I've managed the entire recruiting process from start to finish, from candidate search to candidate hire (which can take several months in some cases), and have recruited everything from the Entry Level Professional right out of college with no experience to the established, 20-year veteran VP of Sales who earns $500,000+ per year, and have done so for various companies across numerous industries throughout the country.
I mention this only to demonstrate that I know a thing or two about the Employment Industry including the way in which companies tend to operate when it comes to how they prefer to treat their employees, which I would argue is way more important than how they treat their customers.
I also mention it to express the fact that I've heard and seen it all in the sense that each organization usually has a drastically different philosophy on what needs to be done to attract, hire, and then retain the best talent available in the marketplace.
Rarely, did I ever work with true blue Christian companies and professionals. Occasionally, yes, but that hasn't been the norm. Besides, one's faith isn't something that comes up in conversation during the hiring process (or should for obvious legal reasons when you're the one with the authority to hire and fire at will) unless it is essential to performing the job functions of the position that needs to be filled.
Believe it or not, all that being said, I have had the privilege of working for not one, but two, distinctly Christian organizations in my 13-year career right here in Buffalo, NY. In fact, I currently work with other Christians for a Christian President/CEO of a national Gourmet Chocolate Manufacturer where we open each morning's team meeting with prayer and where you will find that all the Chocolate Melters on the premises are named after different people mentioned in the Bible.
So, naturally, the day-to-day routine is much different when you work for a Christian company...at least, it should be somewhat noticeably different.
Now, that's not to say that working for a Christian employer doesn't come with its own unique set of challenges. Quite the contrary! For starters, you have to deal with multiple brands of "Christianity" under the same roof rather than just "the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints" (Jude 1:3).
I'm a Confessional Lutheran, but the other people on the Senior Management Team who sit at the same table as me are of the Catholic, Non-Denominational, Presbyterian, Spiritual-But-Not-Religious, and Word-of-Faith/Name-It-Claim-It/Pentecostal variety.
It certainly makes for some...interesting...morning prayers and discussions throughout the day.
People (other Christians in the American workforce) like to think that it would be absolutely fantastic working for a Christian boss. I certainly used to think that way. That's not to say that it doesn't have it's benefits. It does. I like watching my boss working to navigate his way through the secular public arena as a man of faith. I have to be careful though.
My dear friends, we need to remember that they're still sinners just like you and me. They're human beings, not Business Owners In Christ's Place, and so that means that they will still let you down, and yes, perhaps even upset you from time-to-time.
One of the major challenges I've experienced at both the Christian organization I used to work at and the one I work at right now is the tendency for the Senior Managers (who are all Christian men) to think that "Being A Christian Businessman" means that you cannot "Be A Man!" let alone "Be A Businessman!" when you're expected to.
What I mean to say is that such a position demands that you make some difficult if not also unpopular decisions from time-to-time. So, if an employee refuses to do their job (not "has a tough time learning how to do their job properly" but "they simply refuse to do their job because they're lazy") -- even after repeated attempts to address the situation and to correct the unwanted behavior by talking to the individual -- then Senior Management here seems to misapply the instructions Jesus gave to us in Luke 17:3-4 to such a person who is clearly not repentant!
To put it another way, sadly, most Christian Businessmen that I know are afraid to do the right thing and make the right (but often difficult) decisions when it comes to other people on their staff. It's like they don't have a backbone or spine in their entire bodies! It's almost like they're the "Peter Pans" we highlighted a few months back.
Of course, Luke 17:3-4 is important in light of the repentant person, but how in the world does such a command apply to the person that just doesn't care if they're reprimanded by management to the point where it seems like they're just trying to get themselves fired?
How is the "loving" thing to do as a Christian boss to continue to let them leave work unfinished to the point where it directly impacts what other employees can or can't do in order to get their own job done each day?
How is the "loving" thing to do as a Christian boss to continue to allow them to come into work late each morning and leave early each afternoon when everyone else is held to a higher standard and written up if they don't conform to the simple guideline of working the Shift and hours you're scheduled to work?
How is the "loving" thing to do as a Christian boss to continue to let them do things that others would get written up for, but they seem to always get a free pass?
I'm getting a little sidetracked here, but I think you get my point.
