Ask Pastor Mike: How Should I Handle Moral Dilemmas in the Workplace?

By: Pastor Mike Barnhart 


How should I handle moral dilemmas in the workplace?

At my place of work my boss is very blunt about how we should show support of current culture trends that I believe are sinful. I feel like if I say to her that I’m uncomfortable with this topic and disagree, she will interpret it as me or others not caring for people that are different.  She is very opinionated and tells us that we should be respectful of people’s choices. I’m having an internal struggle on how to approach this without it causing division.  Can you please give advice on the best way to handle these moral dilemmas in the workplace?

This is a difficult question, in part because the nuances of a given situation affect the response. It’s also a difficult question because sometimes there is not a clear right or wrong answer.

I recently spoke to a mom, who had been asked to help sell concessions at her son’s little league baseball game. After arriving, the mom discovered that much of what would be sold would be alcohol products. Although this mother didn’t believe the consumption of alcohol to be sinful, she did not feel comfortable about selling it at a children’s baseball game.

A few months back, I spoke with a school teacher, who had been told that all faculty and staff would be given and expected to wear LBGTQ+ t-shirts on a particular day to affirm, include, and celebrate those who chose to live that lifestyle. This teacher called in sick on that day.

These issues aren’t new. You may recall Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego from Daniel 3. King Nebuchadnezzar commanded everyone to worship a man-made idol. When they said, “no,” they were put in a fiery furnace.

Because every situation is a bit different, and since these issues are becoming more common and prevalent, let me provide a few transferable questions that can be asked in various situations to help Christ-followers best determine how moral dilemmas should be handled in the workplace.

The first question is: What is being asked for support? Although this may be obvious, it’s crucial to clarify. It could be a booster group wanting financial support for various initiatives–some of which you may agree with, while others you may not. It could be an issue of personal preference, such as how to best address the issue of poverty. It could be gender transformation or identity, illegal substances, corrupt politics, etc. I have heard numerous stories of people working in businesses, who were asked to remain silent about shady practices or lack of integrity. Sadly, this is all too common in our world, but it’s important to clarify the issue being asked for support.

Once it is clear what is being asked for support, it is important to understand what is meant by support? Support may imply remaining quiet about other people’s life choices in a workplace setting. In other cases, support may include participation in an LBGTQ+ rally, affirmation, or celebration. Support could also mean being asked to promote or refer clients to a particular product, solution, or service that would be biblically sinful. An example of this would be a doctor asking his staff to point his patients toward gender transformation products or services. 

Finally, we must ask: Is supporting this behavior or practice in this way sin? Knowing God’s word, along with the preceding questions are vital because clarifying what is supported and how support is conveyed helps us diagnose if our support would actually be sinful. For example, selling alcohol to adults at a children’s baseball game is not illegal; but, it may very well be contrary to a person’s convictions. This is not explicitly sin, but it may be very unwise, unhelpful, and unfruitful. Practicing gender transformation or getting an abortion may be legal, but God is not pleased with either of these choices because they distort or destroy the life He has created.

After asking these questions, it’s also imperative to remember several things:

  1. Our choices affect others. We should respect people. They are, in fact, created in God’s image, but everyone may not feel fully respected in the way they want. We know that our personal choices affect those around us. We live out of the love of Christ and to the glory of Christ. In doing so, we must carefully consider how our choices affect those around us. For example, if you speak negatively about someone, you are opening the door to hurt and conflict. Or, if you celebrate a way of life that morally contradicts the way of God, you communicate that you desire those who walk in that way to live separated from God. We must pay close attention to the way our choices affect others in order to respect and care for them in a God-honoring way.
  2. We must biblically care for others. Romans 12 says, “Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality. Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all.” (Romans 12:9,13-14,17, ESV). We should be very intentional about how we extend care to those around us. True care is not rooted in the affirmation of behavior; rather, it is pointing people to their true source of hope: Christ. Therefore, it is imperative that we care in such a way that offers God-glorifying value to others.
  3. Moral dilemmas in the workplace may cause Christians to suffer. Although suffering has been a present reality for Christians throughout most of history, we, in America, have experienced very little (if any) suffering like we’ve seen throughout biblical history. Simply put, we’re not used to our faith in Christ costing us in significant ways. Yet, the Bible points out that suffering is to be expected as Christ-followers. Our suffering–as Christ-followers–is for our good. For example 2 Corinthians 4:8-10 says: “We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies.” Our suffering–even as it may lead to bodily death–will not destroy us. Instead, our suffering draws us closer to Christ. We may be asked to suffer as we follow the Jesus-way.
  4. God is on the throne. Job reminds us of this as he talks to God: “I know you (God) can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted.” (Job 42:2). There is nothing God can’t do. God’s providence reigns and triumphs, always!
  5. Remember, this is a spiritual battle. Ephesians 6:12 tells us: “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.” Spiritual battles are not won with words or convincing arguments. No, spiritual battles are won by our humble reliance upon God in prayer. So, humble yourself before God, and pray. Pray, seeking God’s wisdom in your particular situation. Ask for the Spirit to lead you in a way that honors God and communicates God’s grace to the other person.
  6. Choose grace. You must remember your own potential to sin and cause brokenness. As you do, while also realizing that Jesus loves you in the midst of your sin, you will be equipped to extend that same grace to others. That’s the hope we have in Christ. “God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8, ESV). If there’s no hope for those walking in sins that are common in our modern culture (i.e. LGBTQ+, gender transition), there’s no hope for us either. Jesus died for the sins of those who surrender themselves and place their trust in Him. There is no wrong a person can do that overpowers the grace of God in a faith-filled life. So, choose grace. Love unconditionally by pointing those around you to the Good News of the gospel.

All of us will likely encounter many difficult cultural situations in our lifetimes, and an increasing number of Christ-followers will face moral dilemmas in the workplace. To have the most enduring impact, we must point others to Christ.