Question:

Should a person work for an employer who provides unjust wages, even if its the market rate? e.g. employer keeps 90% profit, employee 10%. In this scenario, is it better to negotiate a fairer rate, or change professions? If one is unemployed, should one accept an unjust wage? Would this scenario change if one is able to provide for the family via other means, vs. one who is unable? Between righteousness and laziness, which matters more? If an unemployed person is unable to accept unjust wages, is that person being lazy? If one is able to support oneself, is one obliged to still work hard, or work at all?


Answer:

Should a person work for an employer who provides unjust wages, even if it's the market rate? e.g. employer keeps 90% profit, employee 10%. In this scenario, is it better to negotiate a fairer rate, or change professions?

The Standard

First off, God approves of fair wages (Malachi 3:5). A worker is worth his wages (Matthew 10:10). You should be paid in full be treated fair (Deuteronomy 24:14-15; Colossians 4:1; Ephesians 6:9). But at the same time we do not all work under people, corporations, or nations who follow God. There will be times when we have to bite the bullet, whether your employer is good or bad, and still be good stewards (Ephesians 6:5-8; Matthew 5:38-48).

The Economy

In hard times people tend to take whatever they can and make do with less wages because the economy is falling. We all take what we can get, put down our living “big,” and live with less. By world's standards people in the U.S. are still in the top 10% of the richest in the world. I have worked at a commission job where I got 40%. Personally, it wasn’t bad at all. I made a lot of money while the rest of the people who worked my kind of job in the US got maybe 30% at most and usually it was between 15% to 20% for many people. But even at the 40% mark, it was difficult at times due to supply and demand on whatever product it was being sold during different times of the year. Profits and commissions are always a risky business to be in. It doesn't matter who you are.

Commissioned Jobs versus Hourly or Salary

Commission Jobs

When you say market rate, I am assuming it is what majority of the employers are paying when selling an item or a service. The return to the employer is 90% and 10% of the overall profit is for the employee. This would mean you know what you are getting into before you entered the job. You knew the terms before hand. If you did not investigate, then that is one’s own fault. Most commissioned jobs require you to evolve to become better at two things: Selling yourself and selling (making the product look good) the product to earn more money. The down fall of commission jobs is that more hours doesn't always guarantee more money since the pay isn’t based on hours.

Salary and Hourly Jobs

If you work at company that has a huge hierarchy, there are tons of areas to improve and move up on the salary or hourly wage scale. There are low end jobs, such as fast food, there is no higher position besides management and no big expectations, but you can expect the same paycheck and have an OK performance. What I encourage people to do is if you do know of a job you like and pays a constant wage, it’s nice to have stability in that way and have enjoyment in you work (Ecclesiastes 2:22-24). Do your best to find a job that you are good at and has an constant wage.

Most people are not go-getters. They tend to like having people over them telling them what to do. Commission jobs are for the minority who are self-motivated.

If one is unemployed, should one accept an unjust wage? Would this scenario change if one is able to provide for the family via other means, vs. one who is unable?

How Unemployment Works

If one is unemployed, in several countries You can get unemployment if you have kept a stable job for a decent amount of time. It isn't free. You or your employer pay into unemployment insurance with each paycheck. You receive unemployment until you're rehired, find another job, or the limit on the benefits run out. These resources should be avoided if you can work. Sometimes we do hit hard places but the majority of people in US can find jobs, even if it is fast food. We all have to start somewhere and build a reputation from the ground up.  

There are situations where people are crippled and cannot work, but it should be rare not to find some kind of employment to bring in some money. Those who are mentally handicapped or disabled, many governments and organizations offer income or supplemental income. But I do not encourage laziness or free handouts for life -- that is wrong (Proverbs 6:6-11; 18:9; II Thessalonians 3:10). Income should be worked for (Leviticus 19:9-10).

The main source of help should be friends and family (Proverbs 18:24), willing to help out each other, especially immediate family and other Christians (II Corinthians 8:1-15; I Timothy 5:3-16). When offered help put it to good use in helping you get a job and supporting yourself.

If an unemployed person is unable to accept unjust wages, is that person being lazy?

Unjust Wages and Being Unemployed

Unjust wages are hard to come by in countries that are not third world. Even in third world countries, well, it’s a way of life and you get what you can to survive. One should be paid what they’re worth to a certain extent but same time we can’t fix the world (Ecclesiastes 1:15).

It isn’t wrong to accept unjust wages that you have earned. It is upon your employers head if he doesn’t provide the correct amount.  In most countries, if an employer is not paying fairly, it only takes a few phone calls to agencies that regulate employment. I worked for two companies that provided unjust wages. They tried to scammed the system. One company is shut down and the other is barely keeping above water because he cannot retain employees. Such companies don’t usually stay open long preying on their employees.

Between righteousness and laziness, which matter more?

Laziness versus Righteousness

It is OK to rest -- taking a day off work or going on vacation, etc. Resting is actually helpful. Enjoying the godly pleasures of life is also fine (Ecclesiastes 11:9-10). But being lazy as a way of life is wrong. Part of life is working (Genesis 2:15; 3:17-19). One should not be lazy at his job or in dealing with his family, friends or God. Being lazy shows a lack of love and would be taking advantage of those around you (II Thessalonians 3:616). We are told to work hard at whatever we do (Ecclesiastes 9:10).

Righteousness is choosing to live godly. Righteousness shows love, compassion and a yearning to always do the right thing to everyone, even if they are a bad employer, friend, or family member (I Timothy 6:11; II Timothy 2:21-26; Matthew 5:38-48). 

If one is able to support oneself, is one obliged to still work hard, or work at all?

Working Even Though We Are Wealthy

If I was a millionaire, I would do a few things differently, but I still would work.  Man was made to work, as was stated earlier. Strangely enough, it is healthy to work and to work out (I Timothy 4:8; Ecclesiastes 5:12). If we are lazy all day, we tend to have health problems later on in life. You should think of how your life would change with wealth.

  1. Would I sit outside in the sun all day doing nothing?
  2. Buy expensive things? These only bring momentary satisfaction and leave a person wanting more (Ecclesiastes 5:10-11).
  3. Or do I see being well off as an opportunity to bless the less fortunate with what I have (I Timothy 6:17-19) and to work for God with the wealth He has given me (Ecclesiastes 5:19-20).  

I would pick the last one! Because of wealth, I could do more for people who are struggling financially, bring relief to other Christian communities in the world, send money to preachers in poverty stricken areas where people can’t afford to pay the preacher, etc. Options would be endless, but I would still be working. It would just be using more of my money, spending on people, investing into eternal life, and making God’s kingdom grow (Matthew 28:19-20)!  To help those in need, especially those of the household of God, is one of the best things we can work at and do (Galatians 6:9-10; II Corinthians 8:18-21; James 1:27).To do nothing is to be selfish. We must do all we can with the short time on earth that we have (Psalm 103:15-19). Doing no work of any kind would be a waste of God’s gift of life, which He has given to you (Psalms 139:13-18).

Alan Feaster