I’VE BEEN ON THE PLANET long enough to have close friends and family who are facing what they say feels like age discrimination on the job.
I find myself thinking about that lately and wondering what the Bible has to say about it, if anything.
A few observations that started my thinking:
My dad’s generation of employees often enjoyed the protection of unions. At a price, of course. But as a general rule, at least as far as I could tell, workers who stuck with the company reaped the benefits and the security in their final years on the job…as they approached retirement—proud of the job they had done and of how long they worked for the same company.
My generation of employees usually enjoys the protection of no one and his brother. Unions are gone, or about as effective as a squirt gun at a knife fight.
People of my generation are headed into what used to be the Big Cash years at the top of the pay scale, when the kids are grown and the parents can finally stash away some money for themselves.
These are not, however, the Big Cash years anymore.
These are the Big Crash years.
Here’s what happens. A teacher in his early 60s who has a long and well-established record of success in teaching suddenly gets a note from the school’s new vice principal. The senior teacher is on probation for 30 days.
The administration wants to see improvement in the lesson plans and performance in the class.
Discussions between the teacher and the vice principal leave the teacher to conclude that the administrators aren’t even reading the submitted lessons plans.
Probation gets extended for another 30 days.
Eventually, the pressure overcomes the teacher. He “retires,” to the obvious relief of the administrators.
Not quite retired, he immediately starts looking for another job…which most likely will involve a sharp drop in pay—the Big Crash.
That assumes he can find a job at his age.
This is not a hypothetical. I’ve seen this happen.
We can’t know the motives of others, but another teacher friend of mine said it’s probably about the money. The school can take the top salary of one senior teacher and hire two or three young teachers fresh out of college.
This happens in all fields. I’ve seen it happen in nursing, in business, and even in the church.
Everyone thought it was risky for me to leave my editing job with a denominational headquarters. But I’m told that one of my replacements got forced into early retirement. No surprise there. I had seen the same thing happen to others …which became one line-item on my list of reasons not to stay there.
I’m also thinking that this is the best time in history to be self-employed. At least I know that no one but God has my back. I know it’s up to me, since people no longer tend to stand up for each other.
At least that’s my general observation, hoping there are exceptions to the rule.
I wanted to see what the Bible had to say about how we should treat employees who have stayed with us long enough to have reached the top of the pay scale.
I found nothing specific.
But I did trip over a few general principles I’d like to pass along to the principals…and to other job creators skilled at the butcher’s craft of creating two jobs from one by slaughtering the one.
- “Elders who do their work well should be respected and paid well” (1 Timothy 5:17). (OK, those “elders” are church leaders. But I can make the jump if you can.)
- “If you’re a hard worker and do a good job, you deserve your pay; we don’t call your wages a gift” (Romans 4:4).
- “Show respect for older people” (Leviticus 19:32).
- “Well done, my good and faithful servant. You have been faithful in handling this small amount, so now I will give you many more responsibilities. Let’s celebrate together!” (Matthew 25:23).
Wouldn’t it have been unsettling if Jesus, in that parable of the Good Servant, had said,
“Thanks for all you’ve done to help make this company what it is today. But I’m afraid that for the sake of the company I have to let you go. I’ve reserved a room for your going away party at Jack’s Crab Shack.”
On the other hand, that company exec might feel vindicated by another parable—one praising a shrewd and shady businessman.
The businessman knew he was about to get canned. So to make lots of friends—and to open up more job opportunities—he forgave all the debts people owed to his master.
After telling that oddball parable, Jesus said, “The master praised his dishonest manager for looking out for himself so well. That’s how it is! The people of this world look out for themselves better than the people who belong to the light” (Luke 16:8).
I don’t think Jesus meant that as a compliment to folks devoted to themselves.
Pardon me for thinking out loud on my keyboard.