Date: February 16, 2020
Speaker: Erik Raymond
Scripture: Ephesians 6:5–6:9
Big Idea: Jesus expects his followers to work like we really believe he’s Lord.
Outline: 5 Traits Reflecting the Christian Work Ethic
How Should We Work?
Most of us have probably experienced the uncertainty that surrounds getting a new boss. Maybe you are starting a new job and you are wondering what they will be like. Or you are at your job and a new boss was hired. There is some uncertainty as to what might change.
When you become a Christian you get a new boss. His name is Jesus.
And, as we’ve seen in Ephesians, everything changes. But this change is good.
And here’s the main point from this new boss: Jesus expects his followers to work like we really believe he is Lord.
We have to remember that the New Testament was written within a context. And this context has some differences from our present day. One example is the economic structure of society. Some estimate that over 30% of the people worked as slaves. It was very common. The slaves, most often, would have lived at the home of their master. They were often mistreated and regarded as lower class.
We have to remember that by mentioning slavery Paul is not making a statement of biblical affirmation over its institution. This is not saying that the Bible supports slavery. We know that years later the slave-trade in England was ended by Christian leaders
who were very committed to biblical teaching. It motivated their drive to promote its abolition.
Instead, we should understand here that Paul is simply speaking into the context of his day and providing real, practical instructions to those who were living in the midst of it.
He is showing them how the gospel is to change all of their relationships. Even some of the most overbearing and difficult.
Throughout history, Christians have taken the instructions here as principles for how they are to go about their own work. As the economic structures and contexts for employment have changed, these instructions remain most helpful for us. They teach us how we are to work under the Lordship of Christ.
When we think about our work then, I realize there are many different contexts that we find ourselves in. Some of you go to a physical office, others work from home, some are full-time moms, some work in education, others are students, some build, others repair, others are retirees, and more. The point is clear, wherever you carry out your current vocation or responsibilities, there are principles here for you to consider.
And here’s the main point: Jesus expects his followers to work like we really believe he is Lord.
We’ll consider, five traits that reflect the Christian work ethic. They answer the question, How should we work?
First, Worshipfully: Remember your primary responsibility; Second: Respectfully: Do your job respectfully; third Diligently: Maintain single-mindedness; fourth Conscientiously: Doing God’s Will from the heart, and finally Charitably: Treat others like you believe the gospel.
Paul really sets the tone here and does something surprising. I wonder if you caught it.
He doesn’t follow the cultural norms. If he did, he would have started with the Master and then worked to the slave. But instead, he reverses it, starting with the slave and working to the master.
If he were following the conventions of the day, he would have loitered over the details of how the master was to rule. Instead, he does something quite different. He spends the bulk of his time talking about the one who would have been considered inferior.
To make his point, he addresses them. He dignifies them as people and further, as brothers and sisters. The thought is that they would be sitting in the same room hearing the letter read.
But, he does something even more.
He relativizes the relationship. How does he do this? He shows that this relationship between the slave and their master is not ultimate. Rather it’s subordinate to a greater master.
And who is that?
It’s the Lord Jesus Christ. In fact, the word translated masters is the same word
translated Lord in the New Testament (we see it here in verse 7 and 8).
And this is the point: all Christians, whether slave or free, belong to the Lord. Their
master is the Lord Jesus Christ.
They both serve him.
And this is to rewrite the entire employee handbook. Work is worship.
Paul is reminding them of their primary responsibility. Their service to earthly authorities, their completion of everyday tasks—no matter how common or complex— are to be done in worship of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Look at the emphasis in the text: How important for us to consider this morning.
5 Bondservants, obey your earthly masters with fear and trembling, with a sincere heart, as you would Christ, 6 not by the way of eye-service, as people-pleasers, but as bondservants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart, 7 rendering service with a goodwill as to the Lord and not to man, 8 knowing that whatever good anyone does, this he will receive back from the Lord, whether he is a bondservant or is free.
How important this is for us to consider this morning.
When you go to work this week you are not to be guided by selfish or false ulterior motives but rather you are to work with sincerity and diligence. Why? Because you understand that your work is worship before it is anything else.
Everything you do is in service of and to your Master, the Lord Jesus.
One thing this does is it dignifies all work. People may have a tendency to think of some work as important and other work as less important. People with what seems like
significant jobs may be thought of as really doing something valuable while someone else is looked down upon.
Here the Bible dignifies all work because it is done in service of Jesus. So all earthly tasks relate to his rule over us. No matter how menial it may seem, it falls under the sphere of his Lordship. He is our manager, our boss, our Lord.
Whether you are changing a diaper, doing brain surgery, repairing a car, cooking a meal, building a house, working on a spreadsheet, writing code, cleaning the house, working in the lab, learning grammar, making a sales call, giving a presentation, teaching school, driving the T, cutting someone’s hair, or preparing your house for fellowship group–all is done with an eye to the glory of Christ.
