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'Workship' - Social Justice and Ethical Decision-Making

This is Part Four of a six-part series that will look at Kara Martin's book, 'Workship: How to use your work to worship God.' Kara Martin is the keynote speaker at EdComm's annual Integral Project Dinner on October 25.

'Because God is who he is, we cannot be indifferent when his truth and law are flouted, but because man is who he is, we cannot try to impose them by force' (Stott, 1984).

It seems intuitive to the believer that God intended through instruction in the Law to define morality, and to lead humankind to 'the right and the good' (Orr, 2007). However, today, the whole Christian ethic is under attack (Barclay, 1971). This challenge is coming not so much from other religions but from those out of the Judeo-Christian tradition who favour post-modernism. Some will go so far as to say there is no natural law or common morality. Each person's morality is of equal standing, since truth is relative and knowledge is really a matter of interpretation. Issues in the public arena are then said to be 'morally neutral' (Orr, 2007).

What does this mean for Christians in the workplace who encounter injustice issues or unethical behaviour? Because there seem to be more diverse voices speaking into each issue it does not mean that there is no place for the voice of the Christian. We must not be intimidated into accepting the position that our voice is not valid because it has a religious basis. The Christian worldview is a coherent and valid way to look at any moral, ethical or justice issue. Many great men and women have stood on Christian truth in their pursuit of reform and justice.

When faced with evaluating whether a decision at work is an ethical decision Kara Martin suggests using nine questions, which she has adapted from Michael Cafferky’s Values Framework.

  1. Is it creative and sustaining? (Creation)
  2. Is it the right thing to do? (Holiness)
  3. Does it enhance relationships? (Relationships)
  4. Will it lead to flourishing? (Shalom)
  5. Is it a just thing to do? (Justice)
  6. Does it have integrity? (Truth)
  7. Is it a wise thing to do? (Wisdom)
  8. Does it show compassion? (Love)
  9. Does it set someone free? (Redemption) (Martin, 2018, p.32)

Ethical decisions can be complex and involve stakeholders from different parts of the school. You may be faced with evaluating the welfare of a student as opposed to that of a teacher or other students affected. When faced with a complex ethical decision Martin suggests taking the following steps:

  1. Stop and think. Take your time.
  2. Determine the facts. Make sure that you have all of the information from all of the players.
  3. Think through the values framework (above).
  4. Develop options while also being conscious that you must also represent the needs of the school.
  5. Consider consequences - both probable and possible.
  6. Ask questions making sure to include all of the key people making or being impacted by the decision.
  7. Monitor and modify if needed. It is better to correct a poor decision (Martin, 2018, p.33)
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The pursuit of social justice is an expression of compassion, focusing on bringing God’s justice to bear on work or life practices. It is also an expression of shalom - peace. It is about bringing completeness, well-being and harmony with a focus on the way things could and should be done especially in the areas of relationships and work structure (Martin, 2017, p.109). This may take many forms from questioning cronyism or favouritism to standing against a wrong categorisation of a colleague to save money, to questioning whether all students can access an exam paper or allowing refugee children into the school. We have seen historic wins for social justice with the abolition of slavery and Apartheid to name two issues. The path has never been easy, the opposition has been fierce, and at times from other Christians, but justice has been gained.

We are encouraged by the Bible to be concerned about justice. In the Old Testament Micah 6:8 asks 'What does the Lord require of you, but to do justice, and to love kindness and to walk humbly with your God?' Jesus himself berates the Pharisees for neglecting the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness (Matthew 23:23) and he overturned the tables of the money lenders in the temple who were making money from the poor. We also see the Apostles concern for the marginalised.

As believers in the workplace we are to stand for justice whether that is in making ethical decisions or in pursuing just outcomes for others. This begins with the way we think because our thinking shapes the way we live. Like those in the organisation ‘Seed’ we too should act for justice in our workplace by meeting injustice with justice, brokenness with healing, darkness with light, challenging assumptions about the way life should be, standing with the poor, marginalised and oppressed and not engaging in a culture that protects our own interests as we seek the good of society, using power to influence for the good of others (Martin, 2017, p.111).

 

Reference:

Barclay, W. (1971). Ethics in a Permissive Society. New York: Harper & Row.

Flemming H. Revell. Decisive Issues Facing Christians Today. Grand Rapids, pp. 43–57.

Martin, K. (2017). Workship: How To Use Your Work To Worship God. Singapore: Graceworks Private Limited.

Martin, K. (2018). Workship 2: How to Flourish at Work. Singapore: Graceworks Private Limited.

Orr, Robert D. (2007). The Role of Christian Belief in Public Policy. The Centre for Bioethics and Human Dignity, Bannockburn, Illinois.

 

Disclaimer: The views, thoughts, and opinions expressed in the text are those of the author, and do not necessarily represent the views of EdComm or the Anglican Diocese of Sydney. The intent is to promote thinking and discussion.

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