Sermon Titled “Work In Progress” (Ephesians 6:5-9) – Sunday 2nd June, 2014
- Ephesians 6:5-8 5 Slaves, obey your earthly masters with respect and fear, and with sincerity of heart, just as you would obey Christ. 6 Obey them not only to win their favor when their eye is on you, but as slaves of Christ, doing the will of God from your heart. 7 Serve wholeheartedly, as if you were serving the Lord, not people, 8 because you know that the Lord will reward each one for whatever good they do, whether they are slave or free.
In the above verses Paul is speaking to all slaves, but that doesn’t mean that he condoned slavery. In Paul’s day, slavery was a common practice and culturally acceptable. Most slaves entered their masters’ homes either unwillingly, through the spoils of war for example, or voluntarily in order to pay off debts. Paul’s message to them does not imply anything about his views on slavery; he is simply addressing all those who happened to be in the position of having a master.
Fortunately slavery has since been abolished in most developed countries (although human trafficking is a form of modern day slavery that is frighteningly rampant), but for the slaves who lived in Paul’s lifetime, instructions were given specifically to them. Paul wanted them to understand that even though they were subject to the will and authority of their masters, they ultimately served God.
With the absence of slavery in today’s Western world, we might think that Paul’s instructions are no longer relevant, but actually they are just as relevant today as they were back then – only instead of applying them to the slave/master relationship, we can apply them to the employee/employer relationship. Just as slaves were instructed to serve their masters with respect (as if they were serving the Lord Himself), we can choose to do the same for those we work for.
In literal terms, what does it look like to work for others as if we are working for the Lord?
- A Christian worker is called to obedience, and obedience does not allow for laziness. The idea that it’s okay to slacken off when the boss is not looking or is not around, is not okay. 2 Timothy 2:15 says, “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth.”
- Some perceive work as drudgery or a punishment, but truthfully it’s a gift from God – it’s part of our purpose in life and a way of finding fulfillment. Whether you work for payment or work voluntarily, it’s what you were created to do. We can therefore work with glad hearts and a joyful disposition because we are working for our heavenly Father who loves us and rewards us (and incidentally, when we consistently work hard without complaining, our attitudes bear witness to our faith and love of God).
- Alternatively, some perceive work as the “be all and end all.” Being a workaholic for the sake of acquiring as much wealth and possessions as possible, is not biblical. Nor is working so hard that it is to the detriment of your health or your family’s well-being. God says that our work should bring glory to Him and neither of these scenarios is going to accomplish that.
There’s one more verse that Paul added regarding the slave/master relationship:
- Ephesians 6:9 9 And masters, treat your slaves in the same way. Do not threaten them, since you know that he who is both their Master and yours is in heaven, and there is no favoritism with him.
If you’re in a leadership position and have people working for you, that doesn’t entitle you to treat your employees with a lack of regard or respect. You may have worked hard to get where you are, and you may feel tempted to assert your authority in order to feel important, but Christ worked hard too and He never sought to make Himself appear superior. On the contrary, Christ preferred to serve rather than be served, and He saw significance in motives, not positions.
The underlying message I believe Paul is conveying in these verses, is that whether we are workers or employers, we are first and foremost Christians. As such we are to conduct ourselves in ways that reflect God’s principles and standards, regardless of how we feel about our jobs or the people we work with. Our work relationships and choices either honor or dishonor God – which do yours do?