cover of Work Unto the Lord | Eph. 6:5-9 (Mark_Evans 3-19-2023)
Work Unto the Lord | Eph. 6:5-9 (Mark_Evans 3-19-2023)

Work Unto the Lord | Eph. 6:5-9 (Mark_Evans 3-19-2023)


Nothing to say, yet



In this transcription, Paul's letter to the Ephesians is being discussed, specifically the section about the Christian's role in the workplace. The main point is that all work should be done unto the Lord and not to man. The passage addresses the relationship between servants and their masters, emphasizing the importance of obeying and showing respect to earthly masters as if they were Christ Himself. It also highlights the idea that all work, regardless of its nature, has spiritual significance. The transcription emphasizes that Christ is Lord over all aspects of life, including work, and that Christians should approach their work with reverence and diligence. If you have your Bibles, do feel free to make your way to the book of Ephesians as we continue on in Paul's great letter to Ephesus. This morning we have but a few verses in chapter 6, as our Scripture reading this morning comes from Ephesians 6, verses 5 through 9. And these are the words of the one and only God. Slaves, obey your earthly masters with fear and trembling, with a sincere heart, as you would Christ. Not by way of eye service, as people pleasers, but as servants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart, rendering service with a good will, as to the Lord and not to man, knowing that whatever good anyone does, this he will receive back from the Lord, whether he is a slave or free. Masters, do the same to them and stop your threatening, knowing that He who is both their master and yours is in heaven and that there is no partiality with Him. The grass withers and the flower fades. Let us pray. Gracious God and Heavenly Father, we praise You that You have revealed Yourself unto us, everything that we need for a life of godliness. We know that on our own we don't have eyes to see, we don't have ears to hear, and so we pray that You would send forth Your Spirit into our hearts to renew our minds, to illuminate the truth to us, that we might respond in such a way that glorifies You and truly is for our joy. We ask this in Jesus' name and amen. You may be seated. Well, there was a time in history that if I asked you the question, What is your vocation? More literally from the Latin, What is your calling? You would have thought I could only be referring to your calling into the ministry, as in what is your calling as a pastor, as a priest, as a monk, as a clergy? Because it was thought that only so-called religious callings have any kind of spiritual significance. And so it wasn't until Martin Luther came along and he recovered the biblical understanding of Christian vocation, and that whatever calling a Christian pursued, that was his or her vocation. And that meant that whether you were a cobbler, a farmer, a baker, a blacksmith, that was just as significant as if you were a priest. So today we might say that whether you're a programmer, policeman, banker, or biologist, that is your Christian vocation because Luther argued that the cobbler's work was just as valuable as the work of a priest, that there is no sacred-secular divide when it comes to work done unto the Lord. And so today that would mean that you could do a good work just as easily sitting in front of a computer, sitting in a conference room, as you could sitting in the pew of a church. And in many ways, that is what we have set before us this morning in our next section of Ephesians that speaks to the Christian in the workplace. And even more specifically, we come now to the fourth set of relationships that we've looked at so far. Remember, if you haven't been with us, I'll bring you up to speed. We've walked through the wife, then the husband, then the child unto a parent, and now Paul rounds out the Christian life with this fourth arrangement, that of servants to their masters. And the master-slave dynamic was commonplace in the Roman Empire. Some estimate upward of 60 million servants that could arrange anything from being a domestic servant all the way to being a doctor or a lawyer. And so for our present context, the most obvious parallel would be that of an employee to an employer. And in terms of magnitude, isn't it true that for many of us, many of the hours of our week, therefore many of the hours of our life, are spent working in a vocation, that the very rhythm of life that God has laid out for us is one day of rest followed by six days of labor. And that for many of us means that we are going to find ourselves in a working relationship, having a boss, being a boss to someone else, right, managing someone, or being managed by someone. I know for me personally, I spent all of my adult life in so-called corporate America, and it would be this verse in particular, as well as the parallel passage in Colossians, that I would return to over and over again for wisdom, for refreshment as to the Christian's motivation for work. Because before we begin, we should pause and ask the question, okay, why is Paul meddling in our work life? Isn't Ephesians a letter about theology, right? Isn't