Let’s open our Bibles then this morning to 1 Timothy chapter 6. We come again to this portion which we looked at by way of introduction last week, embarking on the last chapter of our study of this great epistle. And the subject before us has to do with employment, with your job. And that means it is a very practical portion of Scripture. Just to set your thinking a little bit, in Genesis chapter 2 we read this in verse 15, “And the Lord God took the man and put him into the Garden of Eden to till it and to keep it.” The Fall of man didn’t come until chapter 3. In chapter 2, God designed man to work. Man was created to be a worker. He was created to work. Work is not part of the curse, sweat is part of the curse. It is the intensity of work necessary to earn the bread that implies the curse, but work is a blessing. Man was created to work.
I want you to understand something at the very beginning of this. Not only were we created to work, but all of our work is a sacred duty. Okay? All of our work is a sacred duty, whatever your employment might be. Now that may sound a little bit strange to you right off the top. You may be looking at your job and saying, “I drive a truck. I don’t see anything sacred about it.” “I am a carpenter. I don’t see anything sacred about that.” “I work in a kitchen somewhere, cooking meals. It doesn’t seem very sacred to me.” Somebody else might say, “I sell insurance.” Somebody might say, “I work in an office as a secretary or as a clerk,” or, “I work in a bank,” or, “I’m a teller,” or, “I’m a grocery bagger at the local market. How in the world is that sacred?”
It is sacred. Whether you teach, whether you work on computers, whether you work on an assembly line, whether you paint houses, whatever it is that you do it is a sacred duty. And in order for you to understand that you’ve got to draw a line somewhere in your mind that in – it’s a circular line, not a straight line. Erase the straight line between secular and sacred and draw a circle and put everything in your life in it. Most people have drawn that line between secular and sacred, and you need to erase it and put a circle around everything, and it’s all within the circle of sacred duty.
What do I mean by that? I mean everything you do is with reference to your relationship to God. Everything you do. All work is sacred. Even back as far as Martin Luther. He was trying very diligently to get people to perceive that the role of shopkeeper and the role of housewife, as he termed them, was as sacred as the role of clergy and priest in terms of its relationship and reference to God. In fact, William Tyndale said, “There is difference betwixt washing of dishes and preaching of the Word of God, but as touching, pleasing God there is no difference at all.” Whatever you do, whatever kind of work you’re engaged in, housewife to senior executive and everything in between, whatever it is, it is a sacred duty.
Let me give you a statement that I thought through, and I’ll repeat it a couple of times. I think it kind of embodies what it is that I want you to grab in your mind. Every job, every task is of intrinsic value. Every job and task is of intrinsic value, not for its own sake, necessarily. Some jobs do have intrinsic value for their own sakes, some do not. But every job has intrinsic value not particularly for its own sake, but because when it is integrated into the life of a Christian, it becomes the arena in which that Christian lives out his spiritual existence. That’s a very important thing to understand. Every job, every task has intrinsic value, I don’t care whether it’s preparing a meal, making a bed, sweeping the floor, vacuuming, cleaning the garage, or whether it’s when you go to your job and do your work there, every task you do has intrinsic value, not necessarily for its own sake, but because when it is integrated into the Christian’s life it becomes the arena in which your spiritual faith is lived out. That’s basic to Christian living.
Let me take it a step further. What is happening on the job for you is the single greatest articulation of Christianity that you will ever have in your life time. Okay? And there are people who sit around saying, “Boy, I’ve got to get to the mission field so I can get into a place where I can be effective,” or, “I do my ministry at the church.” And I want you to know that all of that – of course, if the calling of God is vital – but the most vital place where Christianity will ever be expressed is in the face of the world and where that most commonly happens is in your job. And if you do not see that as your sacred duty, then you’re going to approach the thing in the wrong manner.
Let me take it even a step further. You cannot be and I cannot be particularly concerned with how the job benefits us nearly so much as we are concerned as to how effective our work is in benefiting those around us by impacting them with the power of Jesus Christ to transform a life. In other words, our day, as you well know, basically is a day of self-indulgence. So people work for self-gratification. They work to accomplish their own goals, their own ends, and finance their own indulgences. But a Christian thinks eschatologically. A Christian thinks in terms of the kingdom. I work to advance the kingdom. I work to the glory of God. I work with a view to eternal reward. I work to see people saved. And so everything I do and every response I make is covered by that kind of understanding.
John Calvin once said, “There is no part of life or conduct, however insignificant, which should not be related to the glory of God.” And that’s simply another way to say 1 Corinthians 10:31, “Whatever you do, whether you eat or drink, do it all to the glory of God.” And let me take it a step further. I believe the single greatest deterrent to the clear testimony of the saving grace of Jesus Christ occurs in the work place. The single greatest impact is made there, and the single greatest deterrent occurs there. And how you work either speaks to the blessing and glory of God or to the blasphemy of His name.
