April 13, 1993
A week or so ago I used lawsuits against computer companies to illustrate our human tendency to blame problems on others who did not directly cause them. At least one sufferer of repetitive stress injuries took offense. My apologies. These Parables are not intended to belittle people in pain but to point to God who loves us and has tremendous power to bring good from even the worst things that happen to us.
RSI is a serious physical condition and can lead to work loss and even permanent disability. Some are not aware that doing the same task over and over (particularly at work stations that force unsafe posture) can be so damaging. Employers need to provide more information and safer working conditions. Those prone to RSI need to take every precaution possible.
While I could further explore medical and legal ramifications, this column is intended to bring out the biblical perspective on situations like these. For instance, what does God say about employers who ignore worker-safety? And what about the pain felt by those injured? Or the added frustration whenever no one seems to care about their situation?
God’s Word directly addresses these concerns. Surprisingly, He offers warnings, instruction and hope to BOTH sides of the issue.
Exploitation is not a new thing. In New Testament times when the Romans ruled Israel, it was legal for Roman soldiers to force bystanders to carry their equipment up to one mile. They were also known to intimidate and extort money from helpless people.
Soldiers were not the only abusers. Masters beat their slaves, employers overworked and underpaid their servants, and leaders exploited their followers.
Even though God gave many rules regarding these relationships, people didn’t obey them just like they don’t obey Him today. Yet God offered hope to these cruel and heartless people. John the Baptist warned them to repent and Jesus offered forgiveness if they did.
Injured people were also given instruction and hope. First God warned them not to retaliate. Jesus put it this way, “You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ But I tell you, Do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if someone wants to sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. If someone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles” (Matt. 5:38-41).
God’s people were expected to do their jobs in faith with Christlike attitudes: “Bond servants, obey your earthly masters with respect and fear, and with sincerity of heart, just as you would obey Christ” (Ephesians 6:5). They were to do this regardless of how they were treated: “...submit yourselves to your masters with all respect, not only to those who are good and considerate, but also to those who are harsh.... if you suffer for doing good and you endure it, this is commendable before God (1 Peter 2).
This seems unfair but God is more interested that suffering people do not sin by returning evil with evil. Sin will only damage us even more. Instead, He wants us to come to Him with our pain. He suffered far more than we ever will so He knows how we feel. When we reach out to Him, He gives strength to endure and sometimes even lifts the pain or heals the problem. Furthermore, if we cooperate, He promises to use suffering to develop and strengthen our character (1 Peter 5:10).
Exploitation and neglect of others, with its resulting pain, confirms that our world is not the way God intended it to be. Harm comes when people disobey God and sin against one another. Human techniques seem good in that they may constrain the abusive and give temporary consolation to those who are injured. Yet sin is a spiritual problem and whether a person is a perpetrator or a victim of it, the best way to deal with sin’s devastation is through spiritual methods.
According to God, the first step is full surrender to Him.