the Bible a book about the things of heaven, not the things of earth? Why is Paul intruding into our nine-to-five work day? And we know we could answer by simply saying, well, the lordship of Jesus Christ. That is why. That to say Christ is Lord means He is Lord over all things. It was Abraham Kuyper who famously said that there is not one square inch of this world that Christ does not point to and declare mine. This belongs to me. And so that would simply mean that Christ is Lord over the Fortune 500, He's Lord over big tech, the mom-and-pop shop, your HR department, your cubicle space, your overbearing boss, the frustrations of your daily grind. He is Lord over all. And so that's why it would make no sense to say, for instance, yeah, I'm a good Christian. I'm just a bad employee. Hey, I'm a good Christian. I'm just a poor worker. I'm just a bad boss. That would be an incoherent statement and Ephesians would respond by saying, no, friend, you're in Christ. And because you're in Christ, that is going to shape and inform everything that you do, including how you go about your work. And so specifically in our text this morning, we're going to look about how the Christian goes about his or her work in three portions. We'll look at firstly, the servant's calling. What is the servant called to do? Secondly, what is the servant's reward for doing that? And then thirdly, what is the duty of the master unto a servant? All with the main point, which is very simple, all of our work is done unto the Lord and not to man. Whatever your hand finds you doing, do it unto the Lord, not to man. So firstly, let's look at the servant's calling, just as with wives, just as with husbands, just as with children, this very straightforward command from Paul on how servants should relate to their masters. You see it in verse 5. In one word, they are to obey them. And notice that little modification that will become important later on. You might say, well, why earthly masters and not just masters? Well, Paul is already setting up the idea that when you go to work, there are always two levels, you might say. There are always two org charts, right? There's your immediate supervisor, your direct report, and then there's this unseen realm, right? Your heavenly master, the one to whom your highest allegiance goes to. But before Paul develops that idea any further, he makes this point as to how servants should obey their masters. You see that phrase there, with fear and trembling, with a sincere heart. That is to say, the servant should relate to a master with his deep respect and reverence. Paul was not a slave in this particular instance, but you can think of when Paul appeared before the governor Festus. And a reminder, Festus was a pagan, non-Christian leader. And yet Paul shows him this great reverence and respect. He refers to him, O most excellent Festus. It's important to see he's not being disingenuous, right? That's not flattery. He really means it when he says that. And that's the call of verse 5. Show your superior respect and honor. And that would include your non-Christian superior. As 1 Peter says, servants, be subject to your masters with all respect, not only to the good and to the gentle, but also to the unjust. And that, of course, is at complete odds to the world's approach in the workplace. It is entirely normal to bounce back and forth between disrespecting a leader on one hand, only to then suck up to a leader when it is advantageous. I can't tell you how many times I would hear co-workers speak ill about a leader behind their back, only to then suddenly transform into a brown-noser when they're in front of that very same leader. And so Paul says, put all that off. Put that away and put on sincere respect for your superior. And then, as Paul so often does, as if he gives us the deeper reason, the meta reason, the real reason, you might say, as to why I should obey my leader with fear and trembling. You see it there at the end of verse 5. Do it as you would Christ. And it is that little phrase that gives us great relief and perspective. And I say the word relief because it is certainly not the case that we should obey our earthly masters because in themselves, they're always right, in themselves they are honorable or even good leaders. I know firsthand I had many good leaders and I had many bad leaders, some even insufferable leaders. And Paul says, remember, when you go to work, there is a higher org chart, therefore obey your earthly boss as you would Christ. Therefore by obeying him or her, the Christian is ultimately obeying Christ, placing all trust, all loyalty, all work as offered up, not to a company, but to Christ Himself. And so, Christian, you must be convinced anew every Monday morning of the sovereignty of God, that today, this workday, God has placed me in this cubicle, this workstation, this career according to His purposes. And you see the great freedom, the great liberation there is for the Christian worker in that. That the Christian worker can look past, as it were, look beyond his or her earthly master and see the Lord and find the motivation to work hard, work diligently, respectfully, because all work is done