Working for a Christian company is not automatically "better" than working for a non-Christian company if you're a Christian yourself. It's just not. In that sense, it's very similar to what we've been repeating week-after-week about how just because a Christian is very sincere does not excuse them when it comes to being sincerely wrong about God's Word and the Gospel.
At this point, I'd like to quickly address another major trend I'm starting to see (and also experiencing myself right now) with Christian businesses. Unfortunately, it's not a "good" trend either I'm afraid.
Christianity Today published an article titled "Why 'Overpaying' Workers Makes Biblical And Business Sense" that I thought was going to be the typical "Capitalism vs. Socialism" sort of piece that tends to pit Conservative Christians against their more liberal counterparts. Boy was I wrong!
Plus, after taking the time to read it, I began thinking that this is a conversation that we Christians definitely need to be having now more than ever.
Let me start by asking a simple question. Who reading this humble little blog of mine isn't living from paycheck-to-paycheck right now? For the vast majority of us, that's just our current financial situation due to the current state of the US economy.
So, whether a person has a "good paying job" or simply makes the "Median Average Income" is immaterial these days it seems.
Furthermore, it seems like whether a person is the sole income provider for their family or if both spouses work to bring home a paycheck doesn't matter anymore either! You could be the most frugal people on the planet, and yet, it's still nearly impossible to eliminate debt and make ends meet even if you're living responsibly with what God has seen fit to give you in His providence.
Ah, see, that's where this discussion becomes a little tricky!
I don't think any of us would suggest that we should just complain-and-moan all the time about how "life's so unfair!" and how unhappy we are that we're not getting paid what we feel we deserve.
"Deserve." There's a loaded word, huh?
I mean, what do any of us really "deserve" other than what the good Lord has already promised to give us in the form of His one and only Son, our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ as well as "our daily bread" too?
Does this mean we should never aspire to land a career that would allow us to make more money? Does that mean that dreaming for a promotion or a new job is wrong? Does it mean that we should feel guilty when we feel hurt that we weren't given the raise we were promised?
Hopefully, we're all on the same page when it comes to a proper understanding of Law and Gospel as well as a proper understanding of what is sinful and what isn't.
It only becomes a "sin" when we start to break the Commandments in regards to this topic. For instance, it's sinful to worship the Almighty Dollar over the Almighty Himself. It's sinful to put your faith, security, and trust in money (and those who seem to have the power to give it to you) as opposed to putting your faith, security, and trust in the Lord (Psalm 118:8). It's sinful to rage with envy, greed, and jealousy in response to what others have that you don't or in response to what you somehow believe is "rightfully yours" even.
But is expecting "fair wages" from your employer a sin?
EXCERPT: "Neither Herb Kelleher at Southwest, nor Jim Sinegal at Costco, ever thought that capitalism meant paying workers the smallest amount possible. They are way too smart for that. So is Dan Price."
That is truly the most powerful point made in the entire commentary.
Nowadays, I see a disturbing trend within Christian owned and operated businesses regardless of the industry they're in.
It's this subtly deceiving mentality that says...
"We don't pay you the kind of salary and wages that you might get if you worked in the same position for another company, because we're not like any other company! We're a Christian company run by Christians who employ other Christians and so the atmosphere here is totally different than anywhere else even though other places might pay you more in both the short- and long-term. What that means is that everyone here views this more as a 'calling' as opposed to a 'job' or just a 'paycheck' even. As a Christian, you understand the difference, right? As a Christian, you understand the importance of a calling, right?"
Ok, that's fine and good, I certainly believe in the "Doctrine of Vocation" too, especially as a Confessional Lutheran, but don't hide behind that proclamation and use it as a negotiating tool to guilt trip your dedicated, hard-working employees into accepting less-than-the-market-rate and less than they're worth (i.e., much less than their experience and track record of success warrants).
At the same time, I get the flip side of the argument too. Some who object to the Gravity Payments story where CEO Dan Price elected to give everyone (including himself!) the same $70,000 annual salary will invariably say that such a move also isn't fair.
Why should the "inexperienced" and "unqualified" get paid the same rate as someone with twice as much experience let alone a whole list of major accomplishments to their credit? That's a fair and legitimate point and it's why I'm not making my piece about such a practice.
