There are many differences between the workplace and the church. Some Christians often feel that it is difficult to keep their faith in the workplace, and they do not know what to do when they face conflict. They are worried that they might lose their jobs if they stick to their faith. Or vice versa. How to deal with the conflict between work and faith? We asked four working brothers and sisters to share their thoughts on these issues.
Is there a conflict between your work and your faith?
Brother Gao, who has worked in the media industry for many years, said there are not many times when work and faith clash and most issues can be avoided. If there is an industry which by its definition has rules that violate principles of faith, don't do it. Put faith first.
Brother Li who works in the training service industry thinks that there certainly may be conflict in use of time and also basic philosophy. The specific details of the conflict between faith and work depends on the actual occupation. He thinks the best way to avoid conflict is indicate during a job interview that he is a Christian and what he is not able to do as a matter of conscience. This can then lead to negotiation with the person or business that is hiring.
He gave an example, "The weekend is the busiest time for the training industry I’m in. It’s also the easiest time to earn money. However, I need to go to church on Sunday morning. I decided that no matter how busy I am, I want to free up Sunday morning. So I went directly to the job interview and talked about this problem with the interviewer. I told him that I'm a Christian and I can't go to work on Sunday morning. I can work at any other time.The interviewer showed understanding and agreed to my request. I actually thought that if he didn't agree, I would find another company."
Zhou, who works in the financial industry, also said that there can be conflict between the workplace and his personal beliefs in areas of work culture, the work environment and values. In times of conflict, do Christians choose to conform to the standards of the world or the standards of the Bible? For example, the Bible says don't be greedy, but you work to make money. If you see a lot of money in your business, would you want to take that money?
Brother Zhou also gave an example to explain this: "I work in finance, and I have direct contact with money. My company gives a price to the salesman, who then gives a quote to the customer. If the salesman is a smooth talker, he can give the customer a higher price. Normally, the extra money needs to be given to the company, and then the salesman will get a commission. However, a lot of salesmen choose to bypass the company and put the extra money into their own pockets. But is this something that Christians should do? Should we not rather hold to biblical standards? This is a conflict. My approach is to seek truth from facts. If the price I quote the customer is higher than what the company gives me, I will tell the company the actual price. The extra profit belongs to the company and the company gives me a commission."
What conflicts are common in the workplace and what advice do you have on how to resolve them?
1. Having to work on Sundays
Brother Li, who works in the training services industry, said his company has nine employees. Five of them are Christian and four are not, so they have agreed that the four non-Christians will work on Sundays. It was a little difficult for him to ask for Sunday off on his own, but for the sake of his faith, he decided to ask the head of the company for this time off. He is grateful to God that through negotiation the problem could be resolved.
Can Christians refuse to drink alcohol with colleagues and still feel comfortable when in social situations? If you refuse to drink when dining with customers, will that affect sales negatively
Brother Li said that when he is at a company dinner his principle is not to drink. After his colleagues know that he doesn’t drink alcohol, they did not pressure him to drink. He feels obliged to stick to his principles. He has heard that some churches are not strict about drinking and that some Christians do drink, but his rule is not to drink.
Brother Zhou mainly met the problem of drinking when talking about business with customers. Sometimes, customers would invite him to talk about business while having dinner where there was also alcohol. His principle was not to pander to his clients when talking about business. He would say that he was a Christian and could not drink. Brother Zhou said, "But some people don't understand. They feel like they're being polite and that if I don't drink then I don't accept them...So I might compromise and make an exception, but I don't make an exception because I like to drink.There may be something I have not done well in this respect, but I don’t think whether one drinks or not is a judgment if one is truly a Christian or not."
Brother Shi, who has worked in sales and hotel management, feels the same way. He says Christians almost always have a problem of whether to drink in the workplace. If a group of persons from a company has a dinner together, usually the leaders and colleagues will drink. He found that it was ok to refuse to drink once or twice. If he refused too many times however, he would feel isolated.On the other hand, if you really need to drink, the bottom line is, don't get drunk.
3. Sales commission (rebate)
Shi, who has worked in sales for many years, said there is a rule in the sales industry: you give the persons you are negotiating with a commission, or worse, a kickback. Some companies put the money in the bank and use it as a fund to help people in need or for public purposes, which is a good way to use it, but sometimes the money goes to key leaders, which according to the Bible is bribery.
"It is difficult for me to change the hidden rules," said Brother Shi. He once worked on a sales project and talked about several key personnel involved before and after the project. It took a long time for both parties to communicate before signing the contract, and the profit distribution was complicated." There is a limit to what we can do, but we can still make some changes. We can be flexible in how we report sales expenses, adjust them according to the company's limit, entice the customer by giving them things like books or gifts, or make some small adjustments," Brother Stone added.