Now that’s what Paul wants us to understand in these two verses. That how we work, how we function in an employment situation is of grave spiritual significance. It takes us all the way back to the marvelous truth of Matthew 5 where our Lord said that you’re a light and you’re a city set on a hill. You’re not to be hidden under a bushel. You’re to let your light so shine, verse 16, that men in seeing your good works will glorify your Father in heaven. And the idea – He used a little phrase in that verse – before men. The idea is to live your Christianity before men in such a way as to make the gospel noble and attractive. And that happens more than anywhere else on your job.
I’m not so concerned for Grace Church that we come up with more methods of evangelism. I don’t think the real answer to evangelism is to have everybody trained in discipleship evangelism, as important as that is. I don’t think the real answer to evangelism is to have all of you sign up for community evangelism training, although you ought to do that because you ought to know how to do that. The real answer to effective evangelism is to have Christians so committed to Jesus Christ that they view their job as an arena in which it is vitally, vitally important for them to live out their faith. When that begins to happen, then we hit the world right between the eyes, because that’s where they’re watching. That’s what Paul is saying here. Our Christian faith and our testimony are to be lived out in the sacred duty of our work which is rendered not only on behalf of men, but on behalf of God.
Now let’s look at the text for a moment, let me read you the first two verses, and we’ll consider them together. “Let as many slaves” – douloi – “as are under the yoke count their own masters worthy of all honor in order that the name of God and His doctrine not be blasphemed. And they that have believing masters, let them not undervalue them because they are brothers, but rather serve them all the more because they are believing and beloved partakers of the benefit. These things teach and exhort.”
Now I want you to remember what we said last week. The terms slave and master should not throw us off. We don’t want to chuck this passage because we don’t like the idea of slavery. And what we spent our whole time Sunday, a week ago, covering was the idea that slave and master were terms to describe the general employment situation of the time in which the Scripture was written. It was really a contracted method of employment. And, unless it was abused, was a very manageable, very workable and even respectable and honorable mode of economic and social employment. It worked. And as we saw last time, if the system itself was evil, the Lord would have spoken against the system. If the system itself was evil, we would have heard about it in the Old Testament, we would have heard about it from Christ, we would have heard about it from the Apostles. But nowhere is the system of what we call slave and master – and by that we are not talking about the kind of slavery, as I said last week, that we knew in this nation or other nations where it was racial and abusive, but where we’re talking about contracted employment, the system itself is not evil. The abuses are abuses due to the heart of man, not the nature of the system.
Now granted there were abuses of that slavery system in biblical times. There were abuses in the Greco-Roman world. Particularly the Romans were abusive from time to time. They did not permit some slaves to marry ever. They had conjugal rights with women and when they gave birth to children, the children became more slaves. They in many ways treated slaves as if they were animals, having no more rights than a beast of burden. There were abuses particularly in the Roman area. There were less abuses than that typically in Palestine where slavery was a little bit more minimal. But surely there were abuses. And there are abuses of any kind of economic or social system of employment.
We have it today. And that’s why people strike and march and cry against the difficulties of their own employment. Abuse has to do with the heart, not necessarily the definition of a system. For many slaves, as we saw last time, that system was excellent. It provided security, good work, fair wages, met all their needs, all the needs of their family, brought them into a loving relationship domestically with another family. And if hearts were right, it was a very, very workable relationship. Attitude was the issue. The heart was the issue. And that’s why in the biblical testimony all you have is God speaking to the matter of men’s hearts. When Christ comes, He does not come to overturn social order. He comes to change the heart. When the apostles speak, they speak not to overturn the social order but to change the heart.
In fact when Philemon, who was a well-known slave owner with a New Testament book written to him, lost his slave Onesimus who ran away and was, as Paul put it, very unprofitable to him, that slave ran into Paul in Rome. And while Paul a prisoner in Rome meeting Onesimus, he was converted. He believed the gospel preached to him by Paul, became Paul’s friend, became very profitable to Paul. In fact became someone Paul would have wished to keep to serve him. But not wanting to violate the contract which Onesimus had violated, he having led Onesimus to Christ then says you have to go back to your master from whom you have run and you have to go back into that service.
So he sends him back, sends along a letter, the epistle to Philemon.
In that letter he pleads with Philemon to take back his slave, to do it because he cares about Paul, to take whatever he has done that is wrong and charge it to Paul’s account. In other words, given a perfect opportunity to say to Onesimus in a biblical letter, “Look, this is a good thing. This guy ran away and now he’s converted because we’ve got to abolish slavery.” But instead of doing that, he sends the guy back to fulfill his obligation as a slave. And so the Bible does not speak against the system, but it speaks to the issue of the heart. Receive him with love, receive him with forgiveness, receive him with mercy and compassion and charge his costs and his iniquities and his transgressions against my account. So he encourages them to make the system work. So when you’re looking at slaves and masters, if the hearts are right you’re looking to a very workable human system of contracted labor by which a person sold himself into the service of another person to offer them what they needed in behalf of a livelihood.
