Sacrifice, Compromise, and Employment
Decisions. I face them. You have them. We all make them. Myself, more reluctantly than others.
For anyone who has ever gone shoe shopping with me (and you know who you are, because you’ll never forget it), you’ve seen firsthand the incredible crippling power of analysis paralysis.
One decision many twenty and thirty-somethings face is that pertaining to their line of work. Their career. Their dream vocation. We’re blessed to live in a society were this is actually a choice we can make.
But, is every choice a morally acceptable one? And, what you find yourself in an industry typified by unethical or immoral practices or content? What does it look like to navigate the tension between living as a light in a dark world (Phil 2:15), and not standing in the path of sinners (Ps 1:1)?
Perhaps one of the most oft discussed case studies is the film industry. Books could be written of the discussions around the pitfalls, but also the opportunities, for the Christian who embarks on the mission to penetrate and to engage “the industry.” In fact, just this week, I was engaged in a conversation with a friend of mine, who told me that he was so excited to be selected to act as a production assistant on an independent film shoot. After the day of the introductory meeting, I asked him “So… what is the movie about?”
With the slow turn of his head to my direction, and a sigh, he said. “It’s a horror film. One that will have genitalia gore and female nudity, because that’s what all horror films requires these days, isn’t it,” as he rolls his eyes. “Really, it’s garbage- even the producers know it. I really don’t want to participate in this film. I’d appreciate prayer to not be affected by the content of the film, but I need to commit to doing this anyway. I already gave them my word, and because I don’t have much pick of choices, I have to start somewhere, and you just have to make compromises. I’m not doing anything immoral- I’m just assisting the directors or producers with whatever needs to be done. I’ll get my resume experience, and be done. But, I need this experience.”
This raises the question: how do you measure the degree to which one is separated from the morality (or rather, the immorality) of one’s job, or one’s employer? Certainly, to be engaged in work in the pornography business (hypothetically- this is not the line of work my friend is involved in) would be wrong. But, to what degree would and employee be separated, and innocent, of fellowshipping with immorality or unethical behavior in the following situations?
- Someone who worked for Enron in the accounting department, but at such a data entry level, he or she had no idea what was going on in the company (nor could they have likely known, given their limited exposure to telltale information)?
- Anyone working in the movie industry- what if you work directly on a sadly gratuitous and demoralizing film. Is this different than working for the same production company… but only working on G or PG rated family films?
- Working as the site manager of a more “crazy” club in Las Vegas, where your institution exists to create and environment for promiscuous behavior, and may be a catalyst and epicenter of all kinds of… certain activity?
- Can a Christian work for Playboy, but only handle their IT or bookkeeping needs?
- To what extent is a nurse at a hospital involved in malicious and predatory malpractice performed by the Dr.’s intentional planning and execution?
Yet, when it comes to “paying your dues,” perhaps there is a difference between making compromises to begin one’s career, and making rationed sacrifices or investments. Certainly, there will be times when time, energy, relational investment, money, and other resources will need to be invested into a career, especially at the beginning. But, can the believer entertain the thought of “acceptable compromise” in a way that is biblically acceptable?
“So…” you might ask, “where are you magically and arbitrarily going to draw the line, Tanner?”
Honestly, this post (like my conversation with my friend), is not about categorizing every potential situation. What I do hope it encourages, is for us to think more critically about who it is that we give 40+ hours of our work day to, and what sort of mission or impact are they affecting our world with. If there is a direction I would take, I would say it would be one that discerns and decides by dependence upon Wisdom. And not utilitarianism [for then, “paying your dues” can be used to justify all sorts of activity if the ends (experienced and better employability) justifies the means]. But Biblical wisdom. Wisdom that makes decisions that will lead one to work, speak, and do what better aligns him or her with the character and the Word of God. Wisdom that will make a distinction between front-loaded-investment and choices that might call for compromise not to a person’s black and light list, but to choose any decision that is short of seeking to imitate righteousness. Wisdom, which assures:
“Blessed is the one
who does not walk in step with the wicked
or stand in the way that sinners take
or sit in the company of mockers,
2 but whose delight is in the law of the Lord,
and who meditates on his law day and night.”