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 (Manna 71: What Does God Require of You?)
Magnifying Christian Values in the Corporate World
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Magnifying Christian Values in the Corporate World

Philip Shee—Dubai, UAE

You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.

(Mt 5:14–16)

While this message was directed at all Christians, it is especially relevant to those who are entrusted with supervisory or managerial positions in the workplace. As Christians move up the corporate ladder, it is natural that we also become more visible. Therefore, it is not surprising that bosses are regular features of lunchtime conversations. Just as a city set on a hill, they cannot escape from such scrutiny, especially from their subordinates. Every little act or word may unleash a wave of unintended perceptions. Any negative impression created may cause Christian bosses to be stumbling blocks to their subordinates, who may be turned off by the Christian faith. For this reason, we need to be careful not to use our positions to push our weights around when we are promoted to higher positions. Conversely, if we were to leverage on our visibility and manifest Christian virtues through our good works, we could gain the respect of our subordinates and be powerful testimonies that bring glory to God.

Responsibility versus Lordship

The corporate world often associates position with power. When people are promoted into senior managerial positions, they assume bigger authority, which often comes with expectations of submission from other people.

In contrast, the Christian philosophy for the office place is best expressed by Jesus’ words: “…You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and those who are great exercise authority over them. Yet it shall not be so among you; but whoever desires to become great among you, let him be your servant” (Mt 20:25–26). Christian bosses can also adopt this virtue in the workplace. As our careers progress, we must always remember that the position we hold is a responsibility we have over staff under our management. If we care for the well-being of our subordinates, take special interest in helping them progress and serve them by providing the support they need for success, we will surely stand out from many others. The fair-minded among our subordinates will see this light shining against the darkness of bosses who are lording over their staff, raising unreasonable expectations, and demanding their services only to fuel their own selfish ambition and progress. Subordinates of good Christian bosses may very well choose to reciprocate and go the extra mile to support them.

As we adopt the attitude that the office we hold is about shouldering responsibility for our people rather than assuming authority over them, we start to magnify our Christian virtues in the corporate world and provide an effective alternative to successful management style.

Fairness of reward

One of the most common grouses in the workplace is the lack of fairness and transparency in the reward and recognition system. The undeserving are rewarded for the extra mile they go to socialize, wine, dine, and golf with the bosses and not for hard work or performance. The talented and hardworking are not recognized for their excellent performance, just because they are not in the bosses’ inner circle. These common scenarios often act as a catalyst to trigger dissatisfaction among employees.

As Christian bosses, we, therefore, have another opportunity to shine and magnify Christian principles if we adopt the guidance provided in Jesus’ parable of the minas. In the parable, a certain nobleman entrusted his servants with one mina each and instructed them to do business with it. When he returned, the first servant reported that he had made ten minas from that one mina. He was praised by his master and rewarded with authority over ten cities. The second servant reported that he had earned five minas from the one mina. He was then rewarded with authority over five cities. Then another servant came forward to return the same one mina to the master, citing his fear over his master’s austerity as the reason for doing nothing. The master then judged him because he did not even do the barest minimum of placing the money in the bank to earn interest (Lk 19:13–26). The following principles can be observed:

The servants who put in effort and made positive profits were rewarded, while the servant who did not bother to make even the barest minimum effort was judged. This was not just about the results but the attitude. Likewise, Christian bosses need to pay attention to incentivizing good attitudes and dis-incentivizing bad attitudes.

This is very much aligned with the conclusion in another parable of Jesus, the parable of the talents (Mt 25:14–30). In that parable, the three servants were each given a different number of talents. The servants given five talents and two talents each gained another five and two talents respectively. Though the results were different, both received similar recognition: “Well done, good and faithful servant; you were faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your lord” (Mt 25:21, 23). The slight difference in this parable is that the master rewarded both servants equally, as he was fair enough to expect different results from the different resources he had placed with them. However, with the servant entrusted with one talent, the conclusion was similar, with the master rebuking him for not doing even the least by depositing the money with the bankers to earn interest. The master likewise concluded that he was a wicked servant and in that parable, also rebuked him for his laziness (Mt 25:26–27).

All the servants were given the same resources but achieved different results. The one who achieved more was given a bigger reward. Equality does not necessarily equate to fairness. If one had indeed put in more effort and thereby achieved more from the same resources, it would be inconceivable that he should receive just the same reward as another who had put in less effort and achieved less.

This principle is also supported by the parable of the talents illustrated above, with two servants being rewarded equally for different output because they were given different resources to start with. The Bible also reminds us, “Masters, give your bondservants what is just and fair, knowing that you also have a Master in heaven” (Col 4:1).

