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Don't Forget Who You Work For

Tom Pennington • Ephesians 6:5-9

  • 2010-07-25 AM
  • Ephesians
  • Sermons

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I invite you to turn with me to Ephesians chapter 6 and to the passage that Paul addresses directly to slaves and masters. Historians tell us there were as many as 60 million slaves in the Roman Empire. It's possible that as many as one-third of the people living in the large cities of the ancient world – cities like Rome and Corinth and Ephesus – one-third of them were slaves. It's not surprising then that the issue of slavery comes up in Paul's letter to the church in Ephesus.

Before we look at Ephesians chapter 6, we need first to step back for a moment a take a brief look at the issue of slavery. What does the Bible have to say about slavery? And I certainly am not going to exhaust this issue. I read a number of monographs - a number of articles and I'm going to give you just a fraction of what I learned and what I think we need to know this morning. Just a couple of direct points about what the Bible says about slavery.

Number one: Scripture never directly sanctions or forbids slavery as an institution. It never sanctions it directly or forbids it directly.

Number two: Scripture instead acknowledges it as a social reality at the time and then carefully regulates its practice. If you were to take the time, if I had the time to take you back to the Old Testament Legislation, you would discover that it was carefully regulated in ancient Israel. For example, the kidnapping and enslaving of a free-born person was strictly forbidden in ancient Israel and deserved the death penalty. Exodus 21:16, "He who kidnaps a man, whether he sells him or he is found in his possession shall surely be put to death." By the way, that law alone renders the entire American system of slavery in absolute sinful practice and contrary to the purposes of God because it was built on such a premise. A second way that the Old Testament regulated slavery was the premeditated killing of a slave was a crime and warranted a serious penalty according to Exodus 21. Exodus 21 goes on to say that if in disciplining a slave the slave was permanently injured in any way then that slave was to be set free.

One of the ways you became a slave in the ancient world was through debt. If you were indebted and didn't have sufficient money to repay that debt eventually you would find yourself serving as a slave. The Hebrew slave who found himself in such a situation was to be set free after a period of no more than six years of service according to Exodus 21, also. There are a number of other regulations to protect those who were in that situation. Slaves were to be given the Sabbath as a day of rest according to Exodus 23. When a slave was freed it was to be with sufficient provisions to care for him, Deuteronomy 15. When slaves fled from foreign owners who were not following these regulations assumedly; then they were not to be returned to their owners according to Deuteronomy 23. There are other regulations as well, but you can see that there were careful stipulations laid down to meet the reality that existed.

A third principle we could say about the Scripture and slavery is that the New Testament also addresses the issue of slavery. Now it is very important though when you come to the New Testament to understand that it is addressing Roman slavery. And although there are many similarities between Roman slavery in the first century and the slavery that stained our own country in the past. There are similarities but there are also some very important, very significant differences.

In Roman slavery, number one, ethnicity was not a major factor. Most Roman slaves were Greek. But there were Italian slaves as well. There were Romans who sold themselves into slavery – as we'll discover in just a moment for various reasons. Slaves in the Roman Empire came from various nations and even from the empire itself, from Italy, and could not be identified in any way by their appearance. In fact, at one point, a law was offered in the Roman senate to somehow have a distinguishing mark so they could be identified from others.

Also, in Roman slavery often free-born citizens would sell themselves into slavery knowing later that they would gain their freedom. You say that's unthinkable, why would a person who is free do that? Well, there were a number of reasons and I found them in the monographs I read this week. But there are a few of them, security would be one of them. Another would be to have a better life because if you in some cases were a slave in a wealthy household you were better off, than a poor person who was not.

To secure a particular job that was only available to slaves. There were certain jobs in the culture that were only available to slaves and there were people who actually sold themselves into slavery in order to get that particular responsibility and position.

Sometimes it was to climb socially by attaching yourself to a wealthy family. Often a slave who had been freed from a wealthy influential family found himself at a much higher social station than someone who had been free-born but was poor. So that's a major difference between the kind of slavery that characterized our own country versus Roman slavery.

The third difference is most Roman slaves were not uneducated, untrained field workers. Some of them were, but many of them were well educated. Slaves served, in ancient Rome, as the workforce. The ruling class did very little work. Slaves were the major workforce; they served in all kinds of capacities from tutors to philosophers to doctors and even to city administrators. Many city administrator positions were in fact served by slaves - occupied by slaves.