Furthermore, when we think of slave and master, we do not want to think negatively for the fact that the very term slave has an intrinsic beauty and an intrinsic quality as made evident by the use of it on the lips of our Lord and the New Testament apostles to describe a believer’s relationship to God. In 2 Timothy, for example, 2:24 it says, “the slave of the Lord.” Paul writing to Timothy really is calling Timothy the slave of the Lord, the doulos of the Lord. And that’s one of a myriad of texts so using that term. The New Testament is filled with epistles that begin, “Paul, a slave of the Lord Jesus Christ,” “Peter, a slave of the Lord Jesus Christ,” and so forth. So that was a beautiful term, a term of dignity, a term of submissive service that is given even greater dignity by being used metaphorically to speak of one’s relationship to the Lord Himself.
Beyond that, the term slave is used to speak of believer’s relationship with others. In 1 Corinthians 9:19 Paul says, in my efforts to win the lost people, “I become the doulos of all that by any means I might win some.” In other words, I have to see myself as a slave to the crying needs of lost men so that I can best serve those needs by caring compassionately for them and approaching them in a way that is acceptable to them. Furthermore, in Galatians 5:13 Paul says as believers, by love, we are to be doulos one to another. So I am not only a slave to the unbeliever to serve his spiritual need, but I am slave to my brother in Christ in love to serve his need as well.
So when you see the word slave here, you have to strip it of all of its kind of contemporary negative connotation and see here a workable employment relationship, one that can be well used as an illustration of one’s relationship to God, one that speaks of how we ought to treat even unbelieving people as well as lovingly serve other Christians. So there’s nothing wrong with then taking the term “slave and master” and translating them into what we would understand as employee and employer. And I want you to do that in your mind.
Now remember, Timothy is in Ephesus. Right? Paul has come out of his imprisonment. In the time that he has been away, the Ephesian church has really fallen on hard times. It has declined tragically. Paul was its founder. Paul was its original pastor. Paul is the one who ordained and trained the original elders. The church had all the best beginnings. It was used to found other churches in Asia Minor – modern Turkey. It was a tremendously blessed and powerful church. But by now the leadership has corrupted. The people have bought into ungodly behavior. All kinds of tragic things are happening. It has filtered down to the life style of the people so that in the work place they are denying and blaspheming the testimony of God. And it is to that issue that Paul encourages Timothy to speak.
Let me give you the simple picture here. In verse 1 we have the relationship between an employee and a non-Christian employer. In verse 2, the relationship between an employee and a Christian employer. And the instruction in both of these verses has to do with having a right attitude and the reason why you’re to have that attitude. And I think in a sense, like all the rest of 1 Timothy, it tends to be polemic. That is it tends to speak against something that is happening there. It’s a battlefield, sort of.
Let me give you the illustration. A Christian slave. Right? He’s employed by a non-Christian employer. He goes to work and he recognizes that he’s a child of God; he’s an heir of God; he’s headed for eternal glory; he’s going to heaven. God has selected him out of all the world to redeem him, and he’s excited about that. He has a lot of fleshy attitudes. He is a victim of the mood of the mob, as it were, in the church at Ephesus. And among their sins of expressing their fleshy disobedient attitude would certainly be the possibility of him being proud about his spiritual identity and thinking himself superior to an unregenerate supervisor, manager, employer, boss, or whatever. And that’s typically what would happen.
Not uncommon even today. A Christian who is working under a non-Christian tends to feel superior. In fact, even intolerantly superior, even belligerently superior. And after all, he’s headed for hell and you’re headed for heaven. After all you’re elect and he’s non-elect. And you’re going to make sure you try to keep it that way. And it’s very easy for a person who is spiritually blessed to feel himself superior to a person who is spiritually bankrupt. And his attitude of superiority begins to project itself in the way he responds to and the way he lacks respect for and the way he serves or does not serve his employer. It’s easy for that resentment to build up and if the guy does things you don’t like, says things you don’t like and you just don’t get along very well, that tendency toward a feeling of superiority is compounded.
I read recently about some company that was putting on some kind of health preparedness course and was taking systematically all their workers through all different kinds of diseases in order to help them to recognize them so they didn’t bring some infectious disease into the work place. It was a large area with a lot of people in close contact. And the instructor was asking one person, “What’s the first thing you’d do if you found you had rabies?” Without hesitating the employee responded, “I’d bite my boss.” And I think there are a lot of employees who can really relate to that sentiment. That’s just really how it is out there. As Christians we can be irritated by the unbeliever who doesn’t understand us, who doesn’t understand our ethics, who doesn’t understand equity, who doesn’t understand compassion or all of the spiritual things that we understand. And we become, by being a problem to him, a discredit to Christ, because if we are a problem to him, then the only Christ he may see is us and Christ becomes a problem to him.
