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Faith Bible Church, NY
January 12, 1997
Employers and Employees
In our study of the book of Ephesians we have seen in chapters 1-3 the many benefits we have received by God’s grace. Starting in chapter 4, Paul has called all Christians to live differently than those who remain in unbelief. This morning we conclude the section in which Paul calls us to live according to Godly wisdom by walking in submission to the Holy Spirit and in mutual submission to one another. Our relationships with one another, especially within the family, should be marked by living according to God’s design.
Now we are going to look at God’s design for the work place. What is the relationship between employer and employee to be like? How should we as Christians respond to our jobs?
I) ECONOMICS AND GREED
Please understand that as we begin this section that what Solomon says in Ecclesiastes is still true – there is nothing new under the sun. Economics has always been an important topic in life. Employees have always wanted to gain more from their labor and employers have always wanted to gain greater benefit from their employees. Hence there as always been tension in labor relations. The basic problem is the same here as it is for most of our problems: selfishness. We see things only from our own perspective and want more of whatever there is. One of the few things that employers and employees usually agree on is that there should be less taxes, yet both continue to want the government to provide more services.
What is the result of these pressures? A good benefit can be efficiency, because that is the only way wages and profits can properly increase, doing more for less cost. However, there is a negative consequence when people get paid more without doing more: inflation. One group wants more so they can gain economically. Another group now charges more for what it makes so it can keep up and buy what the first group makes. A third group increases its prices so it can also keep up. Throw in the government that now taxes more so that can supply the services people are demanding. When they simply print more money without anything to back it up, the value of everyone’s money goes down, so people want more for what they do so they can keep up. Around and around the cycle goes ever spiraling upward. Materialism increases the spiral because the desire for things can never be satiated. The more you have, the more you want.
What is the solution to this dilemma? Capitalism actually works best because it best takes into account man’s greed, but there is an ever increasing cry for greater government control to prevent people from gaining to much and the anarchy that comes with a population given over to greed without consideration for the good of other people. The book of Revelation paints a picture of Anti-Christ gaining doctoral power in order to keep anarchy from destroying people’s economic well being. Such a scenario for people giving up freedom for supposed economic gain is not far fetched. The last general election here in the U.S. demonstrated that even here more people now vote according their sense of economic well being, real or imagined, than on moral issues.
The Christian need not get caught up in these issues as the world does. Men try to change the world by bringing its outward system of operation into the image they desire thinking that will solve the problems. God changes the world and its systems by internally conforming men them to the image of His Son, Jesus Christ. Our lives do not revolve around economics, but rather God Himself. Jesus’ promise to us in Matthew 6 is that He will provide for us as we make His kingdom and His righteousness our priorities. Our major financial concerns are the righteous use of them, not their accumulation.
Paul specifically addresses how employers and employees are do deal with each other in righteousness here in Eph. 6:5-9. He deals with the employees work ethic first.
II) SLAVES AND EMPLOYEES
Paul makes three main points to those who labor for someone else. 1) Have respectful obedience to them. 2) Work as unto the Lord. 3) You will receive a reward.
Slaves, be obedient to those who are your masters according to the flesh, with fear and trembling, in the sincerity of your heart, as to Christ; 6 not by way of eyeservice, as men-pleasers, but as slaves of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart. 7 With good will render service, as to the Lord, and not to men, 8 knowing that whatever good thing each one does, this he will receive back from the Lord, whether slave or free.
Notice first of all that Paul’s direct statement is to slaves. The KJV says servants, but the word here is äïõëïé which means common slave. Now no one here is a slave, though some may feel that way sometime. I remember my brother angling for a raise one time joked with his employer that he could not be fired. His employer ask why and he responded, “slaves have to be sold.” We may feel that way sometimes, but we are free to make our own choices. Does that mean what Paul says here does not apply to us? No, because the principle he brings out does apply to us and even more so since we do have the freedom to chose our employment. If we do not like our employment situation and find the job intolerable, then we should quit that one and find another employer even if it means a reduction in finances.
Slavery did not allow any such choices, and it was common in the Roman world, and it was as cruel or worse than anything that occurred in American slavery as bad as it was. The slave’s only distinction above animals or tools was that the slave could talk. The Roman statement Cato advocated throwing out old slaves like trash and to not feed a sick slave because it was not worth the expense. He equated such slaves with broken tools.
Some have wondered why the scripture does not speak out strongly against slavery and why Paul would say what he does rather than encourage slaves to run away or revolt and gain their freedom. The simple truth is that slavery in itself is not evil, but only the practice of evil men who violate God’s directions for its practice. That may sound a bit shocking to some of you, but make a careful study of the Old Testament and you will see what I am talking about. God allowed slavery in Israel according to the Mosaic Law for good purposes but there were many restrictions. A person who stole something and could not make restitution was made a slave until the repayment could be worked out – a plan that allowed the thief to regain dignity and that repaid the victim, which is much superior to our prison system which dignity is destroyed and the victim is robbed again because he has to pay taxes to keep the person that robbed him incarcerated. Someone who could not handle money or make it on their own would be in danger of being made a slave so one of three things would happen. 1) The person would get serious, learn quickly and get themselves out of trouble. 2) The family would bail him out and then give careful oversight. 3) He would end up a slave and would be taken care of by his master, and he would get another chance to be on his own in six years or less, unless he decided he is better off under the care of his master and voluntarily indentures himself for life (Ex. 21:5-6).
