Some Christians wrestle with this topic because of how often we have been told we should be content with what we have, no matter how much or how little. Passages such as Phil. 4:11-13, 1 Tim. 6:6-12, Prov. 30:7-9, and Luke 3:14 are often used. In fact, Jesus specifically says in Luke 3:14 to be content with your wages.
But do all of these passages really mean we should stay where we are and simply take what is given to us, rather than working toward a professional goal? Personally, I’ve found that the best way to answer a question like this is often to ask more questions, so here are the questions that come to mind.
Shouldn’t I be content with what I have?
This is the first question people ask. The Bible seems to be clear that yes, we should be content with what we have. Phil. 4:11 says, “Not that I speak from want, for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am” (NASB). Heb. 13:5 says, “Make sure that your character is free from the love of money, being content with what you have; for He Himself has said, ‘I will never desert you, nor will I ever forsake you,’” (NASB). And there are many more passages that encourage you to be content in your circumstances.
What it means to be content with what you have is debated by Christians, though. Most land on the side that agrees being content does not equal being complacent. If you look at the stories in the Bible (which is how I believe the Bible should be read, rather than a collection of individual sayings), many illustrate the benefits of fighting complacency.
For example, the Israelites were led out of a situation where they were mistreated when they left Egypt. David clearly had professional goals throughout his rise to kingship, and the Bible writers display him as being led by God throughout this rise. Also, Jesus told a story about people being entrusted with money: two go out and work to gain more money, one does not. The two who worked to increase what they were given are rewarded while the one who did nothing to change his circumstances is punished.
What is your reason for asking for a pay increase?
Is your reason for asking because you feel your services are worth more than the current compensation? Do you feel like you are obligated a pay increase because you haven’t left the organization? There are dozens of reasons you could be asking for a pay increase, but it needs to be fair to both parties. If your reason for asking is simply because you want more money but you are not in some way providing more to the company, then you may be doing what the Bible writers discourage when they say to be content with your wages or to be free of the love of money.
If you feel like your services are worth more than the compensation, you should do your research and determine what is normal compensation in your local area for the service you are performing, then factor in—among other things—your time spent at the organization and your level of skill. You need to be able to lay these out for your employer so you have a fair case for a raise.
You may be working more efficiently or bringing in more sales, but if you are not seeing an increase in pay because of this, your employer is the primary party benefiting.
Inflation is yet another factor that should be considered when asking for a raise. In some instances, it may be the only factor. As cost of living rises, ideally your pay will match that rise. In essence, this isn’t even a raise, it is simply keeping your salary the same year to year.
Over the last several decades, the Federal Reserve has targeted 2 percent as a yearly inflation rate. This means that without a cost of living adjustment raise (as it is often called), your salary is actually decreasing by about 2 percent every year.
Who is benefiting?
You will obviously benefit from a pay increase, but what about your employer? Is this a one-sided transaction? In reality, both sides should be benefiting from your pay increase. If you can demonstrate to your employer—whether through data, stories, customer reviews, etc.—that your productivity has been increasing, this means your employer has been benefiting.
You may be working more efficiently or bringing in more sales, but if you are not seeing an increase in pay because of this, your employer is the primary party benefiting. This means that a raise would not be a one-sided transaction, it would actually be your employer raising your pay to match the increased benefit it is receiving from you.