When I was the Senior Pastor of Irvine Presbyterian Church, a woman from my congregation – I’ll call her Rochelle – made an appointment to see me. When she entered my office, I could tell something was wrong. Normally quite joyful, Rochelle looked distressed.
Sitting down, she got right to the point. “I have a serious problem at work,” she began.
“Tell me what’s going on,” I responded.
“As you know, I’ve been working in my company for several years and, though I don’t want to brag, doing quite well. I’ve had several promotions and am now able to support my family well. But something happened earlier this week that threatens everything.”
“What happened?” I asked.
“I’ve been working on a really big deal for the company. There’s lots of money involved and I’ve been excited to have so much responsibility. But the deal is a tricky one and has lots of problems. So, last week, my boss came to me and said he wanted me to keep quiet about certain things and to talk about other things in a certain way. As I thought about what he had said, I realized that he was asking me to lie.”
“I asked my boss, ‘Aren’t you implying that I should not tell the truth here, even that I should lie?’ He looked rather bugged, but shrugged his shoulders and said, ‘Well, I guess you could describe it that way. I’d rather say I was doing what was necessary for the company to be successful.’”
“At first I didn’t know what to say. I told him I would need time to think about my response to his request. He said he’d give me an hour and that he was counting on me. As I thought and prayed about it, I knew I couldn’t lie. I just couldn’t. My faith just wouldn’t allow it.”
“So, I got back with my boss and told him I couldn’t lie. He wasn’t mad so much as very cold. ‘Rochelle,’ he said, ‘if you don’t do this for me, then it’s obvious you don’t care about what’s best for the company. You will be fired.’ I tried to get him to think of other options, but his mind was made up.”
“I said I’d need a couple of days to think about it. He said okay. But, I need to give him my answer tomorrow. I don’t know what I should do. I can’t imagine lying. But I need this job and my family needs me to have this job. I am torn between my commitment to being honest and my commitment to supporting my family. And both of these are things God wants me to do, right? But I can’t do both. What should I do?”
I asked Rochelle some other questions, trying to get a better sense of what was going on. I learned that her perspective was accurate. She was being asked to lie and, as far as her boss was concerned, her position at the company depended on it.
I affirmed Rochelle’s commitment to being truthful. I also affirmed her commitment to her family. I agreed that both of these commitments honored the Lord. So she was, indeed, in a very difficult position.
I did not tell Rochelle what to do. I did pray with her for quite a while, asking God to make it clear what she should do and to give her the courage to follow through on it. After we prayed, I asked Rochelle to keep me posted and to call me if she needed me.
The next Sunday after church, Rochelle approached me. She looked tired, but not as harried as she had in my office. We found a quiet place to talk and she told me what happened.
“After our time together, I knew I just couldn’t lie. I had to be truthful and trust God with the results. The next day, I told my boss I was sorry, but just could not be dishonest. He was not happy, but he wasn’t surprised, either. I offered to resign, in light of what he had said before. But, to my surprise, he said, ‘No, Rochelle, I’m not going to fire you. I’m unhappy with you. But you are an excellent worker and I don’t want to lose you.” I thanked him and left.
“On my way back to my office, I felt relieved, but I also knew that it was time for me to begin looking for another job. My boss didn’t fire me, but I don’t think I have a great future in the company. And I don’t want to work for a boss who isn’t honest.”
I admired Rochelle’s commitment to living her faith in her work, even when it was costly. I honored her courage to resist being asked to do what was wrong. I was grateful that she was able to keep her job. I knew that resisting a boss’s order does not always end so positively. Many in Rochelle’s position would have been fired on the spot.
Months later, Rochelle checked in with me. She had found a new job and was quite happy. She had asked some pretty direct questions in her interviews about how the new company dealt with the truth. She felt reassured that this new company would not ask her to lie. Her job transition was a little rough, as you might imagine. But Rochelle felt certain that she had done the right thing and she was grateful for God’s protection and provision.
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Dr. Mark D. Roberts is the executive director for the Max De Pree Center for Leadership at Fuller Theological Seminary. With years of experience as a pastor and non-profit leader as well as a mentor to leaders in business and other fields, Mark is deeply committed to helping the Church & Marketplace network serve leaders in the marketplace, education, government, non-profits, arts, family, and the church. Mark is married to Linda, a licensed therapist, spiritual director, and executive coach. Linda and Mark enjoy speaking together at churches and retreat centers on issues of discipleship, spiritual growth, leadership, and marriage. They have two children who are students on the East Coast.