Here are some of the restrictions that were to keep slavery from coming here in America in the 18th and 19th centuries. Kidnaping for the purpose of making people slaves was forbidden (Ex. 21:6). All slaves were to be released at the year of Jubilee which occurred every 50 years (Lev. 25:10). Israelites who indentured themselves were to be released on the next Sabbath year, so at maximum it would be six years of slavery. When a slave was released they were to be given what amounted to severance pay (Ex. 21:2; Deut. 15:13-14). Slaves were not to be abused and were given their freedom if seriously injured by their master (Ex. 21:26-27). A slave that fled from an oppressive master was to be given asylum and protection (Deut. 23:15-16).
What are the principles we find in our text for employees to follow?
A) HAVE RESPECTFUL OBEDIENCE
5 Slaves, be obedient to those who are your masters according to the flesh, with fear and trembling, in the sincerity of your heart, as to Christ. Employees are to be obedient / submissive to their employers in everything at all times. The only exception would be if they are told to do something immoral which would be in disobedience to God. Notice that Paul says “your masters according to the flesh.” It is a reminder that while this obedience is important that our life is temporary. We also have a master that is not according to the flesh. Our allegiance is to Him first and foremost. We cannot violate His commands regardless of what earthly authority figures including our employers demand from us.
However, be sure to understand we are to do everything our employer asks us to do that does not violate God’s commands. How your employer treats you or how you feel about what you are asked to do is not at issue. In 1 Peter 2:18-20 we find this is to be true even if they are unreasonable – 18 Servants, be submissive to your masters with all respect, not only to those who are good and gentle, but also to those who are unreasonable. 19 For this finds favor, if for the sake of conscience toward God a man bears up under sorrows when suffering unjustly. 20 For what credit is there if, when you sin and are harshly treated, you endure it with patience? But if when you do what is right and suffer for it you patiently endure it, this finds favor with God.
Notice here again that since the purpose of the Christian’s life is different from other people, the true believer can behave differently. Regardless of who your employer is or what they are like, you as the employee are to respectfully submit to their orders except in issues of immorality. The respect is important. Our text says, “with fear and trembling.” This is not the idea of being scared and cowering before them, but of honor and respect given by someone anxious to please. Paul used the same phrase this way in 1 Cor. 2:3l; 2 Cor. 7:15 & Phi. 2:12. If you will, more like the dog that is so anxious to do what his master says that his wagging tail is shaking him all over.
If your boss wants you to do something you do not think is best, then certainly appeal to them, ask them if they would consider something different, but leave the matter in their hands and make sure they know you will do it whatever way they decide. Don’t argue, don’t get mad, don’t sulk, don’t talk behind their back, don’t be disrespectful in anyway. Simply submit and follow your employers instructions. Our quest is to demonstrate Christ honoring behavior regardless of any short term consequences to ourselves.
Paul adds in Titus 2:9-10, “bondslaves to be subject to their own masters in everything, to be well-pleasing, not argumentative, 10 not pilfering, but showing all good faith that they may adorn the doctrine of God our Savior in every respect.” The behavior of our lives is to bring glory to God by living according to His standards in every area of life. We are to have a singleness of mind about this, or as Paul puts it there at the end of verse 5, “in the sincerity of your heart…”. There is to be nothing false in our submission to our employers. We serve them with true hearts. Why?
B) WORK AS UNTO THE LORD
Our labor is to always be as to the Lord, not by way of eye service, as men pleasers, but as slaves of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart, With good will render service, as to the Lord, and not to men.
Christians are always to do their best because all they do is to be service to the Lord. There is a true sense in which you need to understand that whatever you do to earn you paycheck is just as sacred and just as much serving the Lord as what I do as the paid teaching Elder of this church. You are out on the front lines of the mission field where people gain an understanding of Jesus Christ by seeing His life lived out through you. That is why it is so important that you behave as Jesus would regardless of how your employer treats you. Can he see Jesus Christ living in you?
There are a lot of people that work by way of eye service as men-pleasers. These are those work in a different manner when the boss is around, but when he is not, well, that is a different story. Jonathan got some computer games for a present and I do not let him play anything that I have not looked over first – there is too much trash out there for me not to protect my children. In looking over some of them and their instructions I found it interesting that many of them have what is called a “boss” key. This is a key that will quickly kill the game screen so the boss will not catch them playing the game while they are supposed to be working.
Let’s be honest. If you cannot perform your work the same way whether your boss is present or absent, then you work by way of eye service. You are a men-pleaser trying to give the illusion of being a great worker while in truth you are delinquent worker – a slacker. Christians are to work as if their boss was always looking over their shoulder. Why? Because our true boss, the Lord Jesus is always watching.
