Compensation – Although the free market system has over time enhanced the physical standard of living for a larger proportion of society’s population than any other economic system, the free market is still not devoid of rather widespread compensation injustices. Israel enjoyed a predominantly free market during its biblical days, but the prophet Malachi was moved by God to pronounce His imminent judgment on persons “who oppress the wage earner in his wages” (Mal. 3:5).
In our country, the gap between the incomes of those in the top fifteen percent of the income scale and those in the bottom fifteen percent continues to widen. Executives in the United States, for example, earn approximately ten times what the average employee earns, while in Japan the ratio is about four to one. These differences reflect pervasive ethical values that influence the market, and not some natural economic law.
Compensation discrimination occurring along sex and race lines reflects entrenched and perverted values. The same can be said for the compensation packages frequently offered to top executives but not generally to those in lower echelons. Profit sharing and stock option plans, for example, should be as readily available for one class of workers as another. Economic laws alone do not determine equity in the marketplace.
Stewardship of ideas – Our economic system rewards managers and monetarily discriminates against laborers on the grounds that managers are the innovators and risk bearers while laborers contribute little besides their physical and technical skills. This position is not realistic when examined in the light of the experiences of organizations that encourage and reward employees for creative ideas and stewardly conduct. The lower ranks seem as capable of innovative thinking as managers. Supervisors who want to glorify God should search for ways to encourage and release the creative abilities of their subordinates so that their greatest possible contribution can be achieved and their highest potential developed. It is incumbent upon every steward to provide opportunities for others to grow and assume meaningful responsibility.
Health and safety – God’s precepts assert that “when you build a new house, you shall make a parapet for your roof, that you may not bring bloodguilt on your house if anyone falls from it” (Deut. 22:8). From that statement and similar ones, we can rightly conclude that health and safety are equated with bloodguiltiness in the mind of God and should therefore be extremely important to us. It is no violation of the intent of God’s Word to carry this interest in health and safety to the point of being concerned about stress in the workplace and its effect on the health and well-being of workers’ family life. For example, too much overtime work, though financially rewarding in the short run, can be detrimental to health and family needs in the long run. Justice demands that we have a sincere concern for the health and safety of our employees on the job.
Discrimination – Discrimination is an inherent part of the natural order and an essential component of choice. We all must make decisions involving some process of selection that automatically results in discrimination. Moral judgments are essentially discriminatory. Unjust discrimination, however, is the result of improper judgments, and that is at the center of our society’s historic concern regarding this entire issue. At the very core of unjust discrimination lies the use of inappropriate criteria for making moral judgments. Unjust discrimination reveals an ungodly form of favoritism and rejection that violates biblical norms. God is not a respecter of persons, and unjust discrimination is an abomination to Him (see Deut. 10:17; Acts 10:34; Rom. 2:11; Eph. 6:9; Col. 3:25; James 2:1-9; 1 Pet. 1:17). The first line of defense against unjust discrimination must be constructed in our thinking as we realize that our “old nature” will automatically become protective and defensive when our psychological comfort is threatened. This perverted reflex is at the root of discrimination and generally reveals personal insecurities or false pride.
Written by Richard C. Chewning. Excerpted from Biblical Principles and Business: The Practice (NavPress, Colorado Springs) Used by permission. Content distributed by WorkLife.org > Used for non-profit teaching purposes only.