By: Roger Oliver
When men get together we tend to talk about what we do for a living. The most animated conversations I have with my friends (male) have to do with our jobs. For some time now we have been faulted for that, like it was a weakness. We’ve been told that we do this because of something to do with our natures, survival of the fittest evolutionary nonsense I suspect. We are told we need to learn to be more interested in the person, to get to know each other spiritually and emotionally.
This is all nonsense and I’ll tell you why. What us guys do is who we are. That is natural and good. This is not a product of evolution or something the male of the human race is going to grow out of someday. We have been given a commission to dominion over the creation and our jobs are how we do that. It would be unnatural for men not to ask one another about what they do. I get downright emotional when I recognize competence at the dominion task God has given a friend.
Further, the way we do our jobs is an ethical/judicial matter. We either risk it all to live according to God’s law in our work or we cut ethical corners to meet deadlines and make money or get a promotion. Which we choose reveals in whom we trust. Trust produces obedience, whatever the cost. A working definition of integrity that I have carried around with me for years is doing a right thing in a right way because it is right to do it, no matter the cost. What was not always clear was by what standard? How do we judge what is a right or wrong thing to do?
This all came together for me recently in a chat with a friend about his work. Coincidentally, our wives were busy talking about the evils of patriarchy, you know, how to micromanage your wife. We were too busy discussing our dominion tasks to worry much about that. Don’t believe in it. I think anyone who worries about his authority over his wife doesn’t have enough to do. Our wives are our partners in the dominion task to which we have been called together. I could not do what I have been called to do if my wife needed to be micromanaged. I thank God for her competence at what she does.
My friend is a safety engineer for a natural gas/petroleum pipeline company. He explained to me that safety is more than individual procedures; checklists to help workers do things right and avoid accidents. It is also a function of the culture of an organization, the patterns of communication and the values of the company. If the boss values meeting performance goals more than safety the workers will pick up on that and there will be accidents.
Among the several industry incidents he shared with me, one case caught my attention: a meter registered a drop in pressure between two pumping stations. This generally indicates a leak in the pipe although it could also be a broken meter. Similar things happen in your automobile. A gauge indicates a drop in oil pressure. You take it to the mechanic where you discover that the oil pressure is fine. Turns out it’s the oil pressure sending unit that is bad. In the case of the drop in pressure in the pipeline, the worker did not trust the meter so he kept restarting the pump. As a result, he pumped thousands of gallons of oil into a river.
This is an ethical/judicial matter, not just a matter of relative values in an organization. If so, by what standard are we to judge that a life is more important than a production deadline? What if it turns out that it was only a meter that is broken and it cost hours of needless downtime? If not the Law of God, then what, the self-determined values of the organization? Auto companies face the same dilemma when they discover a fault in a design that requires a recall. They often use statistical analysis to determine how many lives may be lost vs. the cost of a recall. Is this lawful? Is it ethical? By what standard?
A complaint lodged against the application of the Law as expressed in the Mosaic code in modern times is that it is bound up in cultural accoutrements. A common example is the law requiring a fence around your roof to keep people from falling. We don’t have flat roofs in modern times, goes the argument, so the law doesn’t apply. There are two things wrong with this argument.
First, some people do have flat roofs, at least where I live they do. I live in Mexico. Sometimes these roofs are designed to serve as a kind of patio. They are called an asotea. Usually they are protected by a wall to keep people from falling off the roof. That some people do not protect their flat roofs with a fence is a sign of a people in rebellion against God and his Law.
Second, this is a spurious argument to deny there is an absolute and immutable ethical/judicial standard that God has revealed. It is case law that applies in principle to all times and all peoples. Paul taught us how to analyze and apply these cases to our times in 1 Corinthians 9:9, 10, “For it is written in the law of Moses, “Do not muzzle an ox while it is treading out the grain.” God is not concerned here about oxen, is he? Or is he not surely speaking for our benefit? It was written for us, because the one plowing and threshing ought to work in hope of enjoying the harvest.”
Paul is saying that the law is not tied up in the culture of ancient agriculture. It is not primarily about animals either. The principle is that the worker is worth his Hire. Paul says so in 1 Timothy 5:18 where he says the worker is worth his hire alongside a quote of the prohibition of muzzling the ox. Who else said that? Well, Jesus said that In Luke 19:7. Paul apparently quotes Jesus or a common saying in 1 Timothy 5:18 as an expression of the meaning of Mosaic Law prohibiting muzzling the ox. It isn’t just about oxen and it isn’t just for ancient Israel. “It was written for US!” says Paul in 1 Corinthians 9:18.
Are you required to put fence around your roof if it is a gabled roof that not even a mountain goat could climb? Probably not but in principle, of course you are subject to the intent of this law. You are responsible to proactively protect human life on your property. The liability for animals that fall into an unguarded pit and the ox that gores In Exodus 21 are similar in intent. All of these are tied to the 6th commandment, thou shalt not murder. It is more than a prohibition against taking a life without cause; it is also a command to protect human life at all cost. From this we get our liability laws, why you buy insurance on your automobile and can be held responsible for accidents that happen on your property. This is especially true if it can be shown that you were negligent with your own property. The attractive nuisance laws are based on the same principle.
Back to my friend who is a safety engineer for a natural gas/petroleum pipeline company. You see, his dominion task is precisely to help companies comply with the intent of the law to build a fence around a flat roof. He spends every waking hour at work thinking about this and does an admirable job of it. He is highly competent at it too. Because it is a dominion task related to the judicial/ethical demands of the Law and he does it so well, I get downright excited listening to him tell about it. Any man worth his salt would.
By what standard do we judge which is more important, a life or a deadline, a life or a recall? The law of God makes it clear; we protect human life no matter what the cost. This is how we know how to do a right thing in a right way because it is right to do it, not matter the cost. Without the Law, we are adrift in a sea of ethical relativity. So it is in our modern times and we are paying the piper.