Another difference was by the first century it had become common for slaves to be freed after anywhere from ten to twenty years of service. Some historians have estimated that as many as 50% of the slaves in the first century were freed by the time they were 30 years of age. Now just so you don't think that the Romans were somehow wonderfully altruistic people who just had the slave's best interest at heart - that wasn't true – it was actually to their financial advantage. Because of the way the system worked freeing an older, less productive slave actually helped recapitalize the owner where he could then purchase a younger replacement. So, it's important though when you see those differences that you don't compare American slavery - which as we've already discovered is clearly forbidden, the whole principle on which it is based is clearly forbidden in Scripture - from what Paul is addressing here in the New Testament.

Now, what does the New Testament teach about slaves? Again, let me give you just a couple of basic points so you understand a starting place. First of all, the New Testament condemns as sin the kidnapping of free-born individuals for the purpose of slavery. It's listed in a laundry list of terrible sins in 1Timothy 1:10 - kidnappers. And the purpose behind the kidnapping in the ancient world was and unfortunately even in our day continues to be, the purpose of slavery. So, it is clearly forbidden.

A second New Testament principle about slavery is that the New Testament establishes the spiritual equality of all men. Now understand that was new, really, in the world. Even the great Greek philosopher Aristotle said this: "The slave is a living tool, and the tool is a lifeless slave." The New Testament on the other hand underscores the spiritual equality of all men and women regardless of their circumstances in life. In both Ephesians 6 and in Colossians 3 and 4, Paul addresses both slave and master as spiritual equals and as full members of the church. In fact, in Galatians 3:28 he says, "There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, . . . for you are all one in Jesus Christ." He wasn't saying the distinctions had entirely ceased to exist. He was saying that when it came to a spiritual standing before God there was no difference. There was full equality, full dignity. In Colossians 3:11 he describes "A renewal in which there is no distinction between Jew and Greek, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave and freeman, but Christ is all, and in all." When it comes to standing before God, the person in Christ, there is full and complete equality. You see this in Philemon as well, a letter in the New Testament addressed to a slave owner. Turn to Philemon and Paul sends Onesimus back to him with these comments. Look at Philemon 1:15:

For perhaps [Philemon], he [Onesimus] was for this reason separated from you for a while that you would have him back forever, no longer as a slave, but more than a slave, a beloved brother, especially to me, but how much more to you, both in the flesh and in the Lord. If then if you regard me a partner, accept him as you would me. But if he has wronged you in any way or owes you anything, charge that to my account.

The New Testament establishes the spiritual equality of all men.

Thirdly the New Testament sets a high value on individual freedom. The New Testament sets a high value on individual freedom. Look over at 1 Corinthians 7. In Paul's really first letter in terms of chronology that he wrote, 1 Corinthians 7 and he addresses this issue in verse 21:

Were you called while a slave? [In other words, were you effectually called – were you - did you become a Christian while a slave?] Do not worry about it [or literally, let it not be a care to you]; but if you are able also to become free, rather do that. For he who was called while a slave, is the Lord's freedman; likewise, he who was called while free, is Christ's slave. You were bought with a price, do not become slaves of men.

Here Paul says if you cannot legitimately change your circumstances, then be content. But if you have the opportunity to gain your freedom then by all means do that. So clearly freedom is to be sought and desired. And he goes on in verse 23 to say, "And whatever you, do not sell yourself into slavery." So, the New Testament places that high value on individual freedom.

The last point I would make in sort of an overarching sense about the New Testament and its teaching regarding slavery is the New Testament lays down strong directives about how both slaves and masters should treat one another and that brings us to Ephesians chapter 6. You see in the church in Ephesus there were Christians worshipping together - some of whom were slaves and others of whom were slave owners and masters. Undoubtedly in the church there in Ephesus, you had Christian slaves who had pagan masters who didn't attend the church. You had Christian masters who had pagan slaves who didn't attend the church – didn't believe in Christ - and you probably undoubtedly had both master and slave who were both Christian and both were attending the church in Ephesus together. How were they to respond to each other? Well, Paul addresses both groups here in Ephesians chapter 6. Now, remember the context back up in chapter 5 verse 21 he reminds us of submission to human authority. And he says that is one expression, submission to human authority is one expression of a person's being under the influence of the spirit. And he gives three illustrations of that: wives, children, and now slaves. Let me read it for you, Ephesians 6 beginning in verse 5:

Slaves, be obedient to those who are your masters according to the flesh, with fear and trembling, in the sincerity in your heart, as to Christ; not by way of eyeservice, 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, knowing that whatever good thing each one does, this he will receive back from the Lord, whether slave or free. 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.