Tell, me. What kind of job would you do if product you were making was to going to be given to God? What kind of work would you do it would be the Lord Himself that would sit down with you for your performance review? How would you use your time on the job Jesus Christ was your companies’ efficiency expert and/or production supervisor? If you labor would change in anyway, then you need to change it now, because God is all those things to you.
The Christian is to be a God pleaser, not a man-pleaser. We are to strive to do the will of God from our hearts doing everything we do as unto Him. We are seeking to do His will above all else because we work for Him regardless of who signs the paycheck, for as Paul points out here, we are His slaves who with good will are to do all our work as unto Him, and not to men. The standard of what other people do is never good enough for the Christian. We are to always strive to do our absolute best since we are the Lord’s.
C) YOU WILL RECEIVE A REWARD
The Christian is to work in this manner because he knows that he will receive a reward from the Lord at the proper time. Vs. 8 – knowing that whatever good thing each one does, this he will receive back from the Lord, whether slave or free. We know that we may not be justly compensated by our employers, but so what. We are looking toward and living for eternity’s reward, not what occurs here and now. We must be like the elderly missionaries that returned to the U.S. from Africa. On the same ship was Theodore Roosevelt who was greeted by a great crowd. The missionary was quite discouraged at first as he thought about the great welcome Roosevelt received for shooting game animals, while there was no one to welcome him after a lifetime of gospel work among Africa’s people. Then he was reminded that all was as it should be in this world. They had received no acclaim or reward yet because they had not yet reached their home in heaven.
This is the behavior and these are the attitudes every Christian employee should have, but what about employers?
III) MASTERS AND EMPLOYERS
9 And, masters, do the same things to them, and give up threatening, knowing that both their Master and yours is in heaven, and there is no partiality with Him. Employers are to give respectful leadership and remember that they too are slaves of Christ.
A) RESPECTFUL LEADERSHIP
Paul tells the masters here, the employers of our day, that they are to do the same things and give up the threatening. Their attitude toward their works is be the same as Paul already told the employees. They are to be respectful and run their business and direct their employees according to God’s standards of righteousness, truth and honesty. Their first priority is also to be doing everything as unto the Lord seeking His will out above their own.
The Christian employer is not to let his authority go to his head and feed his pride as it does with the rest of the world. He is not a superior that cannot associate with his laborers, someone who is set apart and unreachable. He is willing to get in and get dirty as needed leading by example. He cares personally about his employees and their welfare understanding that the business is for their benefit as much as it is for his own. He is humble to openly receive suggestions from his workers.
He can lead his workers without threatening them. Threats are bluffs designed to scare a person into working. “If you don’t do this and that then I am going to do this to you.” The Christian business man is to be fair, equitable, patient, and truthful. He makes no threats though he will clearly spell out what is expected and the consequences if the work is not completed as required.
The Christian employer does all this because he knows that he too is also a slave of Christ.
B) ALSO SLAVES OF CHRIST
The same master whom his employees work for is the one he in actuality also works for. He may own the business. He may sign the checks. He may have the responsibilities, the power and authority over what happens in the business, but he is also accountable to one who holds all power and authority – the Lord Jesus Christ.
There is no partiality with the Lord. He plays no favorites. Whatever position you have in life has more to do with His grace to you than anything for you to be prideful about. All believers have an equal standing before the Lord Jesus Christ because in Him there is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female (Gal. 2:28). There is no room in Christ for an employer to become proud and condescending to his employees.
A Christian employer should be the best employer there is to work for – and he or she will be if they recognize that they too are slaves of Christ and run their business according to Scriptures precepts. A Christian employee should be the best employee there is – and he or she will be if they do work as unto the Lord as His slaves.
But let me close this morning with a special warning to those of you who work for an Christian employer or have Christian employees. When this situation occurs there is sometimes an presumption that occurs that leads to abuse on both sides. Paul warned about this in 1 Tim. 6:1,2 – “1 Let all who are under the yoke as slaves regard their own masters as worthy of all honor so that the name of God and [our] doctrine may not be spoken against. 2 And let those who have believers as their masters not be disrespectful to them because they are brethren, but let them serve them all the more, because those who partake of the benefit are believers and beloved.”
When Christians work with unbelievers the need for a good testimony in how you treat them is obvious, but sometimes Christians will not treat one another with the same decency they will a non-Christian. The basic reason is the same as why husbands and wives will sometimes say things and do unkind things to each other they would never do to anyone else. There is a presumption that they will be kind, understanding and forgiving. They will accept me as I am so I don’t have to be as careful in striving for righteousness with them.
The thought also comes up that since you are one in Christ, then your employer is not really superior so you don’t have to be as formal or respectful as the everyone else. You might even get the idea that you should be treated as more of a partner than an employee, so you take advantage of your boss expecting them to overlook what you do or don’t do.
These things ought not to be. We work as unto the Lord – period. It does not matter who our boss is they deserve the best work we can do. Within the church we can worship right alongside our employers and brothers and sisters in Christ. You can even have the situations where the employee is the leader and has spiritual authority over his boss within the church or an employee can disciple an employer. But be careful that on the job the employer is still the boss and the employee is to freely and respectfully submit because that is a witness to his submission to the higher authority of God’s Word.
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