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]
I’ve been contracted by a large corporation to provide staff at a job site I’ve since discovered has some major safety concerns. What should I do if the corporation refuses to fix the issues? Should I break the contract and lay off the contractors? Is there some other route I should consider?
Let me get straight to the point: sending your staff into an unsafe environment is immoral. You must speak with the company that wants your services and see if it will fix the issues. Romans 14:13–23 and James 4:17 are clear that if you cannot do your work in good conscience, it is sin. In addition, failing to protect your workers and knowingly sending them into a perilous space opens you to lawsuits and a serious loss of favor in the future.
If the corporation starts making real improvements and a few minor things remain, you can work with the company—and the city/county inspectors—to begin some limited tasks while the issues are being resolved.
I do not know the economics of your contracts, but I know that how you hire and retain good contractors will require agility and wisdom, especially in this era of labor shortages. If the company is responsive, you can lower your profits slightly to keep good people available while the workplace becomes safe. But if the company drags its feet, you can’t afford to keep folks on your payroll and take huge losses. The Lord will guide you in discerning this kind of moment (Prov. 2:1–11; Phil. 1:9–11).
Integrity and Sovereignty
Why do I sound so firm on this? As believers, we must operate with complete integrity before a watching world (Matt. 5:14–16; Phil. 2:14–16; 1 Pet. 2:9–17).
The Lord wants you to show that all domains of society and all facets of work are part of God’s providential rule. There is never a place for immoral activity as “the cost of doing business.” We see in the Old Testament that partial obedience is really disobedience, and leads to divine discipline. Israel’s failure to obey God’s command to complete its conquest led to the presence of hostile people groups, accompanied by temptations to idolatry, immorality, and injustice (Judges 1–3).
There is never a place for immoral activity as ‘the cost of doing business.’
The wisdom literature of the Old Testament is replete with admonitions concerning historic boundaries and honest scales. There is no room for “ungodly means to godly ends” ethic in the Hebrew scriptures. The appointment of kings, priests, and judges was supposed to ensure justice and a balance of influence and power. Several passages in Proverbs convey how important fairness and justice are in the economy:
- Prov. 10:9: Integrity will bring long-term security with no fear of being discovered for evil.
- Prov. 10:29: The way of the honorable brings divine favor.
- Prov. 11:1: The phrase “dishonest scales” has applications for financial integrity in all facets of work.
- Prov. 11:5–6: Righteousness is a pathway to flourishing.
- Prov. 11:10–11: The entire community is better when righteousness guides all we do.
For the prophets of Israel, there was an inseparable relationship between injustice, immorality, and idolatry. Momentary success on the backs of others brings God’s judgment (Amos 2:6–8; 5:21–24). Humility before God and doing right by others is what God expects (Micah 6:8).
In God’s economy, holiness and prosperity are integrated as we walk in the fear of the Lord, pursue justice, and aim at the very best service. In one city, an entire bridge had to be rebuilt because of accelerated bonus schedules and inferior materials—in other words, greed led to safety violations and an infrastructure that decayed from day one. The leaders knew this from the start and allowed greed to overtake integrity.
If you lose the contract because the company is unresponsive, your trust in a good, generous, and sovereign Lord will sustain you. God will open new doors of opportunity as word gets out that you care so much for your workers. I cannot promise instant prosperity, but a clean conscience, care for workers, and complete transparency will bless your work into the future.