Now let me begin by making it very clear that in its context and in its time, the primary intent of this passage is for those who are locked in a system of slavery as they were in the first century world.

Now there are forms of slavery that continue in our day, tragically. Slavery continues to exist in our world, even in our own country in the form of sexual slavery. In the form of work slavery where people are brought to our shores with promises and then those promises are not fulfilled and for all intents and purposes, they're kept as work slaves for that employer. And financial slavery where people are held captive to sort of a loan shark interest system that keeps them enslaved. Those things go on but by God's grace, we do not live in a system like ancient Greece or Rome or 18th century America or Europe. We don't live under a system of slavery.

However, this passage is still very much applicable to us. And Paul hints at that in the passage itself. Did you notice what he said at the end of verse 8? "Whether slave or free." In other words, Paul says there is a legitimate application of the principles in this passage for every person who works whether they're a slave or free. So, this passage then has direct implications on us primarily in terms for every Christian employee and for every Christian employer. Again, the primary focus of the passage is on slaves and masters. A secondary implication and application of it is to employees and employers. So, with that in mind let's look together and see if we can mine out of this passage the principles of what it means to work like a Christian.

First of all, let's look in verses 5-8 at the biblical principles for every Christian employee. If you are one who works for someone else the principles for how you are to conduct yourself toward that person are found in this passage.

Principle number 1: Your daily work matters to Jesus Christ. Your daily work matters to Jesus Christ. As I've already pointed out the slaves of the first century occupied many different kinds of occupations and responsibilities. Undoubtedly that was true of the slaves who attended the church in Ephesus and to whom Paul addressed these words. A variety of occupations and duties even trades but regardless of what their duties were how they performed them mattered to Christ. Notice there are five verses here devoted to slaves and masters and Christ is mentioned in every single verse: (a) verse 5 - as to Christ, (b) verse 6 - as slaves of Christ, (c) verse 7 - as to the Lord, (d) verse 8 - you will receive back from the Lord, and (e) verse 9 - their master and yours are in heaven.

Paul is connecting the daily life of slaves and masters with Christ. The point is your daily responsibilities, your job, and how you do it matters to Jesus Christ. God isn't just concerned with the sweep of biblical redemption, with the great plan of redemption and the Cosmas. He is concerned about your everyday life including what you do from 9:00 to 5:00 or whenever it is you work. It matters to God. It matters to Jesus Christ.

Principle number two: You must submit to the authorities in your workplace. You must submit to the authorities over you in the workplace. Look at verse 5, "Slaves, be obedient to those who are your masters according to the flesh." The Greek verb tense implies this: manifest a pattern of uninterrupted obedience. In the parallel passage Colossians 3:22, Paul puts it like this: "Slaves, in all things obey those who are your masters on earth."

So, just like wives are called to submit themselves to their husbands in everything and just as children are called to obey their parents in everything, even so, we are called as slaves - or by implication, employees - to obey those who are over us in authority in the workplace in all things.

The point is God is the ultimate cause of authority structures in our world and whether the people in those authority structures abuse their authority or not the concept of authority is from God. And so, we are to submit ourselves to that authority.

Just as with other human authorities, the authority in the workplace ends when it conflicts with God's authority or with the higher authority of government. So, if your employer tells you to do something that is illegal according to our government or that is unbiblical then you are not required as a Christian to do it. If your employer demands that you do what the Bible explicitly forbids then you must disobey your employer. If your employer forbids you from doing what the Bible explicitly commands, then you cannot follow their instructions. And sadly, by the way, this happens in the workplace. I have a brother who for many years was the chief financial officer for one of the largest manufacturers in America. Toward the end of his career with that company a new CEO came into power and with that CEO he demanded that my brother distort the true financial picture of the organization. Listen, you can't do what is legally or biblically wrong. But for any other stipulation that's made of you, any other requirement that is made of you in the workplace you are to submit. Look over at 1 Timothy 6:1. Again in the context of slavery but with the implication of employers and employees as we've seen in Ephesians 6; 1 Timothy 6:1, "All who are under the yoke as slaves are to regard their own masters as worthy of all honor so that the name of God and our doctrine will not be spoken against."