On the other hand, let’s assume that a Christian employee works for a Christian employer. You say, “Boy, I wish I had a Christian boss. Boy, wouldn’t that be paradise? Wouldn’t that be perfect if I just had a Christian employer?” But there’s a tension there as well. The attitude of a Christian employee who is sinful and fleshy and expressing a belligerent or disobedient spirit may come out in the sense that he feels equal to his employer and so he overrides the normal channels of authority. In other words, because my boss is a Christian and I’m a Christian, I’m privileged. As one employee said to me recently, “I don’t go with any of that protocol stuff. You know, I know the boss and he and I are close because we’re Christians. I go right to him and bypass everybody else.”
Well your privilege, sir, is probably a serious discredit to the cause of Christ. Right? Because all the rest of the people who can’t do that resent you because of your openness and the inability that they have to enjoy that same thing. You can feel privileged over all the rest because you have this commonality in Christ. You could even feel that that’s an excuse for poor work and after all, you’re a brother in Christ. The worst he can do is come and give you step one discipline, and you’ve still got two to go. And if you repent on the first shot, you’re in.
You might even think to yourself, “That because we’re equal in Christ and because the Spirit dwells in me, I ought to tell him how he ought to run this company. The Holy Spirit’s been talking to me lately and giving me all the input.” Or you might even feel that you could get away with inadequate service without any negative consequence, or you might even feel that you can let your break time and your lunch time leak a little, because you’re studying the Bible, or even better yet listening to Grace to You, and it happen to go on a little past the end of your break time.
I mean, you understand the picture. Don’t you? I mean, let’s face it, in our sinfulness, working for an unsaved employer can create problems for us – an intolerant superiority. But listen, having a Christian employer isn’t going to necessarily change that, or a Christian boss or supervisor or manager, because there’s still going to be a tension there for us to assume that in Christ we have just destroyed all normal social order, and that’s not true.
Apparently that’s exactly what was happening in the Ephesian congregation. Their ungodliness, their lack of eusebeia – uses that word a lot of times in these epistles – their lack of godliness, their lack of holiness, their lack of understanding correct doctrine, their lack of having been taught properly had filtered all the way down so that they were not conducting themselves right before their non-Christian or their Christian employers. And so consequently in these brief two verses the Apostle Paul sums up the basics of attitudes necessary for a conscientious Christian employee.
Let’s look at, first of all, verse 1. And we’ll just touch these. They’re very simple and they’ll speak, I’m sure, clearly to your heart as they do to my own. Serving a non-Christian master – first of all we look at attitude and then we look at the reason for it, because attitude is always the issue. Action-work flows out of attitude. Now I want to give it to you in the Greek order because I think it puts the right emphasis. So listen as we flow through the verse. It starts in the Greek text this way, “As many slaves as are under the yoke” – he introduces himself to the slaves, to the employees. The word slave again can be synonymous with employee. The phrase under the yoke does not necessarily indicate something abusive. It does not mean that they were really burdened or that they were browbeaten, or that he was unjust or unfair. It’s simply a colloquialism to express a person’s relationship of subjected service.
Jesus used it in Matthew 11:28 to 30. He said, “Take My yoke upon you and learn of Me for I am meek and lowly.” He said, “My yoke is easy. My burden is light, and you’ll find rest for your souls.” In a sense Jesus sanctified the yoke with those words. When we enter into service to Christ, we put the yoke on. That’s a big wooden instrument placed over the necks of animals to pull things, pull plows, pull wagons, or whatever. And it’s a symbol of service. It’s a symbol of submissive service. And so what Paul is saying here is, “Any of you who are employed in a role of submissive service.” It does not connote anything abusive or negative in terms of the actual conditions of that service. It simply refers to all employees under the authority of someone else. And that certainly really involves the vast majority of all of us. We all work for someone to one extent or another. We all are answerable or accountable to someone.
So to all of you people who are answerable to the authority of someone else, who are serving under someone, first of all, I require this attitude. And the attitude is this: First he starts by saying, “Their own masters” – he puts that first. “Their own masters” – the use of that little word own, idios, is very interesting. It implies a very personal bonding. It’s like Ephesians 5, their own husbands, their own wives. It’s a term of intimacy. It’s a term of bonding. And the Spirit of God sees you as in some sense bonded to your employer. You are called into your employment. And there you are called to serve men. You’re not called to serve yourself. Boy, we have lost that, as I said earlier. We think we have a job for one reason and that’s to make money to do what we want for our own selves. But the biblical approach to work would say, “No, we have a job on the human level to serve someone else. That my employment is my way of lovingly serving another person for the common good.”
