Greetings all. It’s been a long time, but for this morning at least, I’m back. It’s been so long since I’ve posted on here that perhaps you thought I was Taylor. Zing.
Continuing my series on Christian ethics, there are practical questions and categories of questions that should be addressed. This post will be a bit lengthy, so I hope you’re comfortable. If you haven’t read part one of this series, you may want to review it before reading this post.
Question 1: If you are a server or hotel clerk and you are serving a couple whom you know to be a husband and his mistress, should you cooperate with their illicit affair by serving them lunch or renting them a room?
The short answer to this question should be obvious: it depends. If one is a server, working in a restaurant, one has two obligations, the first to his employer, and the second to the customer. If a server’s first obligation is to his employer, then it would seem that he should give his employer an honest day’s work (Col. 3:23-24, 1 Cor. 10:31), even if that means that he may serve a man and his mistress. There may be any number of ethical considerations that a server has to consider on a daily basis; perhaps the same situation presents itself, but rather than the man being married, the customer is single, and a known fornicator. Perhaps the restaurant has a bar, and there is potential to serve too much alcohol to patrons. While the server may well know that the man he is serving is an adulterer, or a drunkard, it is not necessarily true that by giving that man quality service (as Christians are biblically required to provide in all professional endeavors), the server is supporting the man’s sinful activity. It is important for the Christian person to give an honest day of work to his employer, for the agreed upon wage. Providing service to those involved in egregious sin may well be an unappreciated part of the job, but it is one that all men have to expect when working in a fallen world, filled with sinners apart from the work of Christ. If the server has a tortured conscience over this issue, it may be appropriate for him to have another server take this table to put his conscience at ease. Suffice to say that while it is not necessarily sinful for a server to serve adulterers, it may also be a good option to have another do it for him. As an employee, the one thing a server does not have the right to do, apart from the instruction of the owner of the restaurant, is refuse service.
The same thing could be said for a hotel employee when a married man and his mistress want a room for the night. However, the possible difference would be a hotel owner in the same situation. If a Christian man owns a hotel he may do his best to forbid adulterers and fornicators from renting a room, even though he takes pride in the service he offers, and considers his hotel to be the best in town. While giving good service to the adulterer as an employee is probably the best option for a server, a Christian hotel owner is well within his right to refuse service to the same man. In this way, a man may make known that he does not condone the adultery, and in fact would rather lose money, than allow such sin to take place under the roof of a business that he owns. In this case, the Christian hotel owner has a right that the restaurant employee does not, as he prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that he does not give approval to the actions of the adulterer (Rom. 1:32).
Question 2: Should Christians invest (as in the stock market or donation) in companies whose products, services, or practices violate any of God’s commandments?
Again, it depends. There is a hierarchy of commands in Scripture and while it may be acceptable to invest in a company that breaks some of the commandments, others are not acceptable. For instance, if a Christian man thinks that investing in Dick’s Sporting Goods would be a wise investment, he would have to come to a conclusion as to whether or not the fact that Dick’s is open on the Lord’s day is reason enough not to invest. In such a situation, assuming a man believes in the integrity of the sporting goods store; that is, that the products are well made, and sold at a fair price, then it seems reasonable to invest, even though the Christian man believes that Sunday is the Christian Sabbath, and that such stores should be closed. One way that such a man may try to promote his views of the Sabbath would be to promote a closing of the store on Sundays to other stockholders where appropriate.
However, a Christian man may not invest in companies that actively promote anti-Christian values, and sinful lifestyles; companies involved in obvious immoral activities are off-limits. For instance, a Christian may not invest in businesses that promote, or take part in abortion, pornography, or homosexual activism, as these industries not only break the commandments, but actively do so at all points, and base their entire business model off of openly breaking God’s law (Rom. 1:32). Actively murdering unborn children is something that it totally unacceptable. There is a difference between investing in a gun manufacturer, as guns are not intended or necessarily used for evil all of the time, and investing in Planned Parenthood. Planned Parenthood (Hereafter PP), though offering some medical treatment for women, is universally known for abortion and abortion promotion, especially in the African-American community. While there may be some good things that could happen inside of a PP, one can be sure that any support of or investment in such a company will inevitably result in the murder of more children. On the other hand while guns are often used in criminal activity, and are certainly used to murder people across the world, the investor may indeed come to the conclusion that guns are either generally intended for sport, hunting, or self-defense, and therefore investing in a gun company may indeed be ethical. No gun manufacturer makes guns so that more people will be murdered, but every abortion clinic operates to ensure that more abortions take place. (Note: this bearded Presbyterian prefers the superior quality and perfection of the Glock pistol)
Question 3: If you’re a shopper and you know a company has moved operations to a Third World country where there are appalling and unhealthy working conditions, should you buy their products?
This depends on the company itself. Just because they have moved operations to a country where the work conditions are bad, doesn’t mean that the company is treating its employees poorly. Some homework should be done before making a commitment to either continuing to buy, or ceasing to buy from this company.
First of all, the laborer deserves to be paid his wages (Luke 10:7), so there has to be an evaluation of whether or not those working in Third World countries are being fairly compensated. When looking at the master/slave relationship in Scripture, we can observe much about employer/employee relationships, even though it is not exactly analogous. While the slaves are told to obey their masters (Col. 3:22, 1 Peter 2:18, Eph. 6:5), masters are also told to treat slave with respect because God declares it, and because God is the master of both the slave and the free, and he favors neither (Eph. 6:9).
With this in mind, a Christian should examine how the company operates in the third world country. It is possible that the company pays better wages, and takes better care of their Third World employees than other companies that outsource their work to the country. It is possible that the employee will have a far better life working for this company than they ever would have otherwise. This is not to say that the reason the company moved to said country was out of love for the citizens of the country, indeed they have likely outsourced because it will save them money. However, it is entirely possible for a company to spend half the cost in a foreign country that they would domestically, and still provide good pay and benefits in the Third World. If this is the case, a Christian is not bound by Scripture to stop buying products from the company.
If it is found that company is indeed using essentially slave labor in the Third World, there is a moral concern. Assuming the company at hand is a big box store, where prices are low, it is certainly desirable to manage one’s money well, and honor God with finances. However, if a Christian has the financial ability to pay for fair trade products at a higher price, that’s what he should do. But if a Christian is struggling to get by, living paycheck to paycheck, it is more important for him to take care of his family as economically as possible, even if that means buy from the big box store that uses unethical practices in the Third World. His first obligation is to his own family, then to injustices around the world.