All who are under the yoke of slavery should consider their masters worthy of full respect, so that God’s name and our teaching may not be slandered. Those who have believing masters are not to show less respect for them because they are brothers. Instead, they are to serve them even better, because those who benefit from their service are believers, and dear to them. These are the things you are to teach and urge on them. (1 Timothy 6:1-2)
For a perspective on the issue of slavery in the early church, go to the www.storiesofvalue.com website and scroll down to our previous study of Titus 2:9.
I have suggested before that it is difficult to draw a direct parallel with the relationship shared by slaves and maters and that of employees and employers. The big difference, of course, is that an employee can theoretically leave his job, and his community, anytime he wants. I say theoretically because a couple of generations ago my family was tied to the mines of Eastern Kentucky and the company store. While that wasn’t slavery, I have heard it was akin to it.
Yet, with this tension in mind, I do believe there is a principle in today’s passage that does cross the line between slave and free. I will explain.
One of my first jobs was in a bank. During the summer I was preparing for college I was responsible for microfilming checks so they could be accessed later by customers. All day long I ran the checks through a machine, marked the film cartridge, and bundled the checks for filing.
I will never forget an employee who was poorly thought of by the office. Our boss was a Christian and somewhere along the way the employee came up with the idea she should have special favors because she was a Christian too. So she came in late, left early, took longer than acceptable lunch breaks, neglected her work, and ignored customers. One day I was in a copier room and she was complaining about having to do a job. I still remember her words: “I don’t see why (other employee’s name who was a Christian too) can’t do this for me. We are both Christians.”
This was a surprise to me. I am not saying I am the perfect employee, but I was raised to believe Christian people should not only meet the basic expectations of their job, but go above and beyond what is expected to bring glory to God. And if we are fortunate enough to work for other Christians we should give %110 so we complement their witness.
I know when it comes to the subject of slavery in the first-century church we are dealing with some complicated issues. Still, Paul’s words are so revealing of human nature, I think it is easy to see how we should apply them to the workplace today.
This does not mean we should disrespect our boss if he or she is not a believer. That would have a negative effect on our witness as well. You may even choose to do more in this case for the sake of bringing glory to Christ.
The bottom line is that our work ethic is one of the most fundamental witnessing tools we have for the Lord. And it is also freeing to realize we are ultimately working for the Lord, and our job is just the venue.
Dear God, show me how to bring You glory in the workplace. In Jesus’ name, Amen.