Instead, I simply want to call attention to this growing issue I'm seeing (and experiencing myself) regarding dedicated, faithful, hard-working employees not getting paid a salary that's commensurate with their unique qualifications particularly when they were made promises by Senior Management when they were first hired, and all because they're guilt-tripped into believing that they're somehow "less of a Christian" if they don't get on the bus and play along under the guise of a "calling" as opposed to a "career."
Look, it's not like this is anything new either. This type of thing has been happening to workers since the very beginning and it will continue to happen probably throughout the rest of my professional life and far beyond.
Still, I just think it's despicable for Christian companies to hide behind the "It's A Calling, Not Just A Job!" banner all the time. When profits continue to skyrocket, and the company has its most successful year in its 30-year history, and the projections for next year based on actual Purchase Orders show that 2016 will be even better than 2015, and you can't make good on your promises to your employees (promises that were made in order to get people to accept a job offer in the first place), then it's shameful and dare I say sinful too.
The closing words from that Christianity Today article are worth repeating...
"Neither Herb Kelleher at Southwest, nor Jim Sinegal at Costco, ever thought that capitalism meant paying workers the smallest amount possible. They are way too smart for that. So is Dan Price."
It's really that simple, isn't it? I'd like to think so.
Please don't reply with something like, "Yeah, well, stop complaining about not getting paid what you want! You should be happy you have a job at all in this economy! Some people don't and can't find one and would gladly take your position!"
If anyone's sensitive to the plight of the average American Worker these days it's a guy like me who is on the front lines in the "War For Talent" day-in-and-day-out. I get it and I've heard some terrible horror stories too that has made my heart break for some people.
Let's remember though that even the apostle Paul wrote in Romans 4:4 "Now to the one who works, his wages are not counted as a gift but as his due."
Again, there's nothing wrong with a Christian wanting to earn a higher salary. The fact that I have to write that merely proves the point I'm trying to make about how we have collectively bought the lie that we're the sinful ones for wanting more out of our careers when the sin is what's being done to us in the name of "calling" and "vocation" (never mind that those who hide behind that and try to use it to their advantage don't seem to have the slightest clue about a proper Biblical understanding of what any of that even means Biblically speaking!).
I wake up and pray for the grace to face each day the same as the one before...
"The prince should think: Christ has served me and made everything to follow him; therefore, I should also serve my neighbor, protect him and everything that belongs to him. That is why God has given me this office, and I have it that I might serve him. That would be a good prince and ruler. When a prince sees his neighbor oppressed, he should think: That concerns me! I must protect and shield my neighbor. ... The same is true for shoemaker, tailor, scribe, or reader. If he is a Christian tailor, he will say: I make these clothes because God has bidden me do so, so that I can earn a living, so that I can help and serve my neighbor. When a Christian does not serve the other, God is not present; that is not Christian living."
I guess what I want to emphasize is that we need to be very careful not to inadvertently reject "a certain kind of contemporary piety only to embrace a contemporary managerial vision of work" because both cases miss the mark of a proper teaching on vocation (and, therefore, miss the mark of Luther's teaching on vocation).
This is such a delicate subject though, because whenever someone like me brings this up for serious thought and for prayerful consideration it's a subject that's often met with derision.
Let's keep it real -- I run the risk of coming off sounding grossly sinful myself.
Is my criticism, whether warranted or not, evidence of a "grumbling" spirit (Philippians 2:14; 1 Peter 4:9) perhaps? After all, what does the Word of God and the Lutheran Confessions say about all of this?
The Fourth Petition
"Give us this day our daily bread."
What does this mean? Answer: God gives daily bread, even without our prayer, to all wicked men; but we pray in this petition that He would lead us to know it, and to receive our daily bread with thanksgiving.
What is meant by daily bread? Answer: Everything that belongs to the support and wants of the body, such as meat, drink, clothing, shoes, house, homestead, field, cattle, money, goods, a pious spouse, pious children, pious servants, pious and faithful magistrates good government, good weather, peace, health, discipline, honor, good friends, faithful neighbors, and the like.