Everything falls under his authority and Lordship. He means to get worship from it all.
Do you think of your work as worship?
You should. You must.
Jesus expects his followers to work like we really believe he is Lord.
This is our first trait reflecting the Christian work ethic, answering the question of how should we work? Worshipfully. Remember your primary responsibility;
Now, Second, Respectfully: Do your job respectfully.
We see here that the Apostle Paul favors simplicity and bluntness when making his point. He doesn’t mince words when he says in verse 5, “Bondservants, obey your earthly masters with fear and trembling...”
We might just summarize this with the popular quote by Bill Bellicheck: “Do your job.”
This is what he is saying here. You have a job to do, you need to do it.
Obedience is the same word that we have already seen with respect to parents and children. The concept is that the boss at work knows what needs to be done and they are telling you to do it. You need to, as Paul says, obey them and do your job.
The same exclusions that we’ve considered in previous weeks would apply here. If your boss is telling you to do something that is a violation of Scripture or by implication is an ethical violation that dishonors the Lord then certainly you would need to disobey the order. Perhaps this means finding a new job where you can conduct yourself in a
manner that honors Christ with a clear conscience. The example of Daniel refusing to obey the king’s edict comes to mind.
But there is some explanation of how the obedience is to be carried out. We read in verse 5 with fear and trembling. This does not mean that Christians are to be shaking in their boots around their superiors in the workforce. Instead it’s talking about an attitude of personal respect and honor for the person in charge. And we know from the context that this respect comes from a fear of the Lord. In a passage that reflects this one, Paul writes to the Colossian church and says, “Bondservants, obey in everything those who are your earthly masters, not by way of eye-service, as people-pleasers, but with sincerity of heart, fearing the Lord.” (Col. 3:22)
Especially in the first-century context many of these Christian slaves were working for non-Christian masters. They would have likely worked in their home with them and had the opportunity to see their boss at their best and their worst. The point is that the believer is not to be walking around with simmering resentment, dishonor, or disrespect for their boss. Instead, there should be an eagerness to respect and a willingness to please them.
You can certainly see how applicable this is for you, don’t you? Instead of keeping a mental log of all of your boss’ weaknesses and mistakes, we should be honoring them and their position with respect. We are to remember that any authority in our life is put there by God. Our respect that we show those in authority over us reflects our honor to him. And likewise, to dishonor and respect them reflects upon our submission to Jesus’ Lordship.
Perhaps there are some here who would benefit from taking stock of how they think, feel, and talk about their boss at work. Is it reflecting the honor that Jesus requires?
Or, maybe still others might have a number of incomplete tasks on your desk due to not working as hard as one should be. The charge by Paul to obey and respect our boss should put the onus on working hard and well as a Christian.
Finally, there is a reminder in the text of the term of this employment. Did you notice the description Paul provides of the master? It is the earthly master. Paul reminds his readers that this boss is not your boss forever. But rather, it is temporary. He or she is not your eternal, and certainly not your ultimate boss. But, nevertheless, they are your boss, and worthy of your respectful obedience.
Why? Because Jesus expects his followers to work like we really believe he is Lord. Respectfully: Do your job respectfully (5)
Now third, diligently: maintain single-mindedness.
There is a great temptation to be lazy whenever we are working. We can get distracted, tired, or just plain rebellious. We want to cut corners and so we look for opportunities to take it easy.
I remember when I was about 12 years old playing Pop Warner Football. Our coach Syke Tocci was like a drill sergeant. He loved to have us do push-ups and other drills. He was an older man but he always would do the push-ups with us. Some friends and I would strategically position ourselves so we were behind him and he couldn’t see us. Then during push-ups we take a few reps off when he wasn’t turning his head. I remember this worked well until one day one of the other coaches saw us. And they quietly walked up behind us and kicked me in the backside while I was not doing pushups but pretending. I was going through the motions.
This is what Paul’s talking about. Working hard when the boss is around but when they go in their office or on a trip, it’s back to slacking off. Paul says this is being a phony. It’s being a people-pleaser. It’s hypocritical. It lacks sincerity.
The key to this is knowing that our work for earthly bosses is really work for our heavenly boss. Notice how Paul writes it in verse 5-6:
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,
Paul is calling here for sincerity in our work.
““Sincerity” is an interesting word. It comes from two Latin words: sine (“without”) and cera (“wax”). Its meaning comes from the fact that in the ancient world, where the making of pottery was an important industry, dishonest potters would sometimes cover up cracks or flaws in their pottery by filling them with wax. In normal usage this might not be detected. But it could be seen if the pottery was held up to the light before it was purchased. Then the wax would show up as a lighter hue. Good pottery was sometimes stamped with the words sine cera (“without wax”) as proof of its good quality.” (Boice)
Our work is to be sincere. Without wax. It’s to have good and acceptable quality.
