What is Wrong at Work?

As I have already mentioned, our journey in this study has been focused on the dignity of work. However, our workplaces are broken places. Offices are characterized by immoral behavior, unethical practices, abuses of power, breach of conduct, greed, lust, etc. There are too many examples of dis-ease in our work place. So, what is wrong?

The answer is both simple and complex. On the one hand, a simple answer suffices: sin! In Genesis 3, God pronounced judgment on mankind as He told Adam that “thorns and thistles” will grow in his fields. Well, our workplaces are filled with “thorns and thistles”!

Our workplaces are filled with sinful people. Thus, the working environment can be poisoned with all of the actions and attitudes that are associated with sinful, broken people. Evil has permeated all sectors of society and our workplaces are not exempt.

On the other hand, the answer to the brokenness in our workplace is a bit more complex. We face cultural pressures and demands that are both subtle and more overt. Businesses have to address “bottom-line” issues and answer the challenges inherent in a capitalistic society. So, how many hours should the business operate? Where does it practice cost-cutting measures? What is the difference between “compromise” and just good, business practices? Investors, consumers, potential customers, board members – all of these folks have expectations and desires that influence how businesses are managed and operated. Decisions about expansion and reduction are affected by a broader economy and multiple factors that are beyond the control of any one employer.

So, our workplace is teeming with opportunities to further our own brokenness. It is a place where we can engage in practices that are not consistent with our Christian commitment. We can be guilty of unethical behaviors, illicit affairs, mistreatment of others – in other words, the temptation to live according to the flesh is ever-present at work. As Christians, we must be prepared for the challenges that our working life presents us.

Let me pause at this point in the study to recommend a resource to you. It is helpful at the point of discussing the topic of brokenness at our workplace. It is Taking Your Soul to Work: Overcoming the Nine Deadly Sins of the Workplace, William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2010, by R. Paul Stevens and Alvin Ung.

In this book, Stevens and Ung discuss the “nine deadly sins” of the workplace under the heading of “Soul-Sapping Struggles in the Workplace.” Here is their list of these sins: pride, greed, lust, gluttony, anger, sloth, envy, restlessness and boredom.

Their answer to these struggles? The fruit of the Spirit! They refer to the fruit of the Spirit as “Life-Giving Resources for the Workplace.” They seek to apply joy, goodness, love, self-control, gentleness, faithfulness, kindness, patience and peace — as the antidote for what is wrong in our workplaces.

These two authors call for Christians to develop what they have designated a “spirituality” of work. It is a bit different than a call for a theology of work – but I have found their insights to be helpful. Here is a summary statement from them that explains how they have organized their book and developed their thoughts in cultivating a spirituality of work:

         We have organized this book around these three movements:

  1. Identifying the struggles that prevent us from coming alive at work
  2. Cultivating the Spirit of God who equips us with life-giving resources
  3. Imagining the outcome of a Spirit-led life that welcomes God at the center of work
    -Stevens and Ung, Taking Your Soul to Work, p. 5