unto the Lord. And conversely, to rebel against such an authority, to resist an earthly master, is to resist God Himself who has appointed Him there. As Romans 13 says, there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. You think of how Christ submitted to Pilate. He tells Pilate, oh, sure, you have authority, but the only reason you have any authority at all is because my Father gave you that authority. So just remember that. If you have an overbearing boss, you find yourself in a toxic workplace, know that there is not one single authority placed over you apart from God's divine appointment. There are no accidents in the org chart. Every single promotion, demotion, policy, procedure comes to pass only by God's sovereign will. And we need only remember last week that such trials produce in us endurance, character, and a hope that does not put us to shame. And so the call is to put off this wrong-headed approach to work. You see it even in verse 6, this phrasing of, don't work by way of eye service or being a people pleaser. That is working just to be seen, just to be noticed, right, curry favor with one's superior. You can imagine the worker who props his feet up on his desk, puts his hand behind his back, enjoys a nice snooze, only until he sees his supervisor coming down the hall and he snaps to attention upright and tries to look very busy, right? He works only when watched, only to be noticed, or is always putting forward his accomplishments in a self-asserting way to get recognition. Instead, the Christian knows, oh, indeed, I am always being watched, but not by my earthly master, by a heavenly master. And brothers and sisters, I can't tell you firsthand just how powerful that is. There was a time in my career when our corporate culture went from all that was sunny and dreamy and suddenly, almost overnight, went to all that was dreadful and dark and gloomy. And the joy of work just all of a sudden evaporated as the Sabbath winded down and as Monday was starting to encroach. Every one of us had this dreaded feeling in our stomach, we've got to go to work on Monday. And what do you do in that situation? Well, Scripture gives us the secret. It's as if Paul is saying, put on these glasses and look through these glasses and you will always find the enduring reason, the motivation to work hard. It's as verse 6 says, do the will of God from the heart. Render service with a good will as to the Lord, not to man. There it is. You see that when you clock in, you are ultimately clocking in for the Lord, knowing that He sees your work, He is pleased with your efforts, and it is to Him that you offer up your vocation. As Ecclesiastes says, whatever your hand finds you doing, do it verily. Do it with all of your might. Do it wholeheartedly because you are doing it to the Lord and not to man. Because indeed, how enslaving, how degrading it is to approach work in any other way. Working to be seen, working to be noticed, to get an award, promotion, recognition from the higher ups, get more pay. All of these prove in vain and above all, rob God of the glory that He is due from our work. Because let us remember, where does work even come from? Why do we work? Does it come from capitalism? From the American dream? From the invisible hand? Does it come from free markets? While some of those may be helpful, we know that we work because God works and we are made in His image. That from before the fall, before sin, God gave Adam and Eve work to do, guard and keep this garden. And so kids, that's why right now, now is the age to learn how to labor and how to love labor. That if you are given a job, if you are given a chore, even something simple like cleaning your room or something harder like mowing the yard, learn to do it unto the Lord with all of your might, with all of your heart. And you might say, but I don't like cleaning my room. Fair enough, I didn't either. But what changes that is to imagine you're cleaning your room unto the Lord Jesus Christ Himself. That is your motivation to always work hard. And so for these reasons, Paul tells the servant, do this with all of your heart and obey your earthly masters. Now, before the next section, we should bring to bear that just as with wives, just as with children, Paul does not mean Christians should render unconditional obedience to an earthly master, right? As in whatever the superior says that must be followed blindly. And there are countless examples of this, but even to go back to the scene I referenced earlier of Paul before Festus, remember, as even though he shows him respect and honor, what got him there in the first place is that Paul is arrested and he is brought up on charges of being this public disruptor for preaching the Word of God. And so as Acts 5 says very clearly, we are to obey God rather than man. That's why as Protestants we have this very rich tradition of times of resisting authorities with a clear conscience when obedience to God is at stake. So there's the word on the servant's obedience. But now let us look at the servant's reward. What is the reward held out to a servant for doing this? I know for us at our company, as many companies do, we would