Following on from yesterday’s post, one of the places in which our actions can have drastic consequences is at work.
Leviticus is a collection of laws and rules given to the priests of Israel as well as to the general public. There’s a temptation to look at this as archaic, but then you stumble over passages like chapter 19, verses 35 and 36:
‘Do not use dishonest standards when measuring length, weight or quantity. 36 Use honest scales and honest weights, an honest ephah and an honest hin. I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of Egypt.
Thrown in amongst laws on religious ceremonies, theft and the treatment of outsiders is this rule that basically says “Don’t rip people off.”
It doesn’t end there – hundreds of years later, when the prophets were crying out against the sins of the people, guess what one of their themes was?
“The merchant uses dishonest scales and loves to defraud,” bemoaned Hosea.
“Shall I aquit someone with dishonest scales, with a bag of false weights?” asked Micah.
“By your many sins and dishonest trade you have desecrated your sanctuaries,” cried Ezekiel.
Ever get the feeling that God takes this stuff seriously? And rightly so – how many times have we heard “The cheque’s in the post” or “There was a computer error” or “My manager can’t see you right now, he’s in a meeting”? We’ve all done it, and those of us who haven’t have been tempted to, because in times of stress and busyness, it’s easy to excuse a little white lie to make life a bit easier.
But where does that leave our integrity?
See, how we treat people is a mark of what’s in our heart. The prophet Amos makes this point, talking about those who can’t wait for the Sabbath to be over so they can start selling stuff again – “Skimping on the measure, boosting the price and cheating with dishonest scales.” The fact that they’re cheating is bad enough, but it’s almost a symptom of how they relate to both other people and to God; it’s the same sort of attitude that leads to companies paying atrocious wages, treating staff and customers with contempt, and using sweatshop labour.
(Note, for instance, the controversy over conditions faced by workers assembling Apple products.)
(I note also that I’m writing this on an iPhone.)
And God speaks out against all this. It’s not a hot button issue but that should make us even more aware of it – it’s not something we can afford to forget. How we treat people at work, how we conduct ourselves in our job, is important to God – skip forward a Testament and you find Paul saying “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not human masters.”
For me, this is best summed up by a story I heard – a manager asks his secretary to lie to a client, but she flat-out refuses. He starts berating her until she comes out with a line that stops him in his tracks:
“If I can lie for you, I can lie to you.”
It’s a line that’s stuck with me, and reminds me that whatever job you’re doing – even if it’s unrewarding, even if you hate every moment of it, even if it offers great opportunities for profit as long as you turn off your conscience – we’re doing our jobs for God. He’s our boss.
So, is the cheque really in the mail?