TGC’s “Thorns & Thistles” column seeks to apply wisdom with practical advice about faith, work, and economics. If you have a question on how to think about and practice your work in a way that honors God, let us know at [email protected]
When is it ok to ask for a raise? Is there a biblical way to think through asking for a raise?
I started working in the marketplace at age 16 for a small local optician. My starting wage was $6.50 an hour, which felt like an enormous amount of money to me. The concept of asking for more money never even crossed my mind. I was just thankful to have a way to pay for gas.
As my qualification, education, and experience in the professional world have increased—as well as day-to-day responsibilities beyond paying for gas money—I have recognized the importance of being able to assess my value and needs. I’ve wrestled with whether it is ok for a believer to ask for a pay increase. If so, when? And how?
I believe God’s Word provides all we need for life and godliness (2 Pet. 1:3), and I am confident we can look to God’s all-powerful, all-sufficient Word for wisdom in how to approach this complex question.
Poor or Prosperous: God-Oriented Wealth
The only prayer in the book of Proverbs is a simple one: for God to supply “neither poverty nor riches” (Prov. 30:7–9). There is temptation to sin in both want and plenty, and his request is for neither. It’s important to point out that he didn’t ask for poverty, or imply that being poor is more pious. Instead, he was direct in the request for provision that would not leave him wanting or with plenty.
A God-oriented perspective on wealth acknowledges that he is the giver of all things. Sam Storms puts it this way: “All of our wealth is ultimately because of God’s generosity and not our ingenuity.” When we acknowledge and submit to God as our ultimate provider, we can make these specific requests before the Lord.
All of our wealth is ultimately because of God’s generosity and not our ingenuity.
Abundance and Need
It’s the rare person who feels God has supplied exactly what he needs, no more or no less. More often, we wish we could emulate Paul: “I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need” (Phil. 4:11–12).
Paul’s command is to go to God with your requests and ask him to meet your needs (Phil. 4:6). However, Paul makes it clear that his contentment is rooted in Christ no matter whether he feels well cared for. And indeed, a few verses later, Paul expresses gratitude to the church for giving generously to him. He has “received full payment, and more” (v. 18).
In the United States, having too much is more often our challenge than having too little. And as the world moves out of extreme poverty, it will increasingly be the challenge for most people. Most of us have enough income to put food on the table and clothes in the closet. So does that mean we should never ask for a raise?
Deserving Your Wages
In God’s kindness, the global economy is producing more wealth—more than we need for mere subsistence. We have another biblical principle to guide us, found in multiple places: “You shall not muzzle an ox when it treads out the grain” (Deut. 25:4) and “The laborer deserves his wages” (Luke 10:7; Matt. 10:10).
It may be that you do not need a raise to afford your daily bread. But because of your experience and qualifications, you may be worth more than your current salary.
So should you ask for a raise? Here are some practical questions to help you think through these principles.
When to Ask for a Raise
1. Discern your motive
Are you asking for a raise to build your kingdom or for the advancement of God’s kingdom? Are you asking with a heart of contentment or a heart that can never be satisfied?
2. Consider your place of work
Nearly everyone working for a ministry or nonprofit is making less than they could in another industry. We know that sacrifice is done for the Lord and for his kingdom. But sometimes Christian organizations should be paying workers more than they are. How is your organization doing financially? Is it in a temporary season of belt-tightening to get through a tough patch? Is it stable and able to be more generous with employees?
3. Assess your position
Evaluate a possible salary increase based on the quality of your work and the value you add to the organization. Typically, longevity alone adds to your value, since you know historical context and data. Have you shown a persistent diligence in the quality of your work? Have you taken on increased responsibilities?
4. Set boundaries
Every job needs a clear job description. If your job description is changing in scope or capacity, there needs to be an assessment of pay that will appropriately match new expectations. It is not necessarily honorable to take on more work without increased compensation, and it is vital for your stamina to ensure you have appropriate boundaries in place to keep you from burnout. If your organization or company is unable to increase your pay but has increased your responsibilities, work with your supervisor to reset expectations to be more manageable and appropriate.
5. Be realistic
Your life situation changing is not necessarily a reason for a company to increase your pay. For example, let’s say you have a child on the way, have purchased a larger home, or would like to enroll your children in a Christian school. The solution is not to request more money simply on the merits of your growing financial obligations.
Instead, present a plan for increased responsibilities within your job. A raise should be based on the increased or higher-quality work you are putting forth—a change in life situation alone is not necessarily an appropriate reason to request an increase.
How to Ask
Don’t ask for a raise as a means to manipulate your employer, or give an unfair ultimatum that puts the business in a difficult position. Let the quality of your work be the primary testament of what wage you are due.
Let the quality of your work be the primary testament of what wage you are due.
Regardless of whether your request is successful, continue to work as unto the Lord. The quality of work you do should not be based on the payment you are receiving. You work not only to earn a paycheck, but also to honor and glorify God in all you do.
Relying on God
Asking for more money is a vulnerable experience because we are laying both our needs and our value before someone else. It is an acknowledgment that we are not all-sufficient, but that we rely on the means God has put in place for provision—wages earned from our labor. Scripture tells us laborers ought to collect what is due them, but also instills a confidence in us that God will always provide for what we need.
Considering praying like this: “God, you know my needs and you see the work I am doing. I have confidence in your provision for me and my family. I pray my employers will grant me this raise, but I trust that if they don’t, your glory will be evident in the way you choose to care for me.”