Social Justice at Work: Bringing “Shalom” into the Workplace

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A Christian became the CEO of a hospital in the heart of the city. His mandate from the Board of Directors? Increase profits.

He began with a meeting of all the top C-Level executives (operations, medical, nursing, finance, academics, HR, and legal) to discuss the way forward. The CEO opened the meeting with something the execs did not expect to hear: “This is my vision for this hospital: We will become a blessing to this city. I want to see the people of this city flourish because this hospital exists."

The CEO outlined some general ideas for transitioning the institution into an instrument of blessing, with expectations that would radically change the way these executives would approach their jobs. Operations, medical and nursing would emphasize transforming patients’ experiences so they would feel more like honored guests and less like "numbers." From the moment they entered the front door to the minute they left, each patient would be treated with dignity. Human Resources was placed in charge of hiring the most caring employees. Everyone paid by the hospital--doctors, nurses, housekeeping, food services, patient transportation, etc.--would smile, show compassion, and go the extra mile. The Chief Legal Officer was given the task to figure out how to care for patients without health insurance or a means to pay. Also, together with the COO, she would establish programs to bring medical care to the city’s poor and marginalized residents.

The Bible has a term for what this CEO had in mind: Shalom. Shalom is God’s intention for every single human being and for all aspects of his creation. In Not the Way It’s Supposed to Be, author Cornelius Plantinga, Jr. gives this definition:

“The webbing together of God, humans, and all creation in justice, fulfillment, and delight is what the Hebrew prophets call shalom. In English we call it peace, but it means far more than just peace of mind or ceasefire between enemies. In the Bible shalom means universal flourishing, wholeness, and delight—a rich state of affairs in which natural needs are satisfied and natural gifts are fruitfully employed…Shalom, in other words, is the way things are supposed to be.”

God calls his people to be a blessing to the communities in which he has placed us. When the Israelites were placed in Babylon, God wrote a letter to them through the prophet Jeremiah in which he commanded them to “seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the LORD for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper.” (Jeremiah 29:4-7)

Those two words, “peace and prosperity,” are translated from the single Hebrew word shalom. Remember, this is Babylon he was talking about! Yes, God loves everyone and wants them all to flourish. And he wants to use his people to make that happen.

How can you use your influence to subtly change the purpose of your company, or whatever institution in which you work, so it more often seeks shalom for its consumers? How can you be intentional about the flourishing of co-workers, suppliers, and customers? How can you help your institution bring universal flourishing, wholeness, and delight into people’s lives?


Social Justice at Work

When God asks us to take care of the orphan, widow, and the poor, what does that mean for our workplaces? How do we follow a social justice mandate in our offices, schools, warehouses and retail establishments? And how does it change our world when social justice works the way God intended?

In the series Social Justice at Work, The High Calling explores social justice in the places we work and the ways we work. Join us as we discuss how our calling to the "least of these" affects us outwardly in our jobs, and inwardly as we perform our jobs, via theme-related Bible reflections, featured articles, and discussion starters. We encourage you to add your questions, concerns and comments, engage with us on social media (especially Twitter and Facebook), and invite your friends and colleagues to do the same.