4. Temptation of money
Zhou, in particular, said he felt this problem. He shared that in the years when business was good, profits were high, and the higher the volume, the higher the profit.The lure of money is very great. Many of his colleagues or other peers in the company take advantage of the extra profit and make a lot of money. This is also a great temptation for Christians. "Because we're not Jesus," Brother Zhou said, "if we look at money, it is easy to rationalize taking the extra profit for yourself. You work very hard and relate to the customer, so it seems very natural to take the extra profit for yourself. It doesn’t damage the interests of the company because they set a particular price and this is what they earn. But if through my connection I can earn more money then I can rationalize that this is something I have earned by myself."
It's not biblical, but it's hard to be honest in the face of temptation. Many people work on their own because of money problems. First they work on their own and then they go out on their own. "But thank God that my faith is my foundation and I have been able to keep my principles for so many years," Brother Zhou said gratefully.
In keeping with his honesty and integrity, Brother Chou found god's grace to make him attractive. He said that many people in the world interact with customers for profit or business. What they mean by friends is just eating and drinking. But he has a good relationship with his clients, and they trust him a lot. Although he meets with his business clients, he doesn't have much contact with them outside of work. "Even so, sometimes I can't come back in time and the bank manager or an official I know invites me to stay with them. I don’t really know them well, but they invite me to have dinner with them, to talk about things other than work, dreams and life, just as if we are friends.
"Another client, who was very old and started his own company, came to Beijing to meet me and invited me to join him. In fact, I had no direct contact with him, but rather with the people under him in his business. "Brother Chou thinks that there are good people in the world, but Christians are more attractive, not because of themselves, but because of god's grace in doing what they are supposed to do.
Have you ever hit a low point at work? What do you do when you hit a low point?
Brother Gao said that his practice was to pray and meditate on why he was working at his company, to reconfirm whether to remain there, and to make sure that he was grounded in his faith. Facing challenges in his work, he also sought guidance from seniors and tried his best to give 100 percent.
Brother Shi mentioned that he went through a low point when he started his own business. It was hard, but he still believed that God would provide a way for him to succeed.
Brother Zhou also shared about difficulties in his work. "In our work we are under great pressure. Usually, after the bank closes in the afternoon, we have to fly back to Beijing in the evening, deliver materials to the company, work overtime in the evening, and go to a customer's bank by plane in the morning.The most difficult thing is the pressure I’m under from the my leaders and customer while these materials are in my hands. In case of mistakes, I will lose a lot of money, so the pressure is very great. Some clients are very tricky and difficult to deal with, so they need to be responsible for everything themselves."
"There are so many factors that we cannot control so I can only pray for God's help to solve them," Brother Zhou said.
How is working in the world different from working in the church or in a Christian environment?
Brother Gao thinks the two are very different. In the church and among Christians there is a common foundation based on love, communication, and tolerance. In the workplace, the basis of communication is common interest. In the church, whether the work you do is good or bad there is tolerance. However, if you do a bad job in the workplace, you will have to bear the consequences and even encounter unjust treatment in many cases. "But thank God that has not happened to me," brother Gao said.
Brother Li thought that the work in the world is relatively simple, we do not interfere with each other's work, their own performance can be. Companies in a Christian atmosphere tend to become too evangelical and lose the law."Because everyone talks about love, people tend to have a poor sense of order, a poor sense of competition and are more comfortable. It's not a good state for the company.
Brother Li also mentioned that there is a difference between the two. In a non-Christian environment, people may tolerate the conflict, but they will keep it in mind, and then they may seek opportunities for revenge. In a Christian environment, if the other person is a devout Christian, there will be self-reflection and repentance after the conflict. If he sees the other person's faith is better, he will admire the other person, but if the other person does something against his faith, he will despise him. Therefore, Brother Li's suggestions for Christians entering the workplace are as follows: first of all, remember your Christian identity and hold to basic Christian standards such as speaking and behaving in the workplace. In addition, do a good job in personal spiritual practice. Because the workplace is stressful, it requires strength from God.
Brother Shi, who is starting his own business again, thinks it is better to work in a Christian environment, at least there are no problems like giving kickbacks. He summed up the reasons for the failure of his previous business. At that time, he just did it with his love for God. Now, he finds that in business there are specific rules, and entrepreneurship needs to follow the rules and do it scientifically. Brother Shi believes that business is done as a team. If key interpersonal relationships are handled well, other problems can be solved easily, including business breakthroughs and financial problems. Working in a faith-based environment, where conflict can be resolved in truth, is a better place to let God know where things are through prayer.
- Translated by Nicolas Cao