This is a further post in my series on the attitude of the Christian to work. Other posts in this series and the sermon itself are also available here.
Act 3, of Esther, makes the point that it’s all very well to fit in, and to do good, and that’s very important. But there may well come a time, where you will have to stand up for God; that there may well come a time when it is obvious that you are not of the world; where it may become obvious that despite identification, you are not the same as the person you sit next to. You see, there are limits to our engagement with the world at work.
And what we see in Act 3 of Esther is that a plot against the Jews is formed. Haman plots to destroy the Jews. Mordecai persuades Esther to intervene and Esther asks for Mordecai’s help as to how she should do this because she is worried.
What we see is there is a line, and there is always a line that you cannot cross. Chapter 3:2 says this, “Mordecai did not bow down or pay homage.” He was just asked to worship – it could have been the easiest thing in the world. He could have just had his fingers crossed behind his back. He could have knelt down, he could have worshipped Haman. But he was like, “No, there is only one person I worship.”
And sometimes you do have to stand up for what you believe in. You do. You really do. And then of course, Esther later on, she has to put her neck on the line, quite literally, because of her people’s danger. Sometimes you have to stand up. It’s like what Peter said to the Jewish authorities, “We must obey God, rather than man.” And Mark 12:17 says this, “Jesus said to them, ‘Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and to God the things that are God’s.” Yes, we must give to this world the things that belong to this world, but there are times when God will demand something of us.
That might be moral action that you discover law-breaking at work that you can’t be part of. Sometimes it may even be a call to civil disobedience, like Esther did. She broke the law against entering the king’s presence. Sometimes it might be just refusing to lie: “No, I won’t tell them that you are out, I’ll tell them that you are not available, boss.” Sometimes it is about worship. You know we don’t worship idols these days but we can worship other things – worshipping money is a good one. And as I’ve already said, I do believe we have to stick up sometimes for ethics, for good ethics in business and say, “No, we’re not going to do that.”
It’s funny, I had a job once, where I was told that part of my role was to be the conscience for the company. That’s an interesting line, isn’t it? Whether that’s in your job description or not, that should be your role at work. Sometimes it’s hard to discern that line. I want to just urge you – I wonder, for example today, if we heard of a Christian Olympian or athlete, whether we’d celebrate the fact if they said they weren’t going to run on a Sunday. And yet during the 1924 Olympics Eric Liddell, did exactly that.
Now we can sit in judgement of an athlete today and say, “You shouldn’t do it” or, “Yes, you should, because if you get the gold medal, think of all the influence you could have.” It’s very easy and I’m not going to say what’s the right or wrong answer in that. What I’m going to say is this: You need to think these things through. You might think ‘Oh it doesn’t apply today’ but it does, because I know someone who turned down their dream job – a job they’d love to do – for the simple reason that they would have to work every single Sunday. I don’t know, maybe if he only had to work one in three or one in four he might have had a different approach. But every Sunday, he’s like, “No, I can’t do that.”
It’s an interesting thought, isn’t it? How do we make these decisions? How do we draw these lines? There has to be scope as well on some of these issues for different Christians to come to different conclusions. The Bible tells us this: “Whatever is not of faith, is sin.” So if you have faith for what you’re doing and it’s not against the Bible, in one sense, good luck to you. But maybe you should take some advice some time. Some decisions you need advice for, that’s for sure.
But here’s one thing for sure – we don’t need to look for ways to offend unbelievers, because by being true to ourselves, there will come times when we will offend them. God’s people have always been hated just as they were by Haman in this way. But when we do it, even when we have to speak out, even when we have to stand up, even when we have to say, “NO! I will not do that,” do it graciously, please. Ephesians 4:15 says that we should, “Speak the truth in love.” And that applies to that annoying boss of yours. That applies to that person who you manage who you have to rebuke and tell off tomorrow. How can you do it in love? That is what Jesus asks of us.