My husband has his own small business, construction, and he was sub-contracted for another small business, also construction. Since both men are believers, how do we biblically handle not being paid for the job? (The main contractor) keeps promising, but not paying. Thank you!
A Concerned Wife
Dear Concerned Wife,
When it comes to a disagreement within the family of God, the Bible has some concrete advice. You’ve already taken the first step, but let’s look at the rest.
In Matthew 18:15-17, Jesus said: “If another believer sins against you go privately and point out the offense. If the other person listens and confesses it, you have won that person back. But if you are unsuccessful, take one or two others with you and go back again, so that everything you say may be confirmed by two or three witnesses. If the person still refuses to listen, take your case to the church. Then if he or she won’t accept the church’s decision, treat that person as a pagan or a corrupt tax collector.”
Your question implies that your husband has already spoken to him privately and received nothing but empty promises. Before taking the next steps outlined in Matthew 18, I suggest the following:
Ask for some form of security on the overdue payment. For example, your husband has every right to ask the contractor to pledge his power tools, truck, or other personal assets as collateral to guarantee the debt will be paid on the promised date. If the date comes and goes, your husband can rightfully ask for the collateral to satisfy the debt. Ask for this agreement to be put into a contract. The contract should also require mediation with fellow believers for breech of the contract terms.
In addition, your husband should ask for information about the financial condition of the contractor. Your husband needs to determine if the contractor is having a financial problem, a personal management problem or if he is being dishonest? This will help bring clarity and hopefully rebuild trust.
If those steps are blocked or unfruitful, it is time to take a few witnesses who can serve as mediators on your behalf to convince the primary contractor to pay his debt. To do this, let the contractor know that you are following the guidelines in Matthew 18; that you have tried to resolve the issue privately but you now intend to bring other Christian brothers into the dialogue to resolve the issue.
If the two of you attend the same church, your pastor could be a good person to involve, especially if you need to go to the next step – taking the matter to the full church. If you don’t go to the same church, consider asking your colleague’s pastor to be a member of the mediation team.
It’s interesting that in Matthew 5: 23-26, Jesus has strong words for believers who have sinned against someone else. He tells us that if we go to church to offer a gift to God, and we “remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift.”
God wants us to live at peace with our brothers and sisters before he wants our gifts and offerings. It is a tragic failure in our Christian culture that so many are unfaithful in their financial dealings with one another.
In 1 Corinthians 6, Paul very strongly argues that believers should not take each other to court, but should turn to the wise counsel of fellow believers to reach resolution.
Binding arbitration in front of a fellow believer is a better option. Paul writes: “If any of you has a dispute with another, do you dare to take it before the ungodly for judgment instead of before the Lord’s people? Or do you not know that the Lord’s people will judge the world? And if you are to judge the world, are you not competent to judge trivial cases?”
Keep your disagreement in the family, and consider arbitration with a fellow Christian if all else fails. Remind your brother in Christ that Christians are expected to pay their debts and keep accounts on track.
Paul concludes his advice with this sobering question in verse 7, “Why not rather be wronged? Why not rather be cheated?”
In other words, do the best you can but be prepared to write off the loss and find another contractor that your husband can work for who is faithful to pay his debts.