The Fourth Petition
76] Let this be a very brief explanation and sketch, showing how far this petition extends through all conditions on earth. Of this any one might indeed make a long prayer, and with many words enumerate all the things that are included therein, as that we pray God to give us food and drink, clothing, house, and home, and health of body; also that He cause the grain and fruits of the field to grow and mature well; furthermore, that He help us at home towards good housekeeping, that He give and preserve to us a godly wife, children, and servants, that He cause our work, trade, or whatever we are engaged in to prosper and succeed, favor us with faithful neighbors and good friends, etc.
Yes, I realize that anything and everything I have comes from the Lord Himself.
That being said, I should focus on what He's given me at this time rather than on what He has purposed to withhold from me.
Thankfully, I found an excellent sermon from Rev. Gregory J. Schultz (who I just learned was born and raised here in Western New York just like me!) that has helped me to keep the proper perspective in this case.
Matthew 20:1-16 (2/1/15)
Matthew 20:7 He said to them, “You also go into the vineyard, and whatever is right you will receive.”
In the name of the Father and of the † Son and of the Holy Spirit.
What is the difference between the first and the last laborers in the vineyard? Some would say that it is simply a matter of greed and jealousy, that the first workers did not get what they thought they deserved in comparison to the others. This is the greed that shows itself in all of us at the first hint that we are being treated unfairly in financial matters, the jealousy that creates in us a knee-jerk reaction against a tax cut for anyone making more money than we do. But that’s not the real difference in today’s text. It goes deeper than that.
The first laborers had an agreement, a contract with the landowner to work for a denarius, which was the going rate for a day’s work. This was a fair day’s wage for a good day’s labor. The other laborers, however, had no such agreement or contract. Rather, the landowner simply said, “Go into the vineyard, and whatever is right, I will give you.”
Now if that was you, would you have gone to work for this landowner? Would you work for him not knowing what your wage would be, if all you had to go on was His promise to do what was right? Well, that all depends, doesn’t it, on what kind of person you think him to be: is he miserly or generous, is he a man of good character or bad? It depends on whether or not you trust him. For if you did not trust the landowner, you probably would not go into his vineyard. If you did trust him, you would go.
That, ultimately, is the difference between the first and the last in this parable. The first were dealing with the landowner on the basis of a contract; the last were dealing with him on the basis of trust in his goodness. The first wanted to deal with him on what they considered to be fair; they wanted things on their terms only. The last dealt with him on the basis of what he considered to be good and right; they were happy to receive whatever they got.
The owner of the vineyard in this parable is, of course, God the Father. By His Word and Spirit He sends out the call of the Gospel to come into His vineyard, which is the church, and for His people to be about the things pertaining to His Son. Some come into the church from the first moments of their life, baptized as infants, remaining faithful their entire lives. Others are converted as adults. And some people are not brought to faith in Christ the Savior until their lives are almost over.
But here’s the deal: God gives the same thing to all at the end of the day: full forgiveness of sins, deliverance from death and the devil, everlasting life with Him in heaven. He doesn’t do this because He is unfair; He does it because He is generous and loving and merciful. He pours out His gifts on His people abundantly and lavishly. For the reward at the end of the day is given not based on our work but on the work of His Son, who lived and died and was raised again for us.
The problem arises when some in the vineyard of the church begin to think that their length of time and service deserves some special reward; they want God to work on the merit system. But this is a problem for two reasons. First, it destroys the relationship of love that God wishes to have with His people. For love has nothing whatsoever to do with what is owed or deserved. Real love is a freely-given gift with no strings attached. As soon as we start wanting to deal with God on the basis of what He owes us, it is no longer a relationship of love, but in the end one of manipulation, where we try to get God to do what we want by pulling the right strings. We put in the good works, like a coin into the slot, and out pops the blessing. To treat God like that is to treat Him as nothing more than a puppet or a cosmic gumball machine.
Furthermore, if we want God to deal with us on the basis of what is fair, then we put ourselves in terrible danger. If we demand to get what we deserve, we had better be careful, because those who want the merit system with God have no idea what they’re asking for.
You want fair wages? Fine; then here’s what the Scriptures say: “The wages of sin is death.” Those who go to hell are really only getting what they asked for, namely, the just and fair payment for their sins. In their unbelief the damned will bitterly disagree with God’s judgment and spend all of eternity growing angrier and angrier with Him whom they consider to be unfair.
