This week’s sermon focuses on our workplaces, and how the way we respond to our bosses or employees is one of the primary ways we share the Gospel with them.
Ephesians 6:5-9 (Mp3 file for download)
I don’t know about you, but I really enjoyed having the young people up here for the sermon last week. It was a good reminder for all of us parents and children that we are called to a life changing reality of the good news of Jesus.
And as a reminder, we must always keep in focus that the things that we are being called to in these texts are not ways to become a Christian, but things that display to the world what has happened in our hearts. We must never focus more on the actions of our lives than we do on the action of Christ, but focussing on the action of Christ is meant to produce action in us. This is meant to play out in many ways in our lives. several of those are listed in the texts of scripture that we have been looking at over the past few weeks. All three of these areas of submission are given to us as examples of how we as Christians are to put the gospel on display. That is why he makes a big deal about the relationship of husbands and wives because that is the primary way that married people display the Gospel. Think about it for a second. Your relationships are preaching to people. I would say that all your actions are preaching, but when it comes to your interactions with people, how you relate to them is saying something about what you believe to be true about yourself and about God. And if you get down to it, the three greatest areas where this hold to be true are your Marriage (or romantic relationships) Your family, and your workplace. Do you think it was a mistake that the instructions from Paul fell in this order? It was not a coincidence. It was on purpose.
So, lets look at the text for today…
So the first thing we need to do is look at the term “slaves”. In the time that Paul is writing this letter, it has been estimated that roughly 1/3 of the population of Ephesus were slaves. So, if the population of the Church mirrored that of the city as a whole, in a room like this , roughly 15-20 of us would be slaves. I am not sure how many would have been “masters” but what is sure is that Paul is addressing both groups of people in one letter that was to be read to the church, so in an assembly of the early church, there would be both slaves, and masters worshipping together. And as I said last week, for Paul to even address this group of people meant that he was elevating their worth in the sight of all, and making it clear to all that they were in fact part of the body of Christ. He even says it in the last verse that God shows no partiality.
Now you may be thinking, “sweet, here is an area that doesn’t apply to me. I am not a slave, nor am I anyone’s master, time to sleep.” Well, I am sorry, but the principle that is spelled out for us here and in the New Testament reading for today is one that applies to most of us and the realm is our workplace. Now, again, many of you here are retired, so there we go again, I may have lost you for a second, but this is something that those of you who are older can help those of us who are younger out, either through your mistakes, or your successes in your previous work environments.
So, whats the big Idea? The big idea in this text, and really in the texts that past two weeks is this, God wants you to display Jesus, in all areas of your life. Today, we are going to focus on what I will call our outside interactions. This may be your workplace, or your school, or any interaction you may have that has a hierarchy. You might be in an organization, or a club. I would also say that the principle here applies to any official instituted authority based on the NT reading we heard a few minutes ago.
Workers, Slaves, students, citizens obey your earthly masters. He not only tells us to do it, he gives very explicit directions how.
With Fear and trembling: The manner in which you do things is important. Fear and trembling is not something we talk about a lot in our day. It isn’t a particularly popular phrase on the DIY channel. I have not read any “self-help” books, but I don’t imagine they tell you that things should be done with fear and trembling. What does this mean for us? Well This is a phrase that is mentioned several times in Scripture. Paul uses the same phrase in Philippians 2:12, 2 Corinthians 7:15, and a similar phrase in 1 Corinthians 2:3. It is a Phrase that is meant to carry the understanding that what has to be don’t is with reverence, and a certain type of awe. He fleshes it out more as he goes on. he says that it should be done “with a sincere heart. As you would Christ”. To put it into our modern language. Do whatever work you are doing as though you are doing it for Christ. If you were performing a task for Jesus, how would you do it? Would it be nonchalant, or would you be trembling with fear.
Now, since it is Olympic time, I thought I would draw a comparison from the olympics. Imagine you are an olympic hopeful. You want to be an olympic bobsledder, or skier, or better yet, a curler. Now, when you train, what is on your mind? Are you thinking about the arena, or gyms you are training in, or are you constantly picturing everything you do through the camera lens? Well, if you are going to make it, you should be visualizing every workout, every jump, every slide, every brush of the broom as though it is the last round, and you have the eyes of the world, and the hopes of your country on your shoulders. Now, imagine you are doing it for Jesus. That is what he is saying. Whatever task you are doing, no matter how mundane, do it with the same reverence you would for Christ…. So as you do your Job…
As Servants Of Christ: The Identity through which you do things is important. Here he is following the same thought, but addressing a truth that may not have been as clear to them. No matter what you are doing in this life, no matter who your earthly master is, the reality for Christians is that we have a greater master. So, when we obey our earthly masters, bosses, teachers, we are obeying Christ, and recognizing that Christ has put them in authority over us, and are display of the Gospel to them is very much tied to how we obey them. I will say right now that this is only as long as they are not asking you to do things that are contrary to scripture. It is important for us to understand though that he is not saying disregard them because you have a greater master, but obey them because you have a greater master. And your obedience to you earthly masters is a way to please the Lord. He gives the contrast to what he is talking about when he says “not as people pleasers”.
This gets again to the heart of our identity being in Christ. If you are finding your identity in your job, or even worse, your employer’s evaluation of your work, you are a people pleaser. You see, in this time, masters had a lot of power over their slaves, they literally held their lives in their hands. For them to recognize that there was a higher master what healed their eternity in His hands, and it was secure is Jesus was an incredibly freeing thing. may people today Give themselves to slavery to their bosses because they are trying everything they can to please them, and they can never fulfill. If that is you, you need to realize, your boss is Jesus, and HIs word is the word that matters.
From The heart: The source of your motivation is important. This gets down to the nitty gritty of our obedience right here. You see, it is very easy to obey others not from the heart. I think we all know how to do that well. But what does it take to obey, from the heart. Well, again Paul spells is out a little bit for us when he says that we render service with a good will as to the Lord and not to man. He keeps pounding away at our motivation for service doesn’t he? Except this time, he sweetens the pot a little. He tells us that God rewards those deeds done for others out of this type of heart. Now, this is not salvation types of reward, they are reminders that our earthly masters have heavenly masters, and earthly masters give rewards such as food, and lodging, and maybe money, Our heavenly master rewards His servants too. So, as you do taks that your boss asks you to do…
SO those were the instructions for slaves, and hear also his instructions for masters. He says, “do the same to them.” So here we have all that Paul just told the slaves to do, he tells the masters as well. And he tells them to stop their threatening, because just as he reminded the slaves, they actually have the same master, and it is Christ.