Rise Without Compromise
Jason Chong—Pacifica, California, USA
As we gear ourselves to a frantic pace on our career paths, we may wonder how much of our achievements come at a loss to our identity. After all these years, do we still believe we are the same person with all of our principles intact? Or have we become a Jekyll outside of work and a Hyde inside?
For example, let’s look at the story of William Sullivan, an IT worker who misused his access to very private and profitable information and was discovered in July 2007.
A senior database administrator for a consumer reporting agency in Florida has admitted stealing more than 8.4 million account records and selling them to a data broker. He netted $580,000 over five years from the scheme.
William Gary Sullivan, a DBA for Fidelity National Information Services, faces up to 10 years in federal prison and $500,000 in fines, although prosecutors agreed to recommend a more lenient sentence in exchange for his guilty plea. He’s also required to surrender all remaining proceeds and pay restitution to his victims.1
We don’t know much about Mr. Sullivan from this excerpt, yet we can imagine how he ended up this way. After working at the same company for several years, he has learned where the system starts and where it ends and all the leaky holes in between.
He is cautious at first and doesn’t want to be too greedy. After the first successful try and no immediate retribution, he goes for another and another and another until the day the system finally catches up to him.
Mr. Sullivan did not start out in the company as a thief, but he ended as one.
CHRISTIANS AT WORK
We enter our respective workplaces as representatives of God’s blessings. Think about it: we represent God Himself because He placed us where we are for His purpose. I think of it as God staffing positions needed in the world. So there must be a reason why we are there. At the very least, we should represent our Master in the best way.
After months or years at work, do we still represent our Master well? Reflect upon the time from when you first started to work until now. How have you changed from when you first entered the workforce? Do you still have the same principles? Do you pray more or less?
It is interesting to see what the state of our spirituality is after we’ve been in the working environment for a while. Has it grown or has it become worse?
As we grow older we start to develop our own principles that govern our day-to-day interactions and determine how we handle situations. These principles define who we are to other people. For example, if a particular person never tells a lie it becomes his principle to always tell the truth, and hence he is viewed as an honest person.
Compromising those principles will slowly erode our identities. People will start to doubt our character.
The same can be said of being a Christian. Christians should have principles, particularly those guided by biblical teachings. Our adherence and actions in accordance to those principles will separate us from those who don’t hold the same ideals. If there were no separation, then do we allow ourselves to be called Christians?
DANIEL—AN EXEMPLARY CHILD OF GOD WITH CAREER SUCCESS
Throughout history, there have been God-fearing people who held to godly principles in spite of ungodly surroundings. Many of them even rose to great positions in their time.
During Babylonian captivity, Daniel, a young man from a noble family, was brought to Babylon. Along with other captive Israelite youths, he was taught the language and the literature of the Babylonians.
Daniel started off serving the king in a low position, but he eventually became one of the three governors overseeing the entire empire (Dan 6:1, 2). While he gained power and riches, he lost nothing of himself as a worshipper of the one true God.
The amazing story of Daniel can be summed up as “rise without compromise.” Indeed, he rose through the ranks of service through two Babylonian kings, one Medo-Persian king, and one Persian king. In today’s terms that would be equivalent to working in one company and climbing the corporate ladder while going through two corporate takeovers and four different managers.
We know that it’s not easy to get to the top in the business world. We hear all the time of CEO’s of large companies getting indicted for various illegal activities. Even if most employees never reach that stage of corruption, office politics isn’t necessarily black and white.
How did Daniel climb to the top? Note that his enemies could find “no charge or fault, because he was faithful; nor was there any error or fault found in him” (Dan 6:4).
Daniel separated himself from the rest of Babylon, and he refused to compromise his convictions right from the very beginning:
But Daniel purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself with the portion of the king’s delicacies, nor with the wine which he drank; therefore he requested of the chief of the eunuchs that he might not defile himself. (Dan 1:8)
Biblical historians have debated as to why Daniel and his friends refused the king’s delicacies. Food from the pagan king’s table during Babylonian times could have been offered to idols before consumption. Possibly, animals were not slaughtered and prepared according to the law of Moses.
