Question: "What should it mean to be a Christian employer?"
Answer: The Bible does not give direct instructions to employers, but its principles for human relationships can be applied to the work setting. Faith in Christ is the great equalizer. If the employees are also Christians, Galatians 3:28 should be the hallmark of the work environment: “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” Even if some employees do not share faith in Christ, an employer can start with the premise that everyone is equal in value and should be treated with dignity and respect (Matthew 7:12).
Whether employer or employee, children of God should live every day in the fear of the Lord. When our relationship with God holds top priority in our lives, all other relationships will benefit. One major relational shift that faith in Christ should produce is the servant attitude Jesus had (Mark 10:42–45). The ground at the foot of the cross is level. We all come the same way: broken, humble, and repentant. We leave justified and forgiven, but with a new heart to love and serve others. Colossians 3:11 says, “In this new life, it doesn't matter if you are a Jew or a Gentile, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbaric, uncivilized, slave, or free. Christ is all that matters, and he lives in all of us” (NLT). Even if employees do not know Christ, a Christian employer can demonstrate the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22) with humility and patience.
Christian employers can model the Bible’s instruction about master/slave relationships. Many people wrongly claim that the Bible endorses slavery. However, that takes the instruction out of context. In a culture where a slave was considered little more than property, God’s law brought dignity and kindness to that relationship. In the Jewish law, God specifically forbade His people from taking advantage of workers (Deuteronomy 24:13–15). In the New Testament, Colossians 4:1 says, “Masters, provide your slaves with what is right and fair, because you know that you also have a Master in heaven.”
“Right and fair” means paying employees what was agreed upon in a timely manner, providing a safe and pleasant work environment, and treating each employee as a valuable human being. Most employees, whether Christian or not, appreciate a work environment free from jealousy, favoritism, foul talk, and dishonesty. An employer can set that standard in the office and refuse to tolerate behavior that violates that standard.
The best example of a Christian employer/employee relationship is found in Paul’s letter to Philemon. Paul had led a runaway slave, Onesimus, to Jesus and then sent him back to his master Philemon with a letter of appeal to his Christian friend. When Paul appealed to Philemon on behalf of Onesimus, he urged Philemon to now consider him “no longer as a slave, but better than a slave, as a dear brother” (Philemon 1:16). Even though their master/slave relationship might continue, it could do so in a spirit of love and respect.
Depending upon his level of authority in the company, an employer can be even more proactive by holding Bible studies or prayer times with the employees before or after work. While respecting the differing religious beliefs of employees, an employer can still keep the focus on Jesus in various ways. Wall decorations containing scriptural encouragements, a public prayer request board for those desiring to share needs, and an atmosphere of openness and respect for those with differing viewpoints are all possibilities. Although Jesus knew all the answers, He often engaged others with questions designed to elicit their views (Luke 10:25–26; Mark 8:27). He encouraged people to think for themselves. He challenged them with truth but never forced it on them.
However, before displaying outward symbols of Christianity, an employer must be certain that his or her lifestyle is not a contradiction. Any attempt to bring Christianity into the workplace will backfire if the employees or customers see hypocrisy in a boss’s personal life or ethics. When Christian employers consider themselves first and foremost servants of Christ (Romans 1:1), they will see their position as a divine assignment from God. They will make all decisions based on pleasing Jesus as the real Boss.