Do you find yourself considering God to be unfair because of your situation in life or because of something that has happened to you? Is your personal religion like a contract with God, a system of rewards for your good deeds? Do you negotiate with God in your prayers? You know how this works: “I’ll do this for You, God, if You’ll do this for me.” If that’s the way you deal with God, then you are behaving like the first laborers in this parable, and you must repent. Turn away from ranking yourself above others; turn away from your own works, and turn to the works of Christ. Believe that it is only and entirely through Him that you receive any blessing at all from the Father. Trust in Christ alone to save you from death and hell.
That, dear friends, is the difference between the first and the last; it is the difference between unbelief and faith. Unbelievers seek a God who is fair, and when they find Him, they want nothing to do with Him. Believers seek a God who is merciful and gracious, and when He finds them, they love Him. Believers know that it is only by grace that they are even in the vineyard, no matter how long they’ve been there. They consider it a privilege and an honor to be able to contribute to the health and the growth of the vineyard. They are not jealous of the newcomer or of the one converted in his dying days, but rather they rejoice that the same mercy that saved them has also saved another.
Even a faithful lifelong Christian recognizes that, of himself, he deserves nothing, and that it is only because of Jesus that he has any forgiveness at all. As St. Paul writes in Romans 6:23, “The free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord.” And again in Ephesians 2:8-9, “By grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.”
Remember, the landowner said, “Go into the vineyard, and whatever is right I will give you.” The word “right” in the Greek can also be translated “righteous.” “Whatever is righteous I will give you.” That puts a little different perspective on that phrase, doesn’t it? God is not simply saying, “I will give you whatever is fair,” but, “I will give to you according to My righteous plan of grace. I will give to you what My righteous Son Jesus won for you.” Or most simply, “I will give you My righteousness.” It is written in Romans 3, “You are declared righteous freely by God’s grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.”
Do you trust the owner of the vineyard to give you what is right? Do you rely on your own righteousness, or do you seek His righteousness which He gives as a free gift in Christ? Do you believe that He will be good to you at the end of the day? Faith says, “I trust You, O Lord, to give whatever is right, for I know You to be One who is 'gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love.'"
It is as we prayed to God in the Introit, “For You will save the humble people, but will bring down haughty looks.” Or as Jesus said, “The last will be first, and the first last.” For this is His way.
He who is the first and the greatest is the One who humbled Himself to be the last of all on the holy cross. He was treated unfairly so that you would be treated graciously. He Himself was the one who did the work in the vineyard that brings you the generous reward at the end of the day.
Indeed then, Jesus Christ is the true Laborer in the vineyard. See how the work was all done before you were even brought to the faith. You need to add nothing, for Jesus said, “It is finished.” Only receive and cling, by God-given faith, to His mercy and grace. Lay hold of the denarius Christ earned for you, the forgiveness and life and salvation which He gives to you in His words and His Supper. Come in penitent faith to His table to receive the rich blessing He gives with His body and blood – not because it’s fair, not because it’s owed, and not because you deserve it; but simply because it is His good pleasure to be generous and loving toward you.
In the name of the Father and of the † Son and of the Holy Spirit.
That was a beautifully faithful and Christ-centered reminder for all of us (myself included). Maybe I've been getting too caught up in the cares of this world to notice that I've been drifting away from what is true about my Lord and all His gifts for me both material and spiritual.
At the same time, let's continue to pray that Christian Business Owners will be cognizant of how they're misusing our shared and cherished faith to coerce their staff to accept lower pay.
I'm reminded of Jesus' words in Luke 10:7 regarding a laborer being deserving of his wages. Yes, I realize He was talking about the seventy-two He sent out to spread the Gospel, but the principle is still the same, isn't it?
Interestingly enough, take a look at this report on faculty salaries at Lutheran institutions and compare and contrast that with this write-up about the true financial costs of becoming a Lutheran Pastor in the LCMS today and another piece on a Pastor's salary. Just throwing that out there in light of our focus.
In my humble opinion, I don't see anything that prevents Christian companies from paying so-called "fair wages" to their workers. They could easily pay people fair salaries in a fashion that rewards performance in order to be able to attract, motivate, and retain the best employees. They could easily define "fair" as "fair pay based upon the role within the organization, striving to
pay at or within 10 percent of the market value for the job held and the incumbents' performance in the position" if they wanted to. Who would argue with that?
