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Weekly Word

Entries in Employment (1)

Tuesday
May012012

Hope for Your Job

Most people will spend about a third of their life getting ready for, going to, and doing work.  It clearly is a huge part of our life.  Yet many people do not think about what the message of the cross might have to say to them about their profession.  How can the cross relate to building houses or cleaning them?  How can the cross relate to serving hamburgers or making computer programs?  It seems too vast to stretch across such a distance.

Today we will look at a passage in Ephesians 6:5-9.  In it Paul is giving instruction to both slaves and their masters.  You may think, "well, I'm not a slave so this doesn't impact me."  However, in this passage Paul gives us principles that go beyond being a slave.  In fact, it would be best if we take a bit of time to discuss what it means to be a slave and why slavery ever came into existence.  First of all, the essence of slavery is not being the property of another.  This is definitely a part of the history of slavery.  So I don't mean to diminish its reality.  However, the real concept behind being the slave of another had to do with the "master's" claim upon the work of another.  How that claim comes about can be varied.  But no matter what, every economic system and every people group has had to deal with the reality that some people do not do well and end up owing others.  When you owe somebody they have a claim upon your production.  How we go about satisfying that claim has as many possible ways as there are people to dream them up.  If we were to creat a continuum that has on the one side a picture of deeply, depraved slavery, such as that pictured in Alex Haley's mini series "Roots," and on the other side a system like we have today where people are physically free but are still in debt to others, then we can recognize that there exists between them a multitude of "systems" that could be devised.  One side values the freedom of the owing individual over the claims of the other.  Whereas the other expression values the claim of the owed individual over the freedom of the individual.  Not everyone ended up as a slave due to owing someone something.  Some were attacked by other nations or tribes and forced into slavery.  This is a clear wrong.  However, how many of us do not recognize we are somewhat "slaves" to our debts?  Some have stated that the Bible is clearly flawed because it does not emphatically denounce slavery.  The Bible denounces dehumanizing slavery, but let it never be forgotten that it was the teaches of Christ that fueled the energy of the anti-slavery movement.  We can fight our whole life against a system of slavery and finally win only to find out that another system of slavery comes in to take its places.  Those who think we can even yet again tear down the current system and build a better one are deluding themselves concerning the heart of men.  Man will create nothing but systems that enslave.  It is only men who fear the Lord who will restrain themselves from this bent in our nature.  So God speaks not to the hopeless fight of destroying slavery, but to the hopeless heart of the slave.  God has something better for them that goes beyond this life and God has something better for you that goes beyond this life.

No matter what, if you need a paycheck from an employer than you are in an indebted situation.  You are providing a service for someone or some company who has become your "master."    Let us look at this passage today in that light.

Jesus Is Our Boss

 Paul in verse 5, 6, and 7 hammers home that we should work as if Jesus were our boss.  It is not in those terms, but that is the intent.  Many of you are scratching your head thinking, "my boss is nothing like Jesus."  But this is nevery mentioned.  The simple principle is work as if you were doing it for Jesus.  Think about that principle alone for a moment.  If you worked like that, I don't think there is a single employer who wouldn't want you on the job unless you were just not talented for it.  This is a revolutionary concept.  In verse 5 it calls them "masters according to the flesh."  The word master is the same word used of Christ which is always translated "Lord."  Now Paul goes on to give some practical instructions for followers of Jesus.  If you were working, as if Jesus were your boss, you would work like this.

Show Respect for Authority.  To obey with fear and trembling is a picture of a healthy respect for the authority and position of the one who is over me.  Would I talk back to my boss if he were Jesus?  Would I ridicule him behind his back if he were Jesus?   Would I work to try and get him fired?  To respect the position and authority of the person over us is impossible if we do not first respect the position and authority of God over our lives.  How might this kind of attitude improve your relationship with your boss?

Be Sincere.  This is to have a single heart and devotion towards the job.  That means you give your whole heart to the job instead of working half-heartedly.  Need I ask? 

Don't work only when supervised.  In verse 6 it it is called eyeservice.  It is pretty obvious that when we know we are being watched we work much harder.  Paul challenges them that this is the path of those who are man-pleasers.  This isn't intended to be a good thing.  We ought to work in order to please God not men.  Those who work to please men only worry about when they are watching.  It is insincere and false.  Am I trying to manipulate my boss instead of working hard for him?  God can always see us.  So If I am a God-pleaser, I know there is no time when I can "do whatever I want."

Be willing and "good-minded."  To have a good mind and heart about the job is easier said than done.  But it starts with remembering that Jesus is our real boss.  How we serve our earthly bosses says volumes about where our heart is before God himself.

God Always Has the Final Say

In verse 8 Paul begins to pivot by reminding the slave that both the slave and the free man will stand before God one day.  If I serve well in this life than God will reward me with good.  In fact, Scripture even teaches that to the degree we do good in life is the degree that God will reward us back.  That might change your motivation.  Salvation may be by grace but reward and punishment will be based upon our deeds.

Paul then gives a caution or warning to the masters / lords / bosses.  Bosses have bosses.  But ultimately all bosses have to answer to the big Boss in heaven.  He tells them in verse 9 that they should follow the same advice he had just given to their slaves.  This a verse that many a slave owner in the south neglected to ponder.  God does not play favorites.  Literally God is not enamored with your face and all it represents.  You might be the greatest "master" in all the world.  But God will judge you in the same way as the lowliest slave.

In our society we generally picture justice as blindfolded.  It is intended to demonstrate that it is blind to the individuals involved and only gives the truth.  However, justice is never blind to the facts of the situation.  For justice to be truly done then it must see not just the surface but even the intents of the hearts of those involved.  God himself is the ultimate justice.

When Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. gave his "I have a dream speech," he talked about judgment and justice.

"I have a dream that my four children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character."  What most miss is that Dr. King most certainly wanted his children judged.  However he longed for a judgement that was based upon truth and not the lies of men.  Lies that say worth can be seen by the color of someone's skin, or even the ability of their mind and body.

Do I approach my job as if it were a calling from God?  Even if you work for yourself, do you recognize that you still work for God?  When your job becomes a ministry to Jesus it will bless your employer, the customers and yourself.

Perhaps you are reading this today and you are thinking, "I wish I had a job."  Let this time be a time of reflection.  Perhaps you took previous jobs for granted.  Perhaps the Lord is teaching you to trust in him.  In the end if you will choose to be an employee like is mentioned in Ephesians 6 then you will find a job and God will bless you in it.

 

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