What if you have a believer for a master or a boss? Those who have believers as their masters must not be disrespectful to them because they are brethren but must serve them all the more because those who partake of the benefit are believers and beloved. Paul says, "Timothy, teach and preach these principles." You might be tempted to say, "Well, I certainly don't have a believer for a boss. In fact, my boss is unfair and unreasonable at times." Well, turn to 1 Peter 2 because Peter addresses that situation also; 1 Peter 2:18:

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. For this finds favor, if for the sake of conscience toward God a person bears up under sorrows when suffering unjustly. 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.

Now, obviously, there are significant differences between being a slave and being an employee. If you're an employee, you can choose to change jobs. If you have an employer or a boss who is unreasonable and harsh and difficult to work for – you can choose to change jobs and work somewhere else. But as long as you choose to remain there and work for that person, for him or her, then you must submit and respect that person. That's the biblical teaching. You say how can I do that when my boss is so undeserving of such respect? Well, that brings us to the third principle.

Number three: You should submit out of respect for Christ. You should submit out of respect for Christ. Verse 5, do this Paul says, "with fear and trembling." The word trembling is quivering that often accompanies fear. That expression doesn't mean you should be in terror and dread before your earthly master or boss. Paul uses this expression "fear and trembling" three other times in his writings and every other time he uses it, it has reference to one's attitude toward God. And that's what he's doing here. In this case, it modifies the verb to obey. We should obey the commands we are given by those in authority over us in the workplace not out of fear of them but out of fear of Christ. In fact, in the parallel passage, Paul makes it very clear. Colossians 3:22, "Slaves, . . . obey those who are your masters . . . fearing the Lord." Do it because you fear the Lord.

Principle number four: You should perform your job with integrity. You should perform your job with integrity. Again, look at verse 5, Paul adds, "[Do this] in the sincerity of your heart as to Christ." This expression has to do with your motive. With the purity of your motives. One of the best Greek lexicons defines this word "sincerity" as the simple goodness which gives itself without reserve. Let me put it differently. You are being sincere when what you are doing externally is perfectly matched by your internal attitude. We all know people who do the right thing on the job - who work hard and excel. But at the same time, their attitude toward those in authority over them doesn't match the job they did. They can be all smiles and do the job well; the boss walks away and over at the water cooler there's quite a discussion about the boss. Over lunch, there's quite a discussion about the boss. That's not doing your job with integrity and sincerity. When you do your job well is it matched by what's going on in your heart toward that person? Do it in sincerity as to the Lord. You see, the only way, especially a slave, could truly serve a master in the integrity of heart, was if he saw it as obedience to Christ, as the end of verse 5 puts it: "[Do it] as to Christ." You and I are to serve in sincerity.

Number five: Your work should be done with your whole heart. Your work should be done with your whole heart. Verse 6, "not by way of eyeservice as men-pleasers, but as slaves of Christ doing the will of God from the heart." As Paul continues to explain how we're to respond to those in authority over us in the workplace he actually makes up his own word. The word eye service, that's a literal translation. The word is made up of two Greek words ophthalmos from which we get the word ophthalmologist means eye and doulos which means slave. An eye slave – what's an eye slave? It's a person who does his work solely to catch the eye of the master. He serves him well as long as he's being watched. But he has no internal sense of obligation to serve; so, the moment the boss is gone – the moment the boss isn't around - he cuts corners, he's lazy, he does what he wants. You know this is such a common part of the work world that this is the most common brunt of jokes. Which one of us hasn't seen a comic or seen a program or seen a movie in which the joke is as the boss starts coming all the people suddenly work heartily and the boss leaves the room, and it all stops. That's eye service.