The Bible speaks a great deal on the subject of work and paying/being paid well. Bottom line? God is not a fan of taking advantage of other people and reserves severe penalty for those who do (Jeremiah 22:13).
Let's not lose sight of what's really important though. Let's pray that we remain cross-eyed even in the midst of zero balances in our Checking and Savings Accounts and hurt feelings after our Christian boss just treated us like he was some greedy, pagan mogul.
Friends, we must balance this talk between a right understanding of "our daily bread" and what that means in relation to the topic of "fair wages" if we're ever going to obtain a Biblical business sense as Christian Professionals.
In the final analysis, it's not about us at all, but about Jesus Christ Who unfairly received the fair wages for our own sinful works upon His own brutally crucified body (Romans 6:23), and all so that "you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God" and so "the fruit you get leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life" (Romans 6:22).
This is our eternal reward, which is greater than the greatest salary we could ever hope to receive here on earth in this life.
Do your work and give thanks to the Lord for the "daily bread" He graciously provides you and love your neighbor as you "do all to the glory of God" (1 Corinthians 10:31; Colossians 3:17-23).
On those days when you feel hurt, wronged, and as if everything in your life at the moment is unfair, cry out to the Lord in prayer, repent, and remind yourself of how hurt, wronged Christ was when He took your punishment in your place.
In a Lutheran layman's terms, don't let the world dictate what we classify as being "unfair" when the Word of God tells us all we need to know about how one Man's unfair wages despite His perfect, sinless life earned us all the greatest payment we could ever hope to receive all and by doing nothing on our own to get it!
That's a position complete with eternal benefits that we should all be grateful for.
NOTE: I'm not a called and ordained minister of God's Word and Sacraments. I'm a layman or a Christian, Candy-Making, Husband, Father, Friend who lives in the "City of Good Neighbors" here on the East Coast. To be more specific, and relevant to the point I want to make with this note, I'm also a newly converted Confessional Lutheran who recently escaped American Evangelicalism a little over a year ago. That being said, please contact me ASAP if you believe that any of my "old beliefs" seem to have crept their way into any of the material you see published here, and especially if any of the content is inconsistent with our Confessions and Lutheran doctrine (in other words, if it's not consistent with God's Word, which our Confessions merely summarize and point us back to) so that I can correct those errors immediately and not lead any of His little ones astray (James 3:1). Finally, please be aware that you might also discover that some of the earlier pieces I wrote on this blog back in 2013 definitely fall into that category since I was a "Lutheran-In-Name-Only" at the time and was completely oblivious to the fact that a Christian "Book of Concord" even existed (Small/Large Catechism? What's that!?!). In addition, there are some entries that are a little "out there" so-to-speak since the subject matter was also heavy influenced by those old beliefs of mine. I know that now and I'm still learning. Anyway, I decided to leave those published posts up on this website and in cyberspace only because we now have this disclaimer, and only to demonstrate the continuing work of Christ and the Holy Spirit in my life (Hebrews 12:2; Philippians 1:6). Most importantly, please know that any time I engage in commenting on and/or interpreting a specific portion of the holy Scriptures, it will always closely follow the verse-by-verse notes from my Lutheran Study Bible and/or include references to the Book of Concord unless otherwise noted. Typically, I defer to what other Lutheran Pastors have already preached and taught about such passages since they are the called and ordained shepherds of our souls here on earth. Finally, I'm going to apologize ahead of time for the length of most entries. I'm well aware that blogs should be short, sweet, and to the point, but I've never been one to follow the rules when it comes to writing. Besides, this website is more like a dude's diary in the sense that everything I write about and share publicly isn't always what's "popular" or "#trending" at the time, but is instead all the things that I'm studying myself at the moment. For better or for worse, these posts tend to be much longer than most blog entries you'll find elsewhere only because I try to pack as much info as possible into a single piece so that I can refer to it again and again over time if I need to (and so that it can be a valuable resource for others -- if possible, a "One-Stop-Shop" of sorts). Thank you for stopping by and thank you in advance for your time, help, and understanding. Grace and peace to you and yours!