“Let your life be a stepping stone to Christ and not a stumbling block.” 1 Cor. 8:13 & 10:31

"Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works and glorify God who is in heaven." Matt. 5:16

The Problem Of Double Standards

By Rick Boxx

According to two studies conducted by The Marist College Institute for Public Opinion, only 28 percent of the individuals surveyed, including only 44 percent of business leaders, believe people use the same set of ethical standards in the workplace as they do in their personal lives. Apparently, business and professional men and women exhibit marked differences in their public and private behavior. At least that is how they are perceived – and for many observers, perception is reality.

This double standard might explain some of the well-documented ethical problems we have been hearing about in the media. Although leaders may espouse values such as honesty, integrity and fairness, those virtues are often cast aside in favor of expediency – whether that involves professional advancement, closing a sale, misrepresenting accounting records, or many other unethical practices.

The individual that consistently lives out beliefs is becoming increasingly rare as an “end justifies the means” philosophy reigns. And frankly, most business schools rarely if ever offer classes on ethics since it seems so difficult to reach a consensus on what ethical standards to uphold as the model.

Let me suggest one “textbook” that would serve that purpose well: the Bible. While the Scriptures certainly are not limited to workplace issues, there is a wealth of teaching about proper conduct in business. And it does not suggest a “situational ethics” approach: The beauty of holding to a biblical worldview is you only have to remember one set of standards – and they apply to both your personal and business life.

In the New Testament’s account of the life of Jesus Christ, which we know as the Gospels, we see that Jesus often encountered those who had a double standard, and He was always stern in dealing with them. He warned in Matthew 23:27-28, "Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of dead men's bones and everything unclean. In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness." Strong words, right?

Jesus was addressing religious leaders in this situation, but His point was clear: He condemned anyone in a position of responsibility that professed to believe one thing yet acted in a completely different manner. Not one of us is perfect, but Jesus hated hypocrisy.

There are some who would argue that although the Bible offers lofty standards for behavior, whether in public or in private, those standards are unrealistic and simply do not work in the real world of the 21st century. I would dispute such an argument wholeheartedly. There are numerous examples around the world of leaders – and companies – that have consistently turned to the Bible as their guide for everyday operations. Yes, it might be difficult at times to stand firm when faced with the temptation to compromise, but the rewards of becoming known as a person – or organization – that lives out what you believe are worth the effort.

Are you tired of living according to two different ethical standards, vacillating according to circumstances and the need of the moment? Have you grown weary of promising one thing and then doing something very different? Try simplifying your life and just use one standard: the Bible.

Copyright 2010, Integrity Resource Center, Inc. Adapted with permission from "Integrity Moments with Rick Boxx," a commentary on issues of integrity in the workplace from a Christian perspective. To learn more about Integrity Resource Center or to sign up for Rick’s daily Integrity Moments, visit www.integrityresource.org.