When I was working as an electrician during my years during college and seminary, I did electrical work, and during the summers especially, I worked in the shipyards in Mobile, Alabama wiring boats. I love to work; by the way, I have my own set of temptations – wanting to get out of hard work isn't one of them; I love working and enjoy it. But I would be working, for example, in the engine room of one of these boats. That would be where a lot of the wires would need to be run and my particular responsibility and it was also a good place for some of the other workers to come hang out because there were fans blowing and in Mobile, in the middle of the summer, it got quite hot onboard these boats up on drydock, and so people would sort of congregate and they wouldn't be working instead they'd be talking and just sort of hanging out. It was always hilarious to me to watch what happened when word came that one of the particular trades bosses was coming onto the boat. All of a sudden everything was transformed; the place became a beehive of activity, and then as soon as the boss was finished inspecting, as soon as he was done talking, it was like everything became unplugged again and everybody went back to their state of calm carrying on their conversations – that's eye service. Paul says don't just work hard when the boss is around because if you do, he says you are a man-pleaser. In other words, eye service is the sinful behavior but if you're working like that you have a deeper problem – you are a man-pleaser. In other words, you're trying only to please men with the ulterior motive of your own profit, your own advantage, and getting something for your benefit. Paul says instead of rending eye service as a man-pleaser you should work as a slave of Christ. Christ really is our master. We really are his slaves. So, act like it when you work. Work like you would if Christ were your master, He is. Work like you would if Christ were your boss, He is.

Let me just ask you, if Jesus Christ were the head of the company you work for or if he were your immediate supervisor or your department head how would your work be different? What would you change? What Paul wants us to know it's not make-believe to think of Christ as your boss. It is a reality. So, what does that mean then about those assignments that you're going to get tomorrow? Or about those assignments that you got this last week even the ones you don't enjoy doing? What does it mean about those assignments? Well, according to verse six it means that when you do them you are doing the will of God. Now this was shocking to slaves sitting in church there in Ephesus in the first century because some of those slaves got the worst assignments. Some of them were responsible to do what had to be done every day and that was the emptying and the cleaning of the privy pots. Some of them were responsible to wash the family's feet when they came back in from the marketplace. Others of them had positions of more honor: managing the household, tutoring the children; still others in the Roman system may have been leaders in the city in which they live, leaders in the city government; they may have been doctors or tradesmen of various kinds. But it didn't matter. Paul says whatever your daily task, if you are working for Christ and He's the master, and He is, then whatever your job may be, whatever task you may do, it's God's will. And it's worth doing well. Notice the last phrase in verse 6, "from the heart." In the Greek text literally, it's out of the soul. Do it out of your soul. If you work for Christ and if your daily tasks are God's will then do it out of your soul. Do it wholeheartedly. As Paul puts it in Colossians 3:23: "Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men." Do it out of your soul. You work for Jesus Christ. As William Barkley writes "The conviction of the Christian workman is that every piece of work that he produces must be good enough to show to God."

Number six: You should genuinely have the best interest of your employer at heart. Look at verse 7, "With good will render service." Literally, the Greek text says, "slaving with goodwill." In other words, "With a spirit of good will towards your master, even though you're a slave," Paul says, "serve your master with a genuine concern for his welfare."

While we're not slaves, I think there are times when we can all be tempted to feel like slaves, we're being used like slaves, we're being abused like slaves in some very small way. Paul says, "When you slave, serve with a genuine concern for his welfare that he would prosper and that he would even come to know your Lord, that he would spiritually prosper."

Let me ask you a question, do you really care about that person you work for? Do you really care that the business where you work prospers? Are you always looking for ways to improve and strengthen the business? Or are you on the other end of the spectrum? Are you one of those people that is the bane of American business where you steal from your employer? You steal his materials, you steal his equipment, you steal his tools, or you steal his time by using his time - time that you said you're giving him and are getting paid for - to do things for yourself beyond what your employer really allows you to do. You should have the best interest of your employer at heart. With good will render service. Titus 2:9 puts it this way:

Urge bondslaves to be subject to their masters in everything, to be well-pleasing, not argumentative, not pilfering.

Don't take. Instead, be the person who's got their interest at heart.

Number seven: And this really has permeated the whole passage, but Paul comes back to it here and addresses it. Remember that in reality, you work for Jesus Christ. "With good will," verse 7 says, "render service, as to the Lord, and not to men." With good will slaving as to the Lord. Whomever you work for, you are in reality a slave of Jesus Christ. Verse 6 says, "[You're] slaves of Christ." First Corinthians 7:22, "He who was called while free is Christ's slave." And so, you are to render your service, your daily work not simply as if you were working for that boss, for that company but as if you were working for Jesus Christ because guess what – you are! Don't ever forget who you really work for when you check-in at work.

