When I was pastoring in Paris, I invited Erik to come and share with our people about faith and work. Our congregation of engineers, CEOs, HR managers, fashion designers – and a handful of professional hip hop dancers – strongly connected with the message of missional marketplace.
I had to laugh when, during a workshop, a row of our strong French women – leaders at some top global companies – asked, “So how does this stuff apply when you work in a shark tank? If I show up with the heart of a servant, I’ll get eaten alive.” Heads around the room nodded. At that moment I realized that this congregation of people I loved was facing the constant dilemma of their choice to live with Christian ethics that could hold them back in their careers.
Living out your faith in the marketplace is more challenging if you’re not in the boss’s chair. It’s not just about not gossiping around the water cooler or stealing office supplies. The reality is, trying to follow Christ’s example of humility and integrity can make it feel impossible to achieve your professional goals. Compromising your integrity looks different in every professional field, but when you see unethical behavior rewarded, you really might wonder where God is. Aren’t Christians supposed to be favored? Isn’t our obedience supposed to get us ahead and not put us behind?
In case these thoughts feel terribly unholy, I’ve got good news for you – you’re not the first one that has had them. Remember the words of Asaph in Psalm 73?
2 But as for me, my feet had almost slipped;
I had nearly lost my foothold.
3 For I envied the arrogant
when I saw the prosperity of the wicked…
12 This is what the wicked are like—
always free of care, they go on amassing wealth.
13 Surely in vain I have kept my heart pure
and have washed my hands in innocence.
14 All day long I have been afflicted,
and every morning brings new punishments.
In this passage, Asaph gives a brutally honest voice to what many of us think at some point. What’s the point of trying to live as Christians if the wicked end up living better lives than we do? What hope is there of using the gifts God has given you to affect positive change in the world if your integrity ends up holding you back?
As the Psalmists so often do, Asaph goes on to answer his own question in verse 23. He reminds himself that God is with him. God is guiding him. In verses 25 and 26 he writes these powerful words:
25 Whom have I in heaven but you?
And earth has nothing I desire besides you.
26 My flesh and my heart may fail,
but God is the strength of my heart
and my portion forever.
Asaph gets back to the heart of it – he remembers that he desires nothing more than God. He recalled that this life is not all there is. He concludes in verse 28, saying, “It is good for me to be near God.”
The reality is that your specific workplace culture may indeed reward a lack of ethics. Your marketplace might be one where the cheaters get ahead and where abusive or unethical practices land you in leadership. This is not to say that you should put up with mistreatment, and a change of field or workplace may be necessary for your situation. Enduring abuse is not a requirement of holiness, and finding a place for you to fully express your God-given gifts might be the right move.
No matter what situation you find yourself in, know this – God sees and knows of your faithful obedience. Your boss may not see it, and your coworkers may question you for it, but your faithfulness is not forgotten by God. The words of Asaph show us that it’s okay for us to express our frustration with God in our situation and that no matter what we face – at work or elsewhere – His plans for us are steadfast.