“Preach the Gospel at all times. Where necessary, use words” — (not) Francis of Assisi

“Preach the Gospel at all times. Where necessary, use words”

These particular words are attributed to Francis of Assisi, though it is fairly certain he did not say them, exactly. But never mind that detail.

Here is the theme for Christians, as I understand it:

Step 1. Live as your faith directs you to live. For most Christians, at least, this dictates how you relate to God and how you relate to others. (I believe it also dictates how you relate to yourself.)
Step 2. Quote the scriptural background if it’s welcome and appropriate.

A challenge of Step 1 is that our work sometimes asks us to behave contrary to our faith. When this happens, I hope we will first make an effort to change what is asked of us. (“Boss, I don’t want to put fake numbers on the invoice. Can we put real numbers where we know them, and label the other numbers as ‘best estimates’?”). And if we cannot persuade our workplace to change, then our job is to consider refusing to obey the direction (and let the chips fall where they may), or else quit — if not immediately, then at least soon. If you are an owner, you have the fortunate privilege (and responsibility) to change how your business does business, if you find out that the market wants you to do things that you believe are wrong (e.g., paying bribes to government inspectors, or price-fixing with “competitors”).

A challenge of Step 2 is that it’s often inappropriate to quote scripture in our workplace. There are legitimate laws that prohibit this, especially if we are owners or managers with power over staff who might not welcome a particular scriptural message (from any faith tradition). One response to this challenge is to make yourself available outside of work hours to employees who express interest in your faith practice comes. If one of your employees has a strong interest in learning more about your tradition, it is both safe and honorable to suggest they speak further with someone other than yourself. Referring them to another member of your faith community (if you have one), or another faith community convenient to them (e.g., not your own church, but another similar church in a different part of town), or even to the titles of some books or websites that can help them along their journey. And, of course, make sure that those who express interest do not receive favorable treatment for having done so.

Image: St. Francis Renounces all Worldly Goods, Giotto (1297-1299)



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