The Book of Esther begins with King Ahasuerus (known to history outside the Bible as Xerxes) throwing a lavish party to display his glory. Having consumed ample amounts of wine, Ahasuerus commands his servants to bring Queen Vashti before him in order that he might show her off to the other partygoers.
But Vashti, sensing the indignity of the request, refuses. Her refusal disturbs the men in attendance, who fear that her example would encourage other women in the kingdom to stand up to their husbands. Thus Vashti is “fired,” if you will, and a process begun to find Ahasuerus a new queen. To be sure, this episode depicts a family matter. But every royal family is also a political workplace. So Vashti’s situation is also a workplace issue, in which the boss seeks to exploit a woman because of her gender and then terminates her when she fails to live up to his fantasies.
This story, or one like it, may sound all too familiar to you. We do not know what ultimately happened to Vashti. But we do know that the objectification of women and sexual harassment do not reflect the values of God’s kingdom, nor do they reflect God’s intent for women in the workplace.
If you’re experiencing sexual harassment at work, reach out to trusted friends or church community members who can support you as you decide what action to take. Know that God values you as a precious child and stands with you. If you are in immediate danger, remove yourself from the situation and find safety.
If you have witnessed sexual harassment at work, pray for your workplace. Is there anything you can do to make it a safe space?
Lord, help me to remember that my worth comes from you and not from those who may have demeaned or exploited me. Keep me safe and help me work for your justice. Amen.
For further exploration, read more about Esther in the Theology of Work Bible Commentary.