Men are notorious for compartmentalizing their lives so it is no wonder that so many of us get up each work day and head off to our place of employment and think of it as something separate and distinctly different from our spiritual compartment. Have you ever stopped to consider who you really work for? Have you got caught up in the “water cooler” discussions of all the negative aspects of your place of employment and the people responsible for running it? Or maybe you are one of the people responsible for running an organization and you find yourself venting about the lousy employees that can’t seem to get things done the way you want them done. God has something very specific to say about this issue in Ephesians 6 but many choose to ignore it because the passage uses the terms “slave” and “master.” However, if we substitute the words “employee” for “slave” and “employer” for “master” it readily applies to current situations. Ephesians 6:5-9 tells us “Slaves (employees), obey your earthly masters (employers) with respect and fear, and with sincerity of heart, just as you would obey Christ. Obey them not only to win their favor when their eye is on you, but like slaves (employees) of Christ, doing the will of God from your heart. Serve wholeheartedly, as if you were serving the Lord, not men, because you know that the Lord will reward everyone for whatever good he does, whether he is slave (employee) or free. And masters (employers), treat your slaves (employees) 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.”
While this passage tells employees to “obey your earthly masters” (employers) it is not just about obeying, but more importantly how we obey. The first “how” defined for us is to obey respectfully. Whether we agree that the person in authority is the right person, we are to show the position respect. This is done both in the presence of the person in authority and when they are absent. Many of us “play the game” of respect when the boss is around but when they aren’t we cut loose with the nicknames and derogatory remarks. When we behave this way we harm our witness to our co-workers and discredit our relationship with Christ. 1 Timothy 6: 1 says “All who are under the yoke of slavery (employee) should consider their masters (employers) worthy of full respect, so that God’s name and our teaching may not be slandered.”
The second “how” defined is to obey “sincerely.” God knows our tendencies. That is why He says in this passage “not only to win their favor when their eye is on you, but like slaves (employees) of Christ, doing the will of God from your heart.” We see men everyday performing like superstars as long as the boss is watching but let the boss turn away and they are doing everything but work. God says we are to perform the same way when the boss is not watching as we would if the boss were watching because we are actually employees of Christ and therefore should perform as if we are “doing the will of God from your heart.” God demands that His man be a man of integrity and we cannot claim to have integrity when we only look busy when the boss is around.
The third “how” defined is to obey “whole-heartedly.” Colossians 3: 23 states “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men,” We are to apply ourselves fully and completely because we are actually working for the Lord, not men. No doubt, there are assignments, tasks, and jobs that are not fun in any shape form or fashion but if we view them as serving God then they take on a completely different value. It is no longer about money but about service and Jesus gave us an excellent role model and what a servant is really all about. The only way any of us can view our entire job as something that we can do whole-heartedly is if we look at it as working for our Heavenly Father.
The fourth and final “how” is to obey with God’s reward in mind. We have to set our sites on something higher and greater than anything our employer can ever provide. If we follow these “obeys,” I fully expect that we will receive a variety of recognition and rewards from our employer but the ultimate reward will be received from God. As the passage says “because you know that the Lord will reward everyone for whatever good he does, whether he is slave (employee) or free.”
For those who may be reading this and you are a business owner or leading a department, team, or function for a business, God has provided direction to you as well. The passage states “And masters (employers), treat your slaves (employees) 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.” Many of us have experienced that business leader that utilized threat and intimidation as their primary means of getting things done. While it is true that this can be affective short term, long term it cannot be successful. If business leaders want to be respected they must show respect. If they want honesty they must be honest. If they want employees with integrity then they have to demonstrate their own integrity. God makes it very clear that leaders must set the example of the behavior and characteristics they expect their followers to display. This passage serves as a reminder to both the employee and employer that there is a higher “Master” that both belong and He will not show preference for one over the other.
While there are many authors and so called experts on management and/ or leadership, none have stated it any clearer or any better than what is written in Ephesians 6. I hope you will read and consider this message but more importantly, apply it everyday so that you demonstrate to the world that God is an integral and important factor in how you carry out your role in the world of employment. Remember when you are asked “Who do you work for?” the real answer is “I work for the Lord.