The Puritans were so heavy on that teaching. Teaching continuously that work was to be perceived for the common good, and never to be perceived as a way in which you indulged yourself. For example, the Puritan, William Perkins, said of work, “The true end of our lives is to do service to God by serving men.” John Calvin said, “We know that men were created to busy themselves with labor for the common good.” And Perkins again said, “Every man for himself is wicked and directly against the purpose of every calling.” And by the word calling he meant employment. And Martin Luther spoke in scorn of people who did not use their talents in the service of their neighbor, but used them only for their own glory and advantage.
The perception of a biblical work ethic is that I am serving my own boss, my own employer, to whom I am bonded in some kind of intimate relationship, whereby I offer to him the service he needs, and he provides for me livelihood. And there’s a sense of intimacy there. So he says, “All of you who are in an employment relationship, your own master” – and here comes the attitude he wants – “let them count worthy of all honor.” Let them count worthy of all honor. That means you are to count your employer worthy of all honor. Now the word ‘to count worthy’ is a verb that basically means to assess by objective criteria, not by internal feelings. You may not feel very drawn to your employer, you may not feel like honoring him, but the assessment of the position and the relationship demands respect due to one who is providing your livelihood.
And you must keep in mind, number one, that I am serving him. I’m not serving me. As soon as you perceive your employment as self-serving, then you will fight against everything you do – everything you do will be self-serving, self-indulgence. That’s why people strike all the time. They don’t care about the employment situation from the viewpoint of the employer. They don’t certainly care about the attitude they project very often. All they care about is the demands that they have for themselves. Now there are times when inequities do occur and equity can be brought out even from the negative thing of a strike or whatever. But it does for the most part demonstrate the selfishness and the self-gratification mode in which most people work.
So he says, “Look, you are to make sure that because of your employer’s position, you rightly assess that position, the dignity of it, the provision he is making for you. And on the basis of that, consider him worthy of all honor” – timēs. By the way, you remember the use of that word, don’t you, in chapter 5 verse 3, where we are to honor the widow that is really a widow? And in chapter 5 verse 17 where it talks about the elders that rule well being counted worthy of double timē. It’s the same word here. Honor to widows meant respect and also remuneration. Honor to elders, respect and remuneration. And here it means respect and service for remuneration. So we are to offer honor, honor in the sense of respect and honor in the sense of work and diligence – all honor, all honor, in every case, dutiful service and respect. Now keep in mind the focus here is just on unbelieving employers. He’s not getting to the believing ones until verse 2 when he’s very clear-cut about that.
Now someone’s going to say, “All right, you’re telling me that I’m supposed to go to work, see my job as sacred duty. That’s the arena in which I’m to live out my Christianity. You’re telling me that I am supposed to work not for my own gratification, not to fill up my own indulgences, not to please myself, but I’m to work in order to serve that man’s needs. And you’re telling me that I’m to honor him and respect him in everything, and I’m telling you the guy is a turkey. The guy is harsh. The guy is bitter. The guy is inequitable. He’s unfair. He’s unkind. He’s unjust. He’s unreasonable. And I don’t like him.” And I’m saying good, that is even a better environment in which to prove your spirituality.
What does it say in 1 Peter 2? Let’s look at it, 1 Peter 2 verse 11. And he’s writing to believers who are out there in the world, and it’s hostile, and they’re being persecuted, and they’re suffering far more than we would experience even in our society, in many cases. And he says in verse 11, “Dearly beloved, I beg you as strangers and pilgrims” – in other words, you’re just passing through this world – stay away from – “abstain from fleshly lusts which war against the soul and have your conduct honest” – upright with integrity – “among the pagans.” In other words, it’s important how you live in the face of unbelievers. And then he goes from verses 13 to 17 to talk about how you live as a citizen. Submit yourself to the ordinances of man, to the king, to the governors, to the police who are sent to the punishing of evil doers. Verse 17, you’re to honor the king.
And then in verse 18 having talked about citizenship, he now talks about employment. “Servants” – or slaves. You employees – “be subject to the masters with all fear” – all reverence, all respect. Now listen to this one, “Not only to the good and gentle, but also to the” – what? – “to the perverse.” You say, “Well that’s my boss, the perverse.” Just a greater test, that’s all. It doesn’t eliminate the responsibility. It just is the greater challenge. Even to a perverse one. “And this is worthy of thanks, if a man for conscience toward God endures grief suffering wrongfully.” In other words, if you get abused for your goodness, so be it. you are to be thanked – you are to be thanked. And then he goes on to give the illustration, who was it who suffered most for the greatest good? Who’s his illustration? Jesus Christ. You want to identify with the fellowship of His sufferings? Then work to the very best of your ability with the right attitude and diligence and do the very best work you can do in the face of the most perverse boss imaginable, and you will stand in the place where your Savior stood, if indeed you are abused in the midst of your goodness. So Peter doesn’t let us off the hook. In fact he strengthens what Paul said to Timothy by saying it doesn’t matter what kind of boss you have, you’re to honor him.
