Spirit & Truth # 276
“Christian Homes: Slaves of Christ”
By Greg Smith
In an economy like this one, many people are unemployed or underemployed. Others feel stuck in a dead-end job, too old to switch careers and too young to retire. To many, their jobs feel like slavery. When Paul wrote his letter to the church at Ephesus, he wrote to many who felt the same way. He wrote to Christian workers, many of whom were actual slaves, saying, “Slaves, obey your earthly masters with respect and fear, and with sincerity of heart, just as you would obey Christ.”[i]
Obey is not a word that we like to hear in our culture, but obedience was a highly prized virtue in the early church. Paul wanted Christian workers to understand that one of the ways they demonstrate their obedience to God is by obeying their human managers. Christians need a work ethic that makes us stand out from the crowd. Christians should be such good employees that unbelieving managers inwardly smile when they find out that they’ve hired a follower of Jesus.
Paul writes, “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. Serve wholeheartedly, as if you were serving the Lord, not people, because you know that the Lord will reward each one for whatever good they do, whether they are slave or free.”[ii] Honesty and integrity should be the hallmark of the Christian worker. Never should it be said that a Christian employee was lazy or deceitful or false.
Paul speaks not only to employees, but also to employers. “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.”[iii] Every manager has a greater Manager, so if you have employees under you, be careful how you treat them. Jesus said that with the same measure that you judge, you will be judged.[iv]
Talk of obedience and mastery makes us uncomfortable in today’s culture. But Jesus gives us a different view of submission. He says, “You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all.”[v] Jesus, who teaches humility by His own life and actions, asks Christian workers and employers to be humble. Serve God, and let the rest take care of itself.
As we continue studying the Christian home, it’s important that we understand the role that honest labor has in our lives. A strong work ethic, passed from one generation to the next, ensures prosperity as well as faithfulness. It also speaks well for Christ’s followers when they honor authority and value a job well done. Will those who come after you remember you for honesty and integrity at work? Or will those who learn from you find out how to cheat the system? God’s Word calls us to integrity—in the home and at work. That’s the kind of thing that makes believers stand out from the crowd.