Keeping a Clear Conscience on Your Job

Keeping a Clear Conscience on Your Job

Richard Hollerman

What is one of the most priceless possessions God has given to us? It is our conscience. The conscience, the ability to judge between right and wrong, must be kept clear, clean, pure—and accurate. Paul says that we are to keep “faith and a good conscience” (1 Timothy 1:19). And this “good conscience,” along with “a pure heart” and “a sincere faith,” will enable us to have love for God and others (1:5). Paul was able to affirm, “I have lived my life with a perfectly good conscience before God up to this day” (Acts 23:1). He also said, “I also do my best to maintain always a blameless conscience both before God and before men” (24:16). We should be able to say, with Paul, “I thank God, whom I serve with a clear conscience” (2 Timothy 1:3).

In contrast, some have a “seared” conscience (1 Timothy 4:2) or a “defiled” conscience (Titus 1:15; 1 Corinthians 8:7). When we do something that we know to be wrong, we are violating our conscience and incur a rightful guilt before a holy God. Much more could be said about the necessity of a good or blameless conscience, but let’s bring this point over to the matter of our daily work..

God calls on us to work for our living.  Again quoting from Paul the apostle, we read, “Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life and attend to your own business and work with your hands, just as we command you, so that you will behave properly toward outsiders and not be in any need” (1 Thessalonians 4:11-12). Obtaining and keeping a steady job in order to support ourselves and our families, as well as giving to the needs of others, should be of highest priority. If we don’t work for a living, we lead an “unruly life” and must depend on the generosity of others (cf. 2 Thessalonians 3:6-15). Instead, we must work so we can give (1 Timothy 5:8).

Paul said that he gave an example of “working hard” to give to others. “You yourselves know that these hands ministered to my own needs and to the men who were with me” (Acts 20:34-35). Scripture says that a Christian must perform “with his own hands what is good, so that he will have something to share with one who has need” (Ephesians 4:28). Notice here that the brother must occupy himself with something that is “good”—in contrast to the “bad.”  When we seek employment, we should only agree to take a job that is “good,” honest, pure, worthy, and honorable. We must work with something that is free from sin!

We know that sometimes this matter of seeking employment can be daunting, even overwhelming. I personally know how difficult it can be for an unskilled and uneducated person to find acceptable employment—especially when one is determined to keep from worldly activity and compromising jobs. It can be extremely difficult, especially in view of the fact that one’s daily life and that of his family is at stake.

When the Christian seeks to keep his conscience clear, good, and blameless, he will want to only take a job that is compatible with Christian values. He will be determined to refuse a job that causes him to compromise the ways of Christ in some way. Since we are living in a world that is utterly opposed to the holiness of God, we can understand that many—or even most—of the jobs available will partake of the unrighteousness of the world and won’t be in harmony with the righteousness of the Lord. Christ gave Himself for us “so that He might rescue us from this present evil age” (Galatians 1:4), and sometimes this means that the Christian must be delivered from a job that requires sinful activities and compromising relationships.

Five Largest Employers

Today I noticed an article about the largest employers in the United States. It was entitled, “America’s 5 Biggest Employers” ( investing/americas- 5-biggest-employers). Let’s go over these five companies that hire more than any other employer in this country and ask whether the Christian might have difficulty working at these places.

        1.    Wal-Mart

This is the largest employer, for it hires 2.2 million people worldwide and 1.3 million in the United States. Do you think that a Christian could work at a job connected with this company? Would God want a person to stock or sell such things as immodest and extravagant clothes, junk food, compromising DVDs and books, and holiday trappings (Halloween, Christmas, etc.)? Would the Lord want a child of His to sell jewelry, or worldly toys, or TVs? Surely the follower of Jesus couldn’t have part in spreading such worldly items. And, remember, Wal-Mart would sell thousands of such items.

        2.    Yum Brands

When I first saw this company, I had no idea how to identify it. But this employer of 523,000 Americans controls K F Chicken, Taco Bell, and Pizza Hut. Could the conscientious Christian have anything to do with promoting junk food or unhealthy food that destroys the health of those who purchase these non-food “foods”? Wouldn’t this be a clear case of moral compromise?

        3.    McDonalds

This well-known fast food place hires 440,000 Americans. As in the point above, this restaurant is well-known for its “junk” food that clearly contributes to degenerative disease. Since “love does no wrong to a neighbor” (Romans 13:10a), and promoting this health-destroying “food” surely is doing wrong to others, how could a Christian be employed at Wal-Mart?

        4.    IBM

I am not in a position to evaluate this company and the kind of work that it offers, thus I’ll refrain from any comments. This company hires 434,000 employees.

        5.    UPS

This well-known company (that hires 399,000 workers) probably does have jobs that are either positive or neutral, but surely many or most of them would involve transporting compromising products or objects. Could a UPS driver knowingly transport pornography, immodest clothes, compromising books or DVDs, or various worldly items? Should he try to overcome his conscience by just focusing on his paycheck?

Our Area

This would be the Fort Worth, Texas, area, located in the North-central portion of the state. I was curious to know which employers had the most employees in Fort Worth and environs. ( fort-worth-overview /facts-figures/major- employers/.) This is what we discover:

        1.    AMR/American Airlines (22,169 employees)

Surely there would be some negatives in working for this company, however there may be certain jobs that the Christian would find acceptable. It would take a serious examination for the Christian to seem employment here.

        2.    Texas Health Resources (18,866 employees)

Would there be any problem with this company? The Christian would need to be discerning as he checked out what jobs were available with this organization.

