, does that seem to be consistent with Scripture? It does, but if you asked me, would Jesus take a gun and shoot somebody? I don't believe He would. (Incomplete thought) What does that mean? Does that mean that there are some things that are okay to do even if Jesus Himself wouldn't do them? I mean, these are the kind of things we have to wrestle with. Is it appropriate to put people to death? I mean, you have to ask that of Moses. Moses, what do you say? You went into the land of Canaan. Or, not Moses, but Joshua rather. Was it okay to kill? David, was it okay to kill? I mean, even commanded of God? Saul, did you lose your kingdom because you didn't kill when you were supposed to kill? I mean, is there a time in Scripture when killing was right? We'd have to say yes. Capital offense. If somebody committed murder, were they to be put to death? Yes. But would Jesus have killed? When they brought the woman taken in adultery, Moses did require her to be put to death. And He didn't do it. These are the things we have to wrestle with in some cases if you're thinking about those kinds of routes. Anything else on this subject? Well, that's probably enough for tonight. Okay, let's pray. Oh Lord, we pray to be a people that are guided by truth. We want to be the children of light. You tell us to rebuke the works of darkness. Help us to be children of light. Help us to really shine. We read of John the Baptist - a burning and shining light. Lord, we want that to be true of ourselves. Help us, Lord. Give us the boldness. We want to be bold to proclaim Christ in even the hardest situations. We want to be faithful to go out into the darkness of this world and shine. I pray, Lord, light us. Light us up. We pray in Christ's name, Amen.