Number eight: And the last principle for Christian employees. Remember that Christ will reward every good thing every Christian employee does. Let me say that again - remember that Christ will reward every good thing every Christian employee does. Verse 8, "Knowing that whatever good thing each one does, this he will receive back from the Lord, whether slave or free." Knowing, in other words, this is something Christians should know. This is common knowledge among believers. Notice the comprehensive inclusive terms, each one, every Christian without exception, whatever good he does, however large it may be, however small it may be, whatever good action he performs while working for someone else, this he will receive back from the Lord. In other words, the Lord will reward you. That's the promise.

You know, let's be honest, human bosses, human masters, even the best of them don't know all the ways that we contribute to the organizations and companies where we work, do they? How often have you heard someone else or even yourself say, "Nobody really knows all that I do for this company." Well, if you're a Christian you can never really say that because Jesus Christ knows. He doesn't miss a single detail of what you do. That's what it says here and what's done for Him in a right spirit as unto Him He will reward. He won't miss anything when you stand before Him not one single good thing you have done for your employer will go unnoticed and unrewarded.

And by the way, He knows if you aren't serving your employer well, also. In Colossians' parallel passage Paul makes that point, Colossians 3:25 he says, "For he who does wrong will receive the consequences of the wrong which he has done and that without partiality." Do wrong to your employer and Christ notices that as well and there will be consequences for them.

So, there are the principles for every Christian employee.

  1. Your daily work matters to Christ.

  2. You must submit to the authorities over you in the workplace.

  3. You should submit out of respect for Christ.

  4. You should perform your job with integrity. What's going on inside should match the outside.

  5. Your work should be done with your whole heart.

  6. You should genuinely have the best interest of your employer at heart.

  7. You, in reality, work for Jesus Christ.

  8. Remember that Christ will reward every good thing every Christian employee does.

Now that brings us to verse 9 where Paul addresses the slave masters in the church in Ephesus. By the way, what he said to them would have been shocking in the first century, it went against the entire culture. But notice briefly the biblical principles for every Christian boss, every Christian manager, and every Christian business owner.

Number one: Treat your employees in the same way you want them to treat you. Treat your employees in the same way you want them to treat you. Verse 9, "And masters, do the same things to them." Paul begins with a sweeping statement: "Do the same things to them, treat them the same way I've just commanded them to treat you." In other words, Paul's essentially saying what our Lord said and what the command we call the Golden Rule: "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you." Paul is a little more explicit over in Colossians 4:1, he gives it a little more definition: "Masters, grant your slaves justice and fairness." Treat them as you would want to be treated with justice and fairness. You want to be respected? Treat them with respect. You want your employees to look out for you and your business? Then you look out for them and their business. You want them to have integrity in their communication and interactions with you? Then you have integrity in your communications and interactions with them. You want to be treated with respect and dignity? Treat them with respect and dignity.

Now in the slave master context, Paul provides one illustration of what he means there in verse 9: give up threatening; abandon or stop the practice of threatening. This was very common. There were some masters who used rewards and positive incentives to motivate their slaves to work hard including the offer of freedom. But sadly, in every context in which there has been slavery, there were masters who used solely physical punishment - lashings combined with threats to get their way. Threats toward a slave - like physical punishment or sexual harassment against the female slaves or the selling of a male slave away from his family. Paul says treat those who work for you as you want them to treat you so give up threats. Now obviously none of us are in a situation in which we are extending those kinds of threats to our employees. But unfortunately, there are many Christians who are managers and heads of businesses who only know how to motivate their employees by wielding power. They are constantly giving their employees under their authority, fear of getting fired as their sole motivation to work harder. That's not a Christian approach to leading. A true leader has a servant's heart toward the people he leads. Treat your employees the same way you want them to treat you.

Number two: If you're a Christian boss, Christian business owner, or Christian manager, remember that your authority is a delegated authority. Look at verse 9 again, "Knowing that both their Master and yours is in heaven." It's a very interesting statement. You know what Paul is essentially saying, "Don't let your position of authority go to your head. You are simply a slave over other slaves and you both have a true master to whom you're accountable. So, realize that you're exercising an authority that's delegated." You know, unfortunately, there are a lot of people in American business who think that they are successful because they're so intelligent, they're so bright. Listen, if God has prospered you, it's God who's prospered you. You had nothing to do with it. There are people who are smarter and brighter and more capable than you who are serving on an assembly line somewhere. It's simply God's goodness to you. Don't let your position go to your head. That's what Paul's saying. You're simply a slave and God's assigned you that role over other slaves but He's the real boss. You both have the same master in heaven.

