Bondservants, obey your earthly masters with fear and trembling, with a sincere heart, as you would Christ, not by the way of eye-service, as people-pleasers, but as bondservants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart, rendering service with a good will as to the Lord and not to man, knowing that whatever good anyone does, this he will receive back from the Lord, whether he is a bondservant or is free.
(Ephesians 6:5-8 ESV)
Today we begin the third and final example given by Paul with regard to human relationships and how we – those of us who are God’s children through faith [John 1:12-13] – should submit our wills to each other. The first example was marriage. The second was families. This final example is the workplace.
Work has always been a part of God’s plan for man. Before the fall, God placed Adam in the Garden of Eden and gave him the responsibility for taking care of it [Genesis 2:15]. God is a worker. Man was created in His image so we are to be workers too as God condemns laziness [Proverbs 6:6; 2 Thessalonians 3:10 et. al].
In this passage Paul actually addresses bondservants (slaves) and masters. Slavery, some of which was voluntary, was an accepted practice in ancient Rome. Nevertheless, Paul’s comments are still applicable to our professional relationships.
Notice first off that Paul makes it clear that the masters are earthly. The people we work for have limited authority here on earth only. They are not the ultimate authority in our lives. Just like we saw with wives/husbands and children/fathers, none of us are under any obligation to obey orders from our bosses that violate God’s commands. In fact, doing so would raise their authority above God’s, sending the wrong message to them.
We should serve our employers with fear and trembling. We saw Paul use this same phrase when we studied Philippians earlier this year. These words are not telling employees to be afraid of their bosses. They are telling us to be diligent out of the realization that we are error prone. We should be careful to do a good job.
To that end we should work with a sincere heart by giving every effort just as we would do for Christ. We are not to work only when we are being watched (eye-service) or to please people. When we work we are actually serving Christ [Ecclesiastes 9:10; Colossians 3:23-25]. When we (God’s children) work hard and honestly we are a witness to those around us, which is the will of God.
Charles Spurgeon said, “we do the business of heaven while we are attending to the business of earth”. Our attitude (heart) should be such that we are rendering service to the Lord rather than to man. This reminds us that once a person is saved their life – including their profession – is no longer about them. It is about being a witness to those around us. We do that by always behaving in a manner that glorifies God. Because when God is glorified people will notice Him and be drawn to Him.
Not only will people notice our hard work but so will God. Whatever good anyone does will be paid back from the Lord. None of us would turn down a bigger salary. But we don’t work to amass earthly treasures since such rewards fade away [Matthew 6:19-20]. A reward from God is better because it lasts for eternity.
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