Diet Coke, circa mid-90’s, flaunted one very steamy TV ad. An office full of women suddenly begin whispering to each other, “It’s 11:30.” As the commercial commences, they scurry to the office windows to ogle. A male construction worker on ground level removes his sweat-soaked shirt and begins lusciously drinking a Diet Coke. Apparently, this has become a daily workplace ritual for these women. Though lusting should never be a laughing matter, the commercial’s format draws a chuckle twenty years later. The gawking women wear big-framed 80’s eye-wear and oh-so-poofy hair; the bare-chested eye candy is sporting a far-from-chiseled four-pack. And in retrospect, what real man sips Diet Coke anyway?
Workplace temptation runs rampant. Place people together for extended blocks of time, working close on endeavors of big consequence, and the affection temperature is bound to rise. Glances are exchanged and soon feelings are shared; flirtation seems innocent, but sparks begin to fly. Then all too quickly, something hotter kindles. So how can we develop a strategy for sexual integrity in our workplaces, a wholesomeness that matches Christ’s heart for business leaders and workers in every profession?
The young biblical hunk, Joseph, stands as a stunning example in overcoming workplace temptation. Genesis 39 records the racy scene. Promoted to second in command over a large estate in Egypt, Joseph soon caught the wandering eye of the owner’s wife. Mrs. Potiphar repeatedly made her temptress moves, “day after day,” the story records. Joseph repeatedly resisted, finally stating emphatically that such indulgence would be a serious violation of his relationship with God (Gen. 39:9). This young man’s conviction and stance, so far away from his father Jacob’s oversight, was astounding. Finally, Joseph employed the best strategy ever. In a moment of brilliant insight, he did the most courageous thing. He ran away! (explore more on such a strategy in 1 Corinthians 6:17-20) His reward? He was quickly framed by the scorned, pouting, plotting temptress. (I know, shocker!) And he was promptly tossed in the deep, dank confines of prison. (See the rest of the story in Genesis 40 through 50.) Tom Nelson elaborates: “When it comes to sexual temptation in the workplace, we don’t have to go out of our way to look for it; it often finds us. Joseph’s wise response to sexual temptation in the workplace is a model for us to emulate. Joseph didn’t cozy up to sexual temptation, he fled from it.”
What’s the big deal? Our core struggle with lust is that we imagine how people can be used for our self-serving interests instead of genuinely loved. God’s style of selfless love aims at practically caring for others’ best interests, not using or abusing them. How do we develop a strategy, to stand strong against workplace temptation, or as in Joseph’s case, to decisively run away? In Taking Your Soul to Work, R. Paul Stevens and Alvin Ung urge these five strategy steps:
(1) Know that your heart’s desires are for God. Hunger and passion for God put all lesser desires into perspective. (2) Reduce exposure to erotic stimulation in your choice of movies, novels, and Internet sites. Put a plan in place that will help you avoid temptation on business trips. (3) Pray for a colleague, a customer, or a supervisor whom you find attractive. Choose God’s perspective on the person instead of treating her/him as “just a body” to be visually consumed. (4) Seek accountability partners. (5) Identify the early beginnings of lustful thoughts. Heightened vigilance in advance allows you to be more responsive to the Spirit’s guidance.
Instead of being trapped in daily rituals of workplace lust and other sexual sins, we can stand strong. We can run away, stay pure, and truly honor Christ. We can honor others with more wholesome love at work.
Tom Nelson. Work Matters: Connecting Sunday Worship to Monday Work. (Wheaton: Crossway, 2011), 173.
R. Paul Stevens and Alvin Ung. Taking Your Soul to Work: Overcoming the Nine Deadly Sins of the Workplace. (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing, 2010), 26-31.