Thirdly: To Christian employers, he says, "Remember that your Lord is impartial." Notice how he finishes verse 9: "And there is no partiality with him." The Greek word for partiality literally means to receive someone's face. It means to treat them differently based on who you recognize them to be. Sometimes this happens. You know a police officer might be tempted if he pulls someone over and he recognizes it's a famous actor, actress, a famous athlete – he might be tempted not to give them a ticket based on recognizing their face. Certainly, in the first century slave owners were often wealthy, and they were often being fawned over and treated with favoritism. They got special treatment because of who they were, because of their face. Listen, Christ is not impressed by your position. He's not impressed in the first century if you're wealthy and have slaves working for you and He's not impressed in the twenty-first century if you have your own business and have hundreds of employees or if you're a department head and have people working under you. He is thoroughly unimpressed whether you are a slave or a master. Those human distinctions don't matter to Him. He doesn't receive faces. He doesn't recognize who you are and go: "Huh, well that's okay then." You will stand before Him and give an account just as the person who's under you will as well. And there will be no receiving faces, no partiality with God.

As we finish our study of slavery; I love how William Hendrickson captures all of this together. He says, "Paul does not advocate the immediate outright emancipation of the slaves, he took the social structure as he found it and endeavored by peaceful means to change it into its opposite. His rule amounted to this: let the slave wholeheartedly obey his master and let the master be kind to his slave. Thus, the ill will, dishonesty, and laziness of the slave would be replaced by willing service, integrity, and industry. The cruelty and brutality of the master replaced by considerateness and love. Slavery would be abolished from within and a gloriously transformed society would replace the old."

If we could sum up all that this passage teaches us, it would be in the words of William Barkley: "The secret of good work is to do it for God." John Stott writes: "Our secret need is the clear-sightedness to see Jesus Christ and to set him before us. It is possible for the housewife to cook a meal as if Jesus Christ were going to eat it. Or to spring clean as if Jesus Christ were to be the honored guest. It is possible for teachers to educate children. For doctors to treat patients and nurses to care for them. For attorneys to help clients. Shop assistants to serve customers. Accountants to audit books. Secretaries to type letters as if in each case they were serving Jesus Christ."

That's how you and I, as Christians, are to do our jobs. It's an act of worship and service to our Master of whom we are merely slaves - our Lord Jesus Christ. It's also a testimony to Him to others. Titus 2:9 Paul writes "Urge bondslaves to be subject to their own masters in everything . . . so that they will adorn the doctrine of God our Savior in every respect." Listen, if you will live out this passage in your office and in your workplace, you will be a sweet aroma of Christ in that place because it will be so unlike everything else.

This passage also though provides us with a test, a test of the genuineness of our faith. Maybe you're sitting here this morning and you say, "Yeah, I'm a follower of Jesus Christ." Here's a test. Do you think of yourself as a slave of Jesus Christ and Him as your Master? That's the image this whole passage is filled with; frankly, it's the image the whole New Testament's filled with. It's a test. If you can't see yourself and you don't live as if Jesus Christ were your Master and you his slave, then you probably are not a Christian at all regardless of what prayer you may have prayed or cards you may have signed, or church you may belong to. A Christian by definition is a slave of Jesus Christ. No longer a slave of sin but now a joyful slave of a Master whose yoke is easy and whose burden is light. Let's pray together.

Father, thank You for how You address our lives between Sundays. How You remind us that we are to live in the world as Christians. That You care not only what happens on the Lord's Day but You care what happens in the week between. Father, thank You for this passage. Thank You for the reminder. Help us to live like Christians. Help us to work like Christians. Help us to manage and to direct businesses like Christians. Father, help us all to remember that, without exception, if we are in Christ, we are His slaves. We are simply fellow slaves serving Him together.

Father, I pray for the person here this morning who perhaps professes to know You, through Christ, who claims to be a Christian but who is certainly not a slave of Jesus Christ. Rather they are a slave to their own passions and their own desires, their own lusts, slave to their own sin, slave to their own life. Lord, may this be the day when they see the reality and they turn to Christ, accept Him as Lord, as Master and Savior, and find His yoke to be easy and His burden to be light. We pray in Jesus' name. Amen.

Ephesians