At Work & Public Square & Theology 101

The Subtle Sins of the Workplace

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What is it about comic book villains? They love evil. They love carnage. They love to make others suffer.

Recently there has been a resurgence in movies based on comic book characters. Each one has an evil villain like The Joker or Lex Luthor. There are online discussion groups asking, “Which is the most evil character?” and “What is the most evil thing ever said by a comic book character?”

Why are we so intrigued by bad guys? Do we see something of ourselves in them?

I Corinthians 13:6 tells us love does not delight in evil.

After reading this passage we might want to say to the Apostle Paul, “Thanks, Captain Obvious!” and then pass right over it.

Not so fast.

This is not biblical filler text or apostolic fluff. The Apostle Paul is addressing something real and important, so let’s take a closer look.

There are two important ideas in this passage for us to consider.

Owning up to Our Sin

First, the Apostle Paul is addressing the sin in our own hearts.

We all sin (Roman 3:23) whether in thought or deed. We convince ourselves that our way is better than God’s way. It’s the ancient trap that caught Adam and Eve.

Sin at work is no different. We believe that by lying, cheating, or stealing we will make a better career or situation for ourselves than what God has planned for us.

Most of our sins are subtle and barely perceptible. In the workplace, they might involve casting dispersions and stirring up controversy, gossiping about a colleague, or fudging our timecard.

What does it mean that love does not delight in our sin? Love mourns over sin and is repentant. Love acknowledges that sin, no matter how subtle, is always Godless, always selfish, always hurtful.

The Sins of Others

The second important message found in I Corinthians 13:6 is that we are not to delight in the sin of others.

Sometimes we see the office as a place of personal competition and strife. Rather than working toward mutual benefit, we can spend a lot of time and energy fighting against our colleagues.

When we make colleagues our enemies rather than our collaborators, it’s easy to lose sight of our call to love them. It’s easy to gloat in silence over their failings.

Matthew Henry poses this eloquent and sobering challenge:

[Love does not] rejoice at the faults and failings of others, and triumph over them, either out of pride or ill-will, because it will set off its own excellences or gratify its spite. The sins of others are rather the grief of a charitable spirit than its sport or delight; they will touch it to the quick, and stir all its compassion, but give it no entertainment. It is the very height of malice to take pleasure in the misery of a fellow-creature. And is not falling into sin the greatest calamity that can befall one? How inconsistent is it with Christian charity, to rejoice at such fall!

We Need Redemption

As we struggle with subtle sins at work, and as we silently gloat over the failings of our colleagues, we are reminded of this truth: We need a redeemer.

We need a redeemer who can deal with our most subtle sins – the ones rooted in our idols, fears, and insecurities. We need a redeemer who can change our hearts from selfishness and gloating to service and generosity.

Jesus is that redeemer. His perfect life, death, and resurrection changed everything. Please join me in reflecting on this magnificent reality and what it means for us in the workplace.

Next week we’ll examine the next item on Paul’s list: Love rejoices with the truth.

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