I am sorry that this is your experience of the civil service culture. Unfortunately, it can be a common experience for people in the corridors of power and, in fact, the Bible highlights the issue of integrity and ethics in the work place a lot. I have never worked in this kind of context, so I don’t want to be too prescriptive in offering advice. Here are a few principles that I have found helpful, however, when wrestling with such questions:
- Your ultimate purpose in your job is to “seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness”. In other words, your number 1 consideration and authority needs to be to see God as your ultimate boss and to conduct your business affairs in a manner that He calls “righteous”. Most of the time, there is no disparity between what God expects of us and what our bosses expect of us. Occasionally, however, our bosses ask us to do things and conduct ourselves in a way that betrays our allegiance to Jesus Christ. At that point, you have a decision to make about who is the ultimate authority that you will obey. I find that Jesus’ words “Give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar, but give to God what belongs to God” (Luke 20:25) very helpful here. Again, many times you won’t need to choose between the authority figures in your life and work (the Caesars) and God, but occasionally they will make demands of you that compromise your loyalty to what God says is right. At that point, Christians must choose to “obey God rather than men” (Acts 4:19) and face any consequences that earthly authorities may throw at us - even if it means losing our jobs.
- The Bible talks about these kinds of challenges a lot, particularly in the early parts of the book of Daniel. Daniel and his friends we civil servants also. They were brilliant men who worked hard and excelled themselves even in service to foreign country and morally questionable ruler. And they did so precisely because they knew that it is a Christian ethic to work hard and do our best in our jobs - that is what God expects of us. Many times they were not asked to choose between God and serving the kind but every now and again they were and they choose to obey God. Doing so certainly had consequences for them: As punishment, they were thrown into a fiery furnace and a den of lions with no prior promise that God would rescue them and yet God vindicated their loyalty to Him and this loyalty became a huge witness even to the king! So you are not alone in this battle my friend. You follow in the footsteps of many great men and women who, when forced into an ultimatum, chose to obey God over men. I pray that you will follow their example and, if you do, God will honour and vindicate you. It may even be a powerful witness to others! That doesn’t mean that you might not face some consequences or even lose your job. 1 Peter 3 says that it is possible to suffer even for doing what is ultimately right. But it does mean you will have learned the ultimate lesson for why we work - to seek God’s rule and reign in our lives FIRST and obey him over all other authorities and power, and God will honour you for your faithfulness.
- Read 1 Peter 3:10-17 and have a think about how it applies to your situation.
Thanks for your excellent question!