An employee sees that his manager is not quite doing his work “unto the Lord” or with excellence—in fact, he lacks integrity and is fudging a few details to get better results. Both the employee and the manager are brothers in Christ. Does the subordinate call out his manager’s sin, or does he stay silent? Does the employee leave the company so that he can lovingly confront his former boss?
Confronting someone in a position of authority over you is never easy or comfortable, even if that person is a fellow believer. So how should we respond when we observe our boss (and brother or sister in Christ) acting without integrity in the workplace? While difficult, I believe that Scripture calls us to lovingly and humbly confront any believer who is unrepentant in their sin, regardless of their status or relationship to us.
Here are three biblical principles that can guide us.
1. We Should Act with Integrity in the Marketplace
God takes fraudulent behavior in the workplace seriously. It’s a sin first and foremost against God, it dishonors him in the eyes of non-believers (2 Cor. 8:20–22; 1 Pet. 2:12), and it leads to our self-destruction (Prov. 11:3; 28:18).
Scripture is full of passages that condemn the use of unjust weights and balances, which in ancient times was a common form of fraud (Prov. 11:1; 20:10; 20:23). Such practices were an “abomination” to the Lord; he “detests” unjust weights and balances. Similarly, God detests deceitfulness, but he approves of those who are “trustworthy” (Prov. 12:22). Leviticus 19:35 prohibits the practice directly. After calling God’s people to “do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly” in Micah 6:8, God speaks through the prophet:
Can I forget any longer the treasures of wickedness in the house of the wicked, and the scant measure that is accursed? Shall I acquit the man with wicked scales and with a bag of deceitful weights? (Micah 6:10–11)
2. We Have a Responsibility to Confront Sin
In Matthew 18:15–16 Jesus states, “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother.” There are no qualifiers here. He doesn’t say, “If your brother who is a peer or who is your inferior sins against you, go and tell him his fault.” No, he simply says “your brother.”
He explicitly commands us to go to them directly and privately.
We mustn’t lose sight of the last sentence in this command. Ultimately, the goal is to encourage our brother or sister to repent, and to allow for the restoration of any broken fellowship within the body of Christ that may have occurred.
3. We Are Called to Respect Authority
As Christians, we’re called to respect the authorities God has placed in our lives, even to the point of serving them as we would Christ (see Eph. 6:5; Titus 3:1; 1 Pet. 2:18–20). While respect for the authority of superiors at work shouldn’t discourage us from confronting them in their sin, it should guide how we do it. Let me make a few recommendations.
Don’t immediately accuse your superiors of wrongdoing. Instead, ask a lot of questions. Give them an opportunity to explain the rationale behind their actions. It’s possible they may not recognize they’re guilty of unethical practices. By asking questions, you’re still deferring to them, while allowing them to think through the ethics of the situation. Further, understanding their rationale will allow you to more effectively tailor your rebuke to help them identify how their actions dishonor God.
While respect for the authority of our superiors at work shouldn’t discourage us from confronting them in their sin, it should guide how we do it.
If you’re still convinced they’ve acted in sin, in humility express your concerns and appeal to them as a brother or sister in Christ. At this point, it’s up to the Holy Spirit to convict them. Trust the Holy Spirit to bring repentance. If, after some time, you don’t see a change, go to them again, preferably with another believer familiar with the situation (as Jesus commanded in Matt. 18:16). If they refuse to repent, then you may need to consider if you can continue working for this individual (Matt. 18:17).
Two final caveats. First, you may need to consider speaking with your boss’s superiors about the issue, particularly if they own the business you work for. If your boss’s actions could significantly damage the reputation of your company and/or coworkers, or could potentially harm your clients and customers, then you should give serious consideration to speaking with your boss’s superiors. In this, labor to speak the truth in love (Eph. 4:15), with lots of documentation and examples conveyed in a firm but gentle manner.
Second, if your boss’s behavior is illegal, you have a responsibility to report the situation to the appropriate authorities. Before reporting your boss, though, first encourage him or her to confess these actions to the authorities, offering to go with them. If they refuse, gently explain that you have no other choice but to report them; otherwise you are complicit.