When some of His disciples argued over the two who had asked for preferential treatment, Jesus rebuked them: “rulers in this world lord it over their people, and officials flaunt their authority over those under them. But among you it will be different” (Matthew 20:25-26, NLT). He was encouraging them—and us—to question conventional wisdom and to operate under a unique set of standards.
Consider David’s beautiful poem about the relationship between a shepherd and his flock in Psalm 23. The shepherd’s provision leaves the sheep wanting nothing. The flock isn’t merely given what it needs, but rather has its cup filled to overflowing. The sheep are comforted, anointed, and led beside still waters. Reading between the lines it’s evident that the shepherd’s focus—at least in Psalm 23—is on the flock’s well being. What’s good for the sheep is good for shepherd.
Is that your approach to employee relationships? Would your staff say that you fill their cups to overflowing? Do you lead them beside still waters? Do you anoint their heads with oil?
WHAT DOES THE BIBLE SAY?
God takes very seriously the idea of treating workers fairly. Malachi 3:5 lists employers who cheat their workers in the same verse as sorcerers, adulterers, and liars. “The wages you held back [from your workers] cry out against you” (James 5:4). Only the vilest manager would actively cheat workers, but what about these common practices?
• Repeatedly delaying performance review and salary adjustments.
• Withholding scheduled raises until the employee has to ask for what was promised.
• Paying managers 20, 50, and even 100 times more than hourly workers.
• Inflating profits with excessive production demands on a too-small staff.
• Paying one employee less than another who is doing the same work.
EMULATE THE GOOD SHEPHERD
When you think about wages and benefits, do you tend to pay as much as you can afford or as little as the employee will accept? Think about God’s generosity toward you. Are you imitating the “good shepherd” when it comes to wages and benefits?
As an advocate for change in this area, I’ve participated in many executive discussions about wages and benefits. I’ve watched as a church board planned to offer a new associate pastor $20,000 less than the budget would allow, to “see if he would take it.” I’ve seen employers systematically schedule employees for slightly less than the number of hours that would entitle them— and their family—to health care benefits.
When it’s been suggested that these weren’t “good shepherd” practices, I’ve been told that despite scriptural imperatives regarding the treatment of employees, these make “good business sense.”
If God truly rewards those who sincerely follow His lead, how do you think He might actually bless the manager who emulates God’s generosity by breaking from conventional wisdom and applying biblical principals with regard to salaries and benefits? What do you imagine would happen to productivity on your team if your approach were to look for opportunities to add abundance?
USE COMMON SENSE
It’s important to note that being different does mean being foolish. Jesus didn’t say, “Among you there will be some very unwise practices.” The issue is more about the manager’s attitude and approach to compensation. Paying people more than you can afford to will harm your ability to care for them in the future. God wants managers to be good stewards of every asset—especially the human assets that populate the payroll.
Here’s a suggestion—take some time to read Psalm 23. Put yourself in the sandals of the shepherd and ask, “What can I do that would lead my flock to say the same things about working for me?”