Now go back to 1 Timothy chapter 6. The attitude is very clear, “Count your masters worthy of all honor.” Let’s look at the purpose or the reason or the motive. In order “that the name of God and His” – implied – teaching or – “doctrine be not blasphemed.” Blaspheme means to speak evil of. In other words, the way you work relates to how people will perceive God and the gospel. The word doctrine no doubt refers to the gospel. Now if you work in such a way as to dishonor your employer, then you will bring reproach upon the name of God and the gospel. People will say, “What kind of a God do you have? You’re the one who serves that God and look at the way you live and look at the way you serve. What kind of a transforming message do you preach? You don’t look too transformed to me.” In other words, how you live is a vital issue in the matter of evangelism. The name of God blasphemed, what a horrible thought. By the way, that thought is introduced in Scripture in Isaiah 52:5 where it says, “My name is being continually blasphemed all day long.” Paul repeats it in Romans 2:24, accusing the Jews of naming the name of God but in living in such a way that His name was blasphemed. And we could be accused of the same thing.
I received a letter from one of our members this week, a letter that was full of sadness as he pointed out to me people who he sees coming to church naming the name of Christ and going through the motions here, but whom he knows out in the world who are totally from beginning to end from all appearances an utter discredit to everything that they affirm on Sunday. And it grieved his heart and it grieves my heart. And it grieves the heart of God. I mean, the place where the rubber meets the road is on the job. It’s out there. It’s your attitude in the home when you’re cleaning house and doing the work. It’s your attitude when you’re providing the needs of your family. It’s the attitude when you go to the shop or the plant or the school or whatever. What are you conveying to people? The way you work speaks of the reality of your God and the power of His gospel to change lives.
Look at Titus chapter 2 for a moment. And Paul is on the same issue. He says, “Exhort servants” – or slaves, those who are in a relationship of employment – “to be obedient unto their own masters.” Again it’s that ‘own’ again, used as it is in Ephesians 5 when it references a marriage. There again is that bonding idea. You be obedient to that one who is bonded to you. You provide service; he provides livelihood. “And please them well.” In other words, do your very best in everything. ”Not answering back.” Keep your mouth shut. “And not pilfering.” That means taking petty cash and et cetera, other things. “But showing all good integrity” – fidelity, faith, honesty – in order that they may adorn the doctrine of God our Savior in all things. Because the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men,” et cetera, et cetera. In other words, God says how you work is going to expedite potentially the grace of the gospel. Boy, what a duty that enjoins upon us. What an incredible responsibility. At the end of verse 15 he says keep teaching this and don’t let anybody despise you for it.
And I go right back to where I was at the beginning this morning, it’s definitely on my heart. My passion is to see people won to Christ. My passion is to see this church grow and grow and grow with a cry of newborn babes who are coming into the kingdom. That’s my cry. But I know that where that will happen with the most power and impact is not in the walls of this church, but it is within the confines of where you work in the midst of unbelievers. It’s the believability of that life in that place that speaks in a way that no preacher will ever, ever be allowed to speak. The reputation of God is at stake. The reputation of the gospel is at stake. You say you belong to God and that’s the way you work? You say you’ve been transformed by the saving power of Christ, and you’re not as good an employee as 15 other people who aren’t Christians? You say you’re motivated by the glory of God, and they’re motivated by money, and money is a better motivator if job performance is the criteria?
Listen, if people who are trying to earn more and more money are more motivated than people who are serving God, then the people who are serving God ought to repent. There’s a tremendous responsibility upon us to live out our Christianity in the marketplace. And by this we commend our God and we commend our gospel and we do our pre-evangelism work. We give no cause for anyone to blaspheme or speak evil of God, and we give no cause for anyone to be negative on the gospel, but rather for people to say, “What is it that causes you to give so much, to work so hard?” It’s because I seek that my God’s name would be exalted and that His gospel would be seen as life-changing, life-transforming. And the attitude that you project and the way you work and the quality of your work all is the arena in which you are living out your Christianity. And so in a very real sense may I be so bold as to say that the people on your job who don’t know God are probably better judges of your Christianity than we are, because what we see is what you want us to see. That’s the heart of evangelism. That is the heart of it.