This is the key: our relationship with Jesus is to change all of our relationships with other people. Jesus wants his authority to shape how we go to work. Let me put it another way, Jesus wants you to go to work as you work for him.
Think about this: God is omnipresent. This means he is everywhere. He sees everything. The boss may leave your office or go out of town, but God never does.
Earthly bosses are finite, they are constrained by time and space. But God has no such limitations; he is infinite.
He is there and he is Lord. Christians like us need to believe this. And then act as we believe it.
Christians may not be the most skilled workers but they should be some of the most valued.
Because they can be trusted to do their job, work hard, and that they are motivated by something more than the passing pleasures of this life. You and I should be a different kind of worker in this world.
If we have great reason for why we work, it will change how we work.
When the motive for our work is higher than the task at hand, it changes how we work.
We’ve already seen that we are to work as we are worshipping Christ. Look now at verses 6–8.
6 not by the way of eye-service, as people-pleasers, but as bondservants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart, 7 rendering service with a goodwill as to the Lord and not to man, 8 knowing that whatever good anyone does, this he will receive back from the Lord, whether he is a bondservant or is free.
Doing the will of God from the heart. Instead of going through the motions, the Christian is to do it sincerely and conscientiously.
It can be easy to fall into the rut of work as a curse. Everyone complains about work.
But we should remember that the invention of work was before the fall. Adam was put in a garden to work it and keep it (Gen. 2). The fall made work more difficult (thorns and thistles) but it does not mean that work is bad. It’s a gift of God.
Why? Because you and I have the opportunity to serve God from the heart. We are able to do his will in service to him.
I can understand why the person in the other cube is grumbling about work, they don’t work for Christ. But you and me? We serve a great master.
And, we have the opportunity to glorify him with our attitudes.
Do you have to adjust your attitude of how you approach work? Work Conscientiously, doing God’s will from the heart.
Serving God primarily. This goes another layer here for reinforcement. In verse 7, rendering service with goodwill as to the Lord and not to man,
Be responsible and work hard because you are motivated by serving God in your work.
You are not primarily serving your boss or your company or anyone else. While there may be other beneficiaries, you are primarily serving the Lord.
This becomes a great motivator to do what is right–even when you are mistreated by others.
Work situations are complex and difficult. But this cuts through the fog. It removes the excuses for bad behavior by motivating us to do the right thing.
We work Conscientiously, doing God’s will from the heart because we are primarily serving God.
Putting it together, our conscientious work is also motivated by the fact that God judges and rewards our work.
Remembering that God judges and rewards our work. He is the ultimate appraiser of our actions.
Your earthly boss may only be concerned with tangible results but your heavenly boss is concerned more with your heart.
Jesus expects his followers to work like we really believe he is Lord.
Finally, we are to work charitably toward others. To make this point we have the exhortation in conclusion to masters, “Masters, do the same to them, and stop your threatening, knowing that he who is both their Master and yours is in heaven and that there is no partiality with him.”
Here Paul is calling out the mistreatment of those in the congregation. He tells them to stop threatening others. Why? Because it’s inconsistent with their calling as Christians.
This is a good word for those of you in a supervisory role. It’s a reminder to be charitable and treat others with respect and dignity. One of Paul’s points is, you don’t have to be a jerk to get results. Remember, you work for Christ before anyone works for you. Therefore, be charitable. Be careful about how you treat others.
It’s a good reminder to treat all people with dignity and respect. By virtue of the fact that we are all image-bearers, there is inherent dignity and the need to show respect.
But this is further intensified if we are talking about the relationship between Christians.
Paul’s telling this First Century Master, you may be superior according to the structures of the Roman government, but in the eyes of the Lord Jesus, you are both of equal value. There is no partiality in God.
The bottom line is this: the gospel must shape how we treat other people, especially those we work with.
If they are non-Christians, we want to demonstrate what a Christian looks like. And we want to tell them the truth of the gospel.
If they are Christians, we want to remember that regardless of the relationship, we must remember our mutual relationship with Jesus. He is the boss.
Work like you believe the gospel.
In conclusion, I want you to think about two questions. And don’t think like the world around you thinks, think like the Bible tells you to think. Think like a Christian..
Do you think what you do matters?
Who is your primary audience?
Jesus expects his followers to work like we really believe he is Lord.
Outline: 5 traits reflecting the Christian work ethic:
How should we work?
Worshipfully: Remember your primary responsibility
Respectfully: Do your job respectfully
Conscientiously: Maintain single-mindedness
Sincerely: Doing God’s Will from the heart
Charitably: Treat others like you believe the gospel