Render credit where it is due

In the workplace, it is not uncommon to see people devote much effort to do a good job, only for the bosses to take all the credit. There are two important principles for Christian bosses here:

Do Not Be Guilty of Stealing

While it is less likely for Christians to willfully break the commandment, “You shall not steal” (Ex 20:15), we may be doing so unknowingly if, as Christian bosses, we simply take credit for ourselves when we should have attributed credit to our team members. In a similar vein, the Bible reminds us, “You shall not cheat your neighbor, nor rob him. The wages of him who is hired shall not remain with you all night until morning” (Lev 19:13). “Each day you shall give him his wages, and not let the sun go down on it, for he is poor and has set his heart on it; lest he cry out against you to the Lord, and it be sin to you” (Deut 24:15). “Indeed the wages of the laborers who mowed your fields, which you kept back by fraud, cry out; and the cries of the reapers have reached the ears of the Lord of Sabaoth” (Jas 5:4). It is noteworthy that withholding wages from workers is equated with cheating, robbery, and fraud. Though these verses are directly applicable to monetary wages, this principle is equally applicable as a reminder to Christian bosses not to withhold credit from our teams.

Act Justly

Christian bosses must recognize that workers are worthy of the credit due to them. “You must not muzzle an ox while it treads out the grain” (Deut 25:4). Indeed, it would be completely unreasonable to expect an ox to continue working while putting a muzzle on it and denying it from simultaneously grazing or eating. Paul subsequently used this principle to remind the church that it was not oxen that God was concerned about when this law was written (1 Cor 9:9). Rather, this principle was about being fair in rendering to God’s workers the material needs that they deserved for their work (1 Cor 9:6–12). Later on, this was used again to reinforce the respect and honor that elders in the church deserve if they rule well, especially those who labor in work and doctrine (1 Tim 5:17–18). God also gave a stern warning against the injustice of denying what workers deserve, “Woe to him who builds his house by unrighteousness [a]nd his chambers by injustice, [w]ho uses his neighbor’s service without wages [a]nd gives him nothing for his work” (Jer 22:13).

The importance of this teaching was played out in the episode between Laban and Jacob when Laban cheated Jacob and changed his wages ten times. God was displeased with Laban and intervened to ensure that Jacob received that which was due to him (Gen 31:6–12; 40–42). As bosses naturally front the work of their teams with their superiors, it is both easy and tempting to ride on this work to gain advancement and recognition. However, for Christian bosses, this is another opportunity to stand out, to be fair and just, and to attribute credit to whom it is due.

Respect versus Fear

“And you, masters, do the same things to them, giving up threatening, knowing that your own Master also is in heaven, and there is no partiality with Him.” (Eph 6:9)

It is natural for people to somewhat fear those in positions of authority. For this reason, Christian bosses should heed the Bible’s instruction to “give up threatening” to portray an image of kindness and reason, which is more aligned with Christian values.

Boaz has left a wonderful reference for us in the way he interacted with his workers. When he met with his workers, he started off with a blessing, “The Lord be with you!” This gesture would have set his workers at ease, and they responded with a blessing for him as well. This good relationship between Boaz and his workers was clearly not built upon fear, but rather, care from the boss and both respect and love from the workers. Boaz further displayed his kindness towards Ruth when he allowed her to glean in his field and to drink from what his workers had drawn. He also spoke kindly with her, comforted her, and blessed her for all she had done for Naomi. In addition, he specifically instructed his men to deliberately let grain fall from the bundle so that Ruth might glean (Ruth 2:4–16).

Subordinates often fear their bosses either because they have an unpleasant nature, or because they are volatile and unpredictable. For Boaz, his kindness as witnessed by his workers would have won him respect. Likewise, Christian bosses should seek to earn the respect of their subordinates rather than instill fear in them. In this way, Christian bosses will be living testimonies of Christian virtues and bring glory to the name of the Lord.

The Proof

There are numerous management books written about corporate leadership and management theories. While they may be useful references for the MBA student, what remains a critical foundation for Christian bosses are the principles in the Bible on how Christians should treat others. The following are questions about our behavior that we can reflect upon:

Do we show partiality and treat our workers shabbily simply because they work for us, while we treat others less beholden to us with more dignity and respect?

Do we take advantage of our workers simply because we have the upper hand?

Do we simply issue orders but not render support to help our team members accomplish the work?

Do we withhold reward and credit due to our teams but mete out disincentives even quicker when things go wrong?

Are we only interested in the tasks and not the people?


The proof of a successful boss in the world may often only be the achievement of the task. But for Christian bosses, the achievement of the task is a given. Besides and more importantly, we need to test our success by using additional criteria:

Do our workers see good Christian values displayed in us such that glory is given to God?

While others may be quick to bring management concepts into the church, have we actually done it the right way round, i.e., bring the church into the world by displaying Christian virtues in the workplace so we can reach out to people through our good conduct?

Are our workers submissive simply because of fear or out of respect?

If our workers had a choice, would they still choose to stay on and work with us?

If our workers should walk into church one day and see us there as an active member, will their first reaction be one of bewilderment at our hypocrisy or will it be a smile of enlightenment as to the secret of our good behavior?

These questions can continue. But more importantly, can we stand before God and declare that we have made the best of the position He has blessed us with to glorify Him?

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Author: Philip Shee