Theology Thursday: Restoring Virtue Ethics in the Workplace

Businessman uses virtue ethics to cooperate with his coworkers

With the rollout of GCU’s new mission statement, there is a renewed commitment to mobilize world-influencing men and women to take their unique part in global transformation. Our world, broken by the grasp of sin in all its facets, has created a vocational environment that is too often driven by greed, deception and a consuming selfishness that flies in direct conflict with the occupational mandates of the Bible.

Yes, work is a gift from God. How we choose to unwrap and engage that gift reveals the carefully cultivated inner qualities that reflect the character of Christ and governs the thoughts and actions of all vocational pursuits. As God’s treasured creation, with a transformed heart by Jesus, empowered to live daily through the Holy Spirit, we are humbly administering God’s love in dark places. In this way, virtue will be restored in the workplace and the world.

Work and virtue are not normally used together. However, as the mission of GCU begins to further shape the lives of generations to come, it is the prayer of leadership, faculty and staff that a God-saturated approach to virtue in every variety of work will become the norm for its alumni as well as for the reputation of the university.

How does one live out this commitment to excellence and strength of moral standards? Here are a few considerations:

Start Cultivating Virtue in Your Daily Life

What motivation gets you out of bed and to work in the morning (besides coffee)? Is it an endless list of duties that create anxiety, worry or shame because most of it was to be done yesterday? Are you completing tasks or influencing the world? Did you go to work for a paycheck?

Your job gives you your paycheck, but God provides it. The only way for virtue to become evident in your work is for it to be prioritized in your personal world. Prioritizing time to pray and meditate on the Bible to prepare your day is imperative. We all say it; now do it. It sets the course. Go to work to change the world.

Growing up in a land of sawmills and endless pine forests, there was a sawyer (you may know them as lumberjacks) in our church. He was still felling trees well into his seventies. This was one of the toughest jobs in some of the most remote wilderness areas. However, Fred saw himself as a world-changer, not just a sawyer. His influence still challenges the hearts and minds of people that worked with him. Sawing was life for him, and his illustrations would make you laugh while he cut to the heart of what it means to be a man; more importantly, a man of God. He went to work at 5 am every day. Of course, before he got his saws ready, his lunch packed and drove over an hour to work, he spent an hour with the Lord every morning; without fail.

Don’t wait until the perfect job to be an influence. What you do right now is the training ground and the proving ground for things to come. Cultivate the skills and disciplines of virtue in your present job, whether you love it or hate it. If you cannot find virtue in the work you are doing now, why do you think things will change when you go on to what you perceive as more significant things? Paul said, “Train yourself to be godly,” (I Timothy 4:7b, NIV).

Foster Christian Virtues During Everyday Interactions

Everyone has a story. The people with whom you work, the people that cut you off in traffic, the angry boss, the impossible customer, all of them have a story that shapes their speech, attitude and actions.

Virtue does not begin when the work clock is punched. Virtue is meant to be as natural as breathing as we follow Christ. Even in challenging situations, we must choose to be life-giving and pure in return. The Apostle Paul challenged us, “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good,” (Romans 12:21, NIV). Virtue, carefully cultivated in our private world, flows freely into our public world. We change our environment.

Understandably, this is difficult because we must interact with broken people, broken environments and the temptations and attacks of very real evil forces in our lives. The struggling and persecuted churches Peter addressed in his epistles are a response to how we live this virtue amid evil, even when it is specifically focused on us. He stated, “Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult. On the contrary, repay evil with blessing, because to this you were called to that you may inherit a blessing,” (I Peter 3:9).

We are called to live in this world. However, we are called to a different response than this world expects or gives. Virtue becomes obvious and infectious when freely and lovingly administered in the darkest and most negative environments. It is easy to be virtuous with virtuous people. We are missional, and it sends us to a corrupt world where the virtue of Christ’s love can shine through us.

Choose a Joyful Attitude

Do you want to know God’s will for your life? Do you need some direction of the next steps? Take some advice from I Thessalonians 5:16-18, “Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” We will have some wonderful highs and some very painful lows in life. However, attitude is everything when we approach both. We are not responsible for our victories, nor are we destined to wallow eternally in our defeats. God is in all, and we live in intentional thanks for everything. This consistency of joy in life will be infectious to the most dismal workplace. We are brokers of joy, of thankfulness, of a good attitude at all times.

Restoring virtue means that virtue has been lost. As our personal lives are anchored in a Christian worldview of work and embracing our job as our calling and our ministry, we foster a sense of virtue just by showing up. Our work performance, speech, and attitude must continue to reflect this consistency of a Christ-saturated approach to work, whether it be digging ditches or being a CEO.

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Approved by Faculty Member of the College of Theology on Sept. 6, 2022.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Grand Canyon University. Any sources cited were accurate as of the publish date.