In any case, by refusing to eat the good food, they would keep themselves from being defiled in the eyes of God.
Now God had brought Daniel into the favor and goodwill of the chief of the eunuchs. And the chief of the eunuchs said to Daniel, “I fear my lord the king, who has appointed your food and drink. For why should he see your faces looking worse than the young men who are your age? Then you would endanger my head before the king.” (Dan 1:9, 10)
God did not help Daniel unconditionally. Daniel had to first resolve not to compromise. God then helped him in his endeavor by moving the chief official to favor Daniel and listen to his appeal.
The chief official could have thrown Daniel in jail or executed him for disobeying the customs of the country, for he had his own life to worry about if he failed to carry out the king’s orders.
Instead of taking “no” for an answer, Daniel and his friends negotiated a plausible solution:
So Daniel said to the steward whom the chief of the eunuchs had set over Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, “Please test your servants for ten days, and let them give us vegetables to eat and water to drink. Then let our appearance be examined before you, and the appearance of the young men who eat the portion of the king’s delicacies; and as you see fit, so deal with your servants.” (Dan 1:11-13)
The official accepted the terms: “So he consented with them in this matter, and tested them ten days” (Dan 1:14).
From this account, we can see how Daniel and his friends were very persistent with their beliefs. However, they were also flexible enough to work with their superiors to come up with a solution that was amicable to both parties.
TO BE A MODERN-DAY DANIEL
At our workplace, have we been similarly presented with situations that conflict with our core Christian principles? Did we compromise our principles without even trying to offer a solution? Or did we attempt to meet halfway?
In my line of work, I have access to many types of software. People in my industry know much about copyright protection, but we are equally savvy as to how to circumvent it. Every piece of software my office acquires has specific limits on who and how many people can use it.
There was one time where a member of the faculty in the department where I work needed a piece of software for commercial research outside of the sphere of his academic position. However, the program we had was strictly for educational use only. Of course, there was no way for the company to ever find out what the software was used for.
My boss told me to go ahead and install the program for that faculty member. I objected because of the legalities. I felt that professor should buy the research version.
My boss and I had a conversation in which he made it known he really wanted to please the professor. Then he proceeded to tell me how ridiculous software laws and restrictions are and that companies are just too greedy.
My situation was nowhere near the difficulty Daniel faced. However, I knew that it wasn’t the right thing to do. Even though this was a small matter, I still think if you give an inch, they’ll take a mile. I’ve come to realize that the little things that we easily dismiss are the things that will slowly wear away our principles.
Every time I give away my principles, a little bit of me as a Christian disappears. It also gets harder to draw the line when you’ve already crossed it many times. It gives you less leverage to use the next time you are asked to do something you are not comfortable with.
I believe that God will surely bless us for doing things that please Him. We may run into obstacles but somehow, some way, God will make it work. We just have to have the strong conviction and persistence to not give up our principles.
Like Daniel, let’s not take no for an answer. We can always come up with another solution that doesn’t lead to a compromise. As long as we try, God will exhibit His mercy and help us like He did Daniel and his friends.
And at the end of ten days their features appeared better and fatter in flesh than all the young men who ate the portion of the king’s delicacies. Thus the steward took away their portion of delicacies and the wine that they were to drink, and gave them vegetables. (Dan 1:15, 16)
Today, my department adheres more strictly to licensing policies. No more lengthy discussions on the matter, only what is and what is not the right thing to do and what is an amicable solution.
God is watching all of us all the time. He sent us into the world to bring the good word to all of mankind. A job is a blessing, and He places us all strategically. We enter the workforce as children of God, and when it’s our time to leave, we will hopefully leave in the same manner.
1. http://www.channelregister.co.uk/2007/12/04/admin_steals_consumer_records/, viewed December 2008