hold an award ceremony at the end of the year. And we'd give out awards to employees, things like, you know, Employee of the Year or Highest Producer or Best Team or Best Manager, whatever it might be. Now, it surprises just how quickly those awards took on importance in the life of employees. They generally wanted to receive an award. I was equally surprised how without fail there was always at least one employee who for whatever reason felt cheated, felt robbed, felt like their work went unnoticed or overshadowed for whatever reason and that their labor was all in vain. And perhaps you felt that way at your work, right? No matter what I do, no matter how hard I try, I am just a cog in the machine. Well, here Paul tells us that for the Christian, that will never be the case with their labor, that their work will not be overlooked or in vain. Their work will not be overshadowed by favoritism, nepotism, cronyism, any kind of unfair or unjust treatment. Rather, Paul tells the Christian servant this in verse 8, tells them, know this, know that whatever good anyone does, this he will receive back from the Lord. In other words, whether or not man sees it, whether or not your supervisor pats you on the back with an attaboy, whether or not the performance eval reflects it, the Christian is to be absolutely assured that God above sees your good work, that it is a treasure laid up in heaven and that the Christian will receive that reward in the last day. Not one single deed will be overlooked by our great God. And what a death blow that is to the idea that your labor is in vain. Now we don't know the exact nature of this reward, but Scripture is so clear that at final judgment, the Christian receives rewards and God renders to man according to his work. And so the Christian's orientation is always to be upwards. In our day, there's no shortage of books on productivity, how to get things done, time management, right? How to be hyper-efficient. And what's so often missing in these so-called productivity hacks is the very first principle, and that is, who are we productive for, right? To whom are we being productive for? And this verse brings us back to center, that all such productivity is anchored in the sole truth of bearing fruit for God, that all work is geared towards that one goal of hearing for the Lord, well done, good and faithful servant. Because notice, what must be done to receive this reward in verse 8 is, quote, the good, doing good. What is that? How many Christians head off to their work day and think, my goal today is to do good? And as always, we want to have Scripture define words for us, because I'm sure you've noticed that the modern workplace has its own perverted version of what good is. It can mean anything from virtue signaling to woke-ism to a nice bottom line. But doing good for the Christian would mean that God approves of the work. God would bless the priorities, the values, the company culture that we are setting. And so practically, that would mean many, many things. But I would encourage you to think through Proverbs and the Law and the many, many teachings that inform our work, such as giving an honest day's work, having equal weights and measurements, keeping one's word even to your own hurt, being skillful, even excellent in our work, and above all, loving your neighbor in and through your work. Because anyone who's been on the receiving end of shoddy, slack work recognizes that something is off. You pull away from the drive-thru, and once again, they screwed up your food order, right? A deadline was promised, and a deadline was missed. An employee on a team shows up late, and once again, the entire team suffers. Communication on a project was poorly received, poorly delivered. Hours were overbilled. Work was done, but it was done in a way that seemed completely lifeless and indifferent by a worker who was there simply to collect a paycheck. That's why we just confessed, whoever is slack in his work is a brother to the one who destroys. Because the end result of slack work is a neighbor not being loved or served well. And so Paul says, put that off and put on the Christian work ethic, which is a full-orbed doing of good that includes even our motives. As was said earlier in verse 7, do your service with a, quote, goodwill. That means a kind of eagerness, a kind of enthusiasm, a zeal for the person that you are serving, because ultimately, you're serving the Lord Christ. As he said, to give a cup of cold water to the least of these is as if you're giving it to me. And so what that means for the Christian is that love or goodwill is the animating principle of all work, not profit, not accolades, not shareholders. I know one of our chiefs would often point us to Chick-fil-A as a case study. And he would kind of muse out loud, how is it these pimply teenagers can run circles around everybody else with their service? And he would point to that phrase that they often utter at the end, quote, it was my pleasure to serve you today, and that they genuinely seemed to mean it. There was this zeal, this enthusiasm to serve someone. And that is to be the Christian's posture to work. How can I glorify God by serving