        3.    Lockheed Martin (14,988 employees)

If you are like me in rejecting the Christian’s participation in the military and warfare, we can see the inconsistency of working at Lockheed Martin. Could the Christian work where hundreds of fighter bombers are produced to supply the military in probably dozens of different nations of the world? Can he participate in the killing and destruction of people and sending them to a Godless eternity?

        4.    NAS Fort Worth JRB (11,350 employees)

This refers to the “Naval Air Station Joint Reserve Base Fort Worth.” As in the last point above, the Christian who opposes a participation in the military and warfare would reject any association with this employer.

        5.    Fort Worth ISD (11,000 employees)

This refers to the public school system of the city. While some jobs may be acceptable, we think that probably most of them would have negative aspects. How could the Christian participate in the worldliness, the secularism, the relativism, the evolutionism, the humanism, and the entertainment focus of the modern worldly school system?

This exercise demonstrates how difficult it would be for the Christian to be employed by the leading employers in the country as well as the leading ones in this city and county.

Attempted Justification

We are aware that some professing “Christians” seek employment with certain companies by justifying this in various ways. They may just say, “I need a job and it is better to work, regardless of where it is, as long as I can have an income to pay my bills.” But how is it possible for the follower of Christ to do something that violates Christian principles for the sake of money? Wouldn’t this be covetousness—and wouldn’t it be idolatry (Ephesians 5:5)?

Others may justify their actions by claiming, “All jobs have negative features but I just try to focus on the positives.” Similar to the previous point, this is a utilitarian argument that seems to say we can do wrong in order to carry out the right. But Paul condemns the philosophy that says, “Let us do evil that good may come” (Romans 3:8).

Still others may say, “Any wrong in the job is the guilt of the company itself or my boss, and I and other employees don’t share the blame.” But how can this be?  Couldn’t an abortionist nurse blame the doctor for the murder and claim she is innocent in the procedure? Couldn’t the operator of a pornography store say that the real blame lies at the feet of the compromising women rather than him? Couldn’t the club owner say that the patron who gets drunk is at fault but he—as the owner—is innocent?  No, we can’t pass the blame on our employer or anyone else and assert our innocence.

Other justifications have been offered, but they really are ways to avoid the blame. We are guilty when we sin or promote sin.  Scripture says, “The person who sins will die” (Ezekiel 18:20a). We also read, “The wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23). Paul says, “Stop sinning!” (1 Corinthians 15:34). When we have a job that requires sin, then we are guilty of sin. If we examine a position and it does require one to sin, we must utterly reject it from consideration.

Working in Some Circumstances

It is possible for a Christian to have certain jobs that normally or occasionally require a sin, but he may be able to avoid this sin. For example, the believer may be able to make arrangements with his manager to avoid certain duties that a job normally involves. If this is feasible, we think that the Christian may be able to retain the job without guilt. Or maybe the Christian could ask to be transferred to a different position that doesn’t require sinful activities. 

In some jobs, it may be possible to plead “religious liberty” and thereby avoid sinful activities.  For example, if a Christian woman seeks to wear long hair and a covering (1 Corinthians 11), and the boss wants to insist on shorter hair and bare heads, the Christian woman can bring up the “religious freedom” that the government provides. Perhaps it could work with other matters—and sometimes it won’t work.  One time, I was being transferred to a job that required work on the Lord’s day even though I had avoided this for many years earlier. I knew that it was legal that I refrain from working and allow other employees (who didn’t profess Christ) to fill the Sunday job. But I was dismissed anyway and the employer was able to manipulate the state inquiry so that my dismissal was upheld—with no unemployment compensation. I didn’t appeal any further.

The follower of Christ can plead “religious freedom” in regard to a number of different factors. If an employer wants to force him or her to wear immodest or compromising clothes, one could use 1 Timothy 2:9-10 as a defense. If a supervisor wishes to impose work on the Lord’s day and missing the assembling with the saints, the Christian could use Hebrews 10:24-25 and Revelation 1:10 as a defense. If the employer insists on dishonesty or outright lying, the believer could use Proverbs 12:22 and Revelation 21:8 in defense. If the supervisor should want to press a believer into worldly entertainment, he could plead Romans 12:1-2 and Titus 2:11-12 in defense.

The Christian could explain to the manager, supervisor, or boss that he has convictions against certain sinful activities, and it would seem that legally the employer must honor sincerely held religious convictions. Maybe an example would be joining a labor union. The Christian who has convictions against membership in such a union has the right to refrain from such membership (but, in some cases, he must contribute a certain fee to a charity instead of the union).

The Christian, therefore, can make arrangements to refrain from sinful features of the job.  But if this doesn’t work, we know that some might take this to the civil government and force continued employment. Personally, we would probably refrain from such an extreme measure, even though it may be lawful (Romans 13:1-7).

Quite frankly, however, we think that if one is job-hunting and is considering a certain position, it is only fair that the Christian bring up any misgivings and convictions at the point of hiring. Otherwise, the employer may say that he or she hired you under the mistaken view that you could fulfill the duties that normally are found in the job.

Suffering and Hardship is Expected

God never promised that things would go well in life and that we would not need to suffer. In contrast, Scripture assumes that the faithful follower of the Lord will experience persecution, distress, hardship, difficulties, and sufferings of all kinds (2 Corinthians 12:10). As Paul said, “Suffer hardship with me, as a good soldier of Christ Jesus” (2 Timothy 2:3).

Part of this suffering may come from the difficulty of finding suitable employment that is compatible with Christian values.  And it may come when a person comes to Christ, even after working at a job for ten or twenty years, and discovers that certain elements of the job require sinning. One may need to leave such a job like this or face dismissal—all for the sake of Christ. But let’s remember, “it will be worth it all when we see Jesus”!







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