What Do You Think, What are the Liabilities of Living Your Faith at Work?
In a former post (http://www.patheos.com/blogs/marketplacefaith/2015/09/living-your-faith-and-work-asset-or-liability-part-1/) I made the case that living your faith at work brings a number of value-adds, real benefits we can place in the asset column. In this post, I consider the potential negatives or liability side of the ledger.
A Caveat: I’m aware that this approach may smack utilitarian: “If it works, I’ll follow Jesus, if not, I wont.” Yet I think this is precisely the type of cost/benefit analysis Jesus encouraged. He said: “If you want to be greatest, become a servant,” “If you want to find your life, lose it for my sake,” and “No one builds a tower or goes to war without first counting the cost.” Jesus frequently made the case that doing life his way was the best way, appealing to the evaluative self-interest of his followers. So what about the cost of following him in the most important life areas—our work-life?
Liability Exposure in Living Your Faith At Work
- It’s Complicated. By bringing one’s faith to work, it complicates how you assess your job. It’s another voice to juggle (boss, colleagues, self and family already in the chorus). Yet it is not just another voice, it is THE voice that claims to trump all other allegiances and commitments. Figuring out how to hear Christ in our work and then do the math on the implications is a messy, complicated, ongoing, and dynamic process. No quick fixes, no simplistic answers.
- Easy to be Misunderstood. Whenever we venture out and publicly own our faith, it’s easy to be misunderstood. It’s simpler to “black and white” people, to put them in hard and fast categories. But a loyal follow of Christ will often be the best team member and at the same time the most resistant on certain business moves or industry practices. Hard to label, hard to understand for those outside of faith, and easy to be misunderstood.
- Conflicting Standards. It is almost inevitable that we will run into situations where we have to say “no” to something to which our workplace culture habitually says “yes,” shading the truth, always working excessive hours, or taking clients to strip clubs are real world examples. “Ethical,” “legal” and “biblical” do not always align. The social and potential career-damaging fallout of conflicting standards goes on the liability side of the ledger.
- Conflicting Success Criteria. How does your company define success? How do your peers? Whether it’s up and to the right corporate earnings (with their correlated bonuses) or surviving the workweek in the shop to get to the rewards of the weekend, a Christ-following definition of success brings tension here. First, for the Christ-follower (and many others) successful work brings real value to others (to all the others involved in the product process: vendors, employees, customers, the wider community). Secondly, family and faith-community relationships are also on the list of key metrics for a believer’s life. Finally, our ultimate goal is completing the work God has given us to do, fulfilling our calling. Aspects of this calling may not align with workplace culture or career ambitions.
- Never Fully Fitting In. A senior VP at one of the big 4 accounting firms shared with me the reality of his faith and work journey: “I just had to accept that I’d never completely fit in.” With a different core allegiance and source of identity than our peers, we will be different.
Worth the Cost
As I suggested in Part 1 of this post, the assets or benefits, outweigh the liabilities. We need to be honest and realistic, particularly those of us who are speaking and teaching on the subject. Embrace the leadership of Jesus in the context of you work will not be easy, but it is worth it in the end.
When crowds of people were leaving Jesus because his teaching was too demanding, he posed a question to his followers: “will you leave me, too?” Peter answered first and said, “Where else are we going to go, you alone have the words that lead to eternal life.”
And so as workplace disciples, we face the same question: Are we going to leave the practice of our faith at home because there are items on the liability site of the ledger? Hopefully, we’ll share Peter’s answer: Where else could we go? We have considered the cost, and having the life that Jesus gives is worth far more than anything that we may face on the liability side of the balance sheet.