the person that's in front of me? As if Paul has not given us enough motivating grace, he rounds out just how awesome this heavenly reward is. Because it says it makes no difference your socioeconomic status, makes no difference if you are CEO or bottom of the food chain, if you are PhD or GED. Notice verse 8, he says, whether a person is bondservant or free, he will receive this from the Lord. And so, what are we reminded of? We're reminded of the character of our great God, that God is no respecter of persons, that He is not impressed by the CEO, He is not too high for the maidservant, He is in every way a just God and He will do nothing other than that which is perfectly just, rendering unto every man, woman, and child their due reward. Not one good work will be overlooked. And so, there is the word on the servant's duties and the servant's rewards. But now, Paul turns the tables and he says, let's look at the other end of that equation. Let's look at the master's duties in verse 9. And we're reminded that one of the things we've seen throughout Ephesians is that Paul is entirely pro-authority, he's for authority while absolutely being against the abuse of authority. We saw that with husbands, with parents, obviously we see that exemplified in Christ Himself above all. And that very same theme continues here with masters. Notice verse 9, Paul says, do the same to them, to the servants, as in masters, show your servants the same respect, the same dignity and sincerity. Or as even Colossians says, masters, treat your slaves justly and treat them fairly. And this is something we must recover. In our day, we have confused notions as to what makes for justice and fairness. Notice Paul does not say, treat outcomes fairly, treat identities fairly, treat ideologies fairly. No, it is people, image bearers, treat people fairly and justly. And that means for the master, he's not to show partiality, play favoritism, place unreasonable demands upon his servants, asking them to do what he himself would never do. And of course, pause me, that means the Christian leader is looking for ways to bless his subordinates. I'm just going to read a few things from Westminster 29 that describes a master's duties. Just listen to this, that the master is to love, pray for and bless their inferiors, instruct, counsel and admonish them, commending them and rewarding them and reproving them when needed. And why? All for God's glory and to preserve the authority that God has given them. Can you imagine what it would be like to have a leader like that? You show up for work on Monday and your boss says, hey, how was your weekend? I was actually praying for you over this past weekend. I want to jog my memory, I meant to tell you last week and commend you and encourage you what an excellent job you've been doing in this area. Keep up the good work. And then maybe later on that same superior says, oh, hey, by the way, in this particular area you're not meeting the standard, you're falling short. But I'm here to train you, to equip you and I believe with hard work and diligence you can reach the standard, maybe even exceed the standard. And if that sounds weird in the workplace, I just want to say again, this can be done, this should be done, I've seen it done firsthand. And it takes a degree of deliberateness and courage to change the tide of a workplace. And as always, Paul gives us not only something to put on, but also something to put off. In this case, he tells masters, put off threats. You see it there in verse 9, cease your threatening. It was the famous Machiavelli who raised the question, is it better for a leader to be loved or feared? Is it better to be loved or feared? And Machiavelli said, well, if you can have both, that'd be great, but let's be real, no one can have both. And so it's better for the leader to be feared, it's a much safer route for that leader. And of course, history has shown us how many leaders have taken up his advice. But Paul points us to the better portion. He calls for the master to put off all forms of threats, intimidation, bullying, oppression, all things that would have been totally acceptable at the time for a master to do to a slave. And so Paul makes this incredibly counter-cultural statement, and he gives us the foundational reason why masters must do this at the end of verse 9, because he who is both their master and yours is in heaven, and there is no partiality with him. In other words, it's as if Paul says, masters, remember, you too have a master that you're accountable to, that every earthly master is under the heavenly master. And once again, Paul's command is backed by the truth of God's character, that with God there is no partiality. He is no respecter of persons. He's not impressed with titles by your name or where you sit on the org chart. He's not swayed by your seniority. One need only think of Pharaoh of Egypt at the time of the Exodus, that he was a man who in every way was probably one of the most powerful men on the face of the planet. Here's a man who knew how to make a threat and how to follow through on a threat so that it was not idle. And yet before God, what is he? He is just clay in