You say, “Well fortunately in my job I have a Christian employer.” Well good, let’s get to you in verse 2. What does it say? “And they that have believing masters” – people say, “Wouldn’t that be wonderful. Oh, if I only had a Christian boss,” employer, manager, supervisor, or whatever? Wouldn’t that be wonderful if I had a Christian?” Well some folks do. “And they that have believing masters” – those who have placed their faith in the Lord Jesus Christ – “let them not despise them” – kataphroneō, to think down. Let them not devalue them as employers. That is pull them down off of their authority position to make them equal with you. Don’t rub out the line. Yes, Galatians 3:28 says, “Neither bond nor free, neither male nor female, neither Jew nor Greek,” but you and I know, right, there are still Jews; there are still Greeks; there are still males; there are still females; there are still employers, and there are still employees. Spiritually speaking there is a quality, but the social order, the sexual order is not totally overturned any more than the racial order is totally convoluted. People still exist as Jews or Gentiles as men or women and as employees and employers. Those lines are not rubbed out.
There is spiritual equality in Christ, sexually, racially, socially distinctions must be maintained. And so when the fact is you’re a Christian and you have a Christian employer, it doesn’t give you license to abuse that. It doesn’t mean you could take an extra break because you’re doing your devotions. It doesn’t mean you could be late to work because you had a Bible study. It doesn’t mean you could do slipshod work and just tell him the Lord just didn’t lay it on your heart that day to do any more than that. You felt the prompting of the Spirit to pray on the job instead of work. No, you don’t want to use those kind of foolish excuses.
So he says the ones who have believing masters – I love this – “Let them not look down on them because they’re brothers.” You say, well why would you look down on someone who is a brother? Only in the sense that you devalue their position as your authority. Only in the sense that you pull them down and make them your equal and take the teeth out of their authority. You remove the fear and the trembling that ought to be there in a relationship of a subordinate to one who is a superior. Maintain the right working relationship.
You don’t have to say to yourself, “But after all, I’m a deacon. He’s not even a deacon. I’m an elder. He’s only a deacon. I teach a Bible study. I don’t think he even goes to one.” That kind of thing perverts the social order which needs to be maintained. So he says this, “Those who are believing masters should not be despised because they’re brothers, but rather” – here comes the command. The first thing was attitude. Don’t look down on them. Here’s the reason – “do them service all the more.” The adverb means better or all the more. “Because they are believing and beloved, partakers of the benefit.” In other words, if you’re going to give everything you have all the time to do your very best for the sake of the name of God and the gospel to an unbelieving master, then you ought to do all the more to one who is believing and beloved, a partaker of the benefit who is your own brother in Christ.
That’s kind of an interesting thing. It’s talking almost in hyperbole because if you’re giving all honor to the unconverted, how can you give more than that to the Christian? Well it’s just a way of emphasizing how much more should you want to serve with your whole heart one who is a Christian. Your inner attitude should be to want to serve the believer even greater than an unbeliever. The phrase there ‘do service’ or literally ‘let them serve’ is douleuō, the verb form of doulos, the slave. Do your service and do it all the more or even better. And it emphasizes submission with the word douleuō. Stay in that role of submission and do it even better for that Christian boss.
Now how is our service to be done? Well what is the nature of that? We’re hearing here that we are to serve in a right attitude for the purpose of glorifying God. We are to serve in a right attitude a Christian master for the purpose of benefiting him because he’s a brother. By the way, I might note that phrase, “they are believing and beloved,” I think that’s one of the most beautiful statements of the identify of a Christian anywhere in Scripture – beautiful. Who are we? We are the believing and the beloved – the believing looks from man to God, the beloved looks from God to man, isn’t that wonderful? Rather than saying we’re Christians, we can say we are the believing who are beloved. We are the beloved of God, because we are the ones who believe in His Son. And so he says since they are the believing and the beloved who partake of this benefit, that is the benefit of your work, those who are the beloved of God, you ought to give them greater service than you would give anyone else.
Now what is it that our service is really to be? How are we to do it? What’s the nature of it? I’m just going to read two passages, Ephesians chapter 5 – or chapter 6 rather. You need to have this in your mind. Just briefly, Ephesians 6:5, “Servants” – here’s the basic nature of how we are to work – “be obedient to them that are your masters according to the flesh” – your human supervisors, employers – “be obedient with fear” – that’s reverence – “trembling” – that’s a healthy respect for their right to fire you, demote you, cut your pay, punish you, or whatever. So you are obedient, you are reverent, you have healthy respect – “in singleness of your heart” – that means you have undivided devotion to your job. You are not unstable, double minded, as James mentions that concept in a different context. But you are wholehearted, diligent, eager, anxious, aggressive, doing the work – “as unto Christ,” verse 6, “not with eye service” – that is not only when you’re being watched, not – “as men pleasers” – that is not doing what you do simply that men might think you’re great or good or better than others – “but as the servants of Christ doing the will of God from the heart.” Your job is where God has placed you. That’s His will. Do it from your heart and do it unto Him. You’re serving men but in serving them best you serve God.
You always have to have that perspective. We’re advancing the kingdom. I’m here not to fulfill my own desires, not to make money, to indulge myself, not to get a bigger car, bigger house, bigger boat, more money, more savings, more security, whatever it is. My task in life is to serve the advance of the kingdom of God. So on my job I don’t lose my testimony in trying to get a raise, because my objective in life is not more money. My objective in life is to advance the kingdom of God so under no conditions would I ever lose my testimony. Right?
In other words, perception of my job is critical. I am there to serve the needs of others with my whole heart. And at the same time see my service as service offered to God to His glory on His behalf to advance His kingdom. And I will never do anything that would in any way detract from the advancement of His kingdom. Certainly not to indulge myself or to add some creature comfort that I think I need. I do what I do because it’s the will of God. At the end of verse 6, he says, “Do it from the heart” – do it from the heart. That means heartily, giving your very best. Do quality work, excellent work. And then he says in verse 7, “With good will doing the service as to the Lord and not to men.” You’re not doing it as if you were doing it only to them, but to the Lord. “Knowing” – and listen to this – “that whatever good thing any man does, the same will he receive from the Lord whether he is bond or free.”
Let me tell you something. When you go to receive your reward in glory, you will be rewarded not just for what you did at the church. I don’t think people understand that. “Oh, I taught so many Sunday School classes,” or, “I went on so many D.E. groups” – whatever. You will be rewarded for your service to Christ, and the major portion of your service to Christ all your life long will be your – what? – your job. And the Lord will reward you on the basis of how you perform that job within His will, because that is your calling and there’s no such thing as a secular job. That’s a sacred service offered to God. Your eternal reward will be related to your attitude and performance on your job. Does that frighten you? You say, “There goes a few crowns.” I can understand that.
Look at Colossians 3, which is the comparative passage, verse 22. Paul in writing to the Colossians says much the same because this was such great, great potential problem. Such a great potential problem in the early church, that it’s repeated 1 Timothy, Titus, Ephesians, Colossians, and alluded to as we saw also in Peter’s epistle. This matter of employment is crucial, so Paul again writes, “Servants, obey in all things your masters according to the flesh, not with eye service, as men pleasers, in singleness of heart fearing God. Whatever you do, do it heartily as to the Lord, not unto men, knowing that the Lord will be the one from whom you will receive the reward of the inheritance. For you serve the Lord Christ, and he that does wrong will receive for the wrong which he’s done, and there’s no respect of persons.” Boy, woo. Pretty straight stuff. Your eternal reward when you go to glory is related to your job performance. You think you have to fill out job performance things for your boss, wait till you get to heaven. God is keeping account of your job performance. As I said at the very beginning, this is the most crucial arena in the world for Christianity to be lived out.
So back to 1 Timothy and we’ll just wrap up our thoughts. If you work for a non-Christian employer, you are to give him all honor due to one who is in the position of authority and is providing your livelihood, in order that the name of God and the doctrine of the gospel might not be blasphemed or spoken evil against. If you are working for a believing boss, you are not to think less of him as your boss or employer because he’s also your brother. But you are to serve him even more because he is believing and beloved and will partake of the benefit. In other words, you want so much to serve him because he’s a brother in Christ. And your heart cries out to benefit another believer.
That’s the attitude. You are serving others but only insofar as you’re serving God. It would be fair, I believe, and the Puritans used to do this, to begin to call your job your calling. And to begin to see your calling as your ministry. And to begin to approach it as the arena in which God has placed you for the advancement of His eternal kingdom and glory. Got that? Boy, that ought to give you a whole new shot when you hit the bricks tomorrow. It’s a whole different approach and I believe – I believe, beloved, with all my heart that if we began to live godly lives and work with an attitude and a diligence that the Lord is asking of us here, that we would begin to see a harvest of salvation among the people around us, because this is where Christianity becomes believable. How wonderful would be the benefit, and then in eternity that which the Lord has deemed to give to those faithful servants by way of reward, which we could enjoy cast back at His pierced feet, who has Himself by His Spirit energized any and every good thing we have ever done. Let’s bow in prayer.
Father, thank You for this practical, practical section of Scripture. It confronts us all. It pulls us up short. It gives us a sense of inadequacy. I recognize, Lord, it’s been intense this morning. We’ve really covered a lot of thoughts, and I just pray that Your Spirit will somehow get it beyond our minds, even beyond the point of conviction, even beyond the point of repentance to the point of change. It’s my prayer for this dear people that they would go out into the world and do their sacred duty in the face of the watching unbelieving throng in such a way that they would adorn the teaching about God, that they would magnify the beauty of the transforming power of the gospel. That by attitude and word and activity, they would prove to be the world’s best and most faithful at all that they do that they might bring glory to Your name.
And in those cases, Lord, where they have the privilege of working under a believer, that they would see the holy sacred joyous privilege of rendering their service on behalf of a brother beloved of God, that they would see the thrill of benefiting another whom Christ died to save. We thank You for the prospects of blessedness in this life and the life to come that obedience to these truth brings in the Savior’s name. Amen.
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