the potter's hands. He is no respecter of persons. That's why if you're here this morning and not a Christian, hear the news that with God there is no partiality. And in many ways, that is the most terrifying news and also the greatest news. It's terrifying news because in that before God, He knows everything that you've done, everything that you've thought, everything you have ever said, everything you have ever spoken. He knows the very motives of your heart, all of your hidden faults. And as a just and holy God, He will always judge sinners with an uncompromising holiness. For a sinner, that is the most terrifying reality that ends in eternal judgment. But that God is impartial is also the greatest news because God has provided salvation in His Son, Jesus Christ, a salvation that is truly impartial and that it is open to all. That it says, come sinner, come and be washed, come and be cleansed, that there is not one sin too great, there is not one sin too small that cannot be cleansed by this Christ if you come and trust in Him and Him alone. Our God is no respecter of persons. As we're returning to the Christian master, this calls for a radical humility that calls for the master to rightly, justly use his authority to bless his inferiors. And so, it's a sobering thought experiment, but just...if you find yourself in leadership, just imagine an anonymous survey goes out to your subordinates asking about your so-called leadership style. What would they say? What would they respond with? They say that you rule with threats, intimidation, manipulation, passive aggressiveness. Or they say, no, my rule is marked by justice, it's marked by fairness, even a refreshing encouragement that is so uncommon in the modern workplace. And so, as we begin to close, let us lay up in our hearts three uses of this most useful section on masters and their servants. Firstly, work as your witness...work as your witness. Again, for many of us, so many of the hours that we log in life will be spent working. That further means that so much of your Christian witness, your testimony, will transpire in some kind of workplace, whether that's the Fortune 500, a startup, a government job, ma and pa shop, school, whatever it might be. And the basic truth we see here that should be in the front of our minds is that how we go about our work always, always says something about our God. And how important that is so that when the day comes that your co-worker, your boss, your employee finds out, oh, you're a Christian, that they would say, ah, that's why you work so hard. That's why you're so diligent. That's why you're so respectful. That's why you actually care about the people that we are serving. Mediocre work is not Christian work. Work as your witness because it is your witness. And closely related to that, that would also mean give very careful consideration about where you work, where it is that you are giving yourself, selling your 40-plus hours a week unto and placing yourself under a particular authority. So work as your witness. Secondly, work with a good will. Again, that word good will in verse 7 does not mean having warm fuzzies when you go about work. It means you're proactive to do good unto others through your work, right? To be eager to see where can I meet the needs of the one who I am serving. In short, that would mean for the Christian, work is literally a labor of love, as in how can I do good to others? How can I make a great product, give a great service, develop a great technology, write a great computer program so that I can love my neighbor as myself? As one Christian executive said, let your light shine before men so that they may see your clean parking lots and give glory to God. And you see, a simple point, let your ordinary good works, your everyday good will shine the light of God's glory and love your neighbor as yourself. Thirdly, lastly, work unto the Lord...work unto the Lord. Above all, all work is to be done unto Him. Work comes from Him. The power to do work is through Him and the end of all work is unto Him. Christians, that is the most freeing thing of all. That means that whether or not you are at your dream job or at the daily grind, it matters not. Because working unto the Lord means you are freed up from high service, from people-pleasing, from office politics, and you are liberated to labor for the King, knowing that whatever good I do, He sees it without fail. That is the reason to work hard. Well, who is sufficient for these things? Every one of us would know that we are so often slack in our work, that we fail to meet these standards. So how is it we can work with all of our might as sinful, weak creatures? Well, let us end with praise be to God, the God of all grace, who has already prepared good works for us to walk in them to His praise. Let us pray. O gracious God and heavenly Father, we praise You indeed that You have given us work to do, that even though at times our work so often seems in vain, that the curse bears down mightily upon us, that it seems that all we have to do with are thorns and thistles. We thank You that in Christ our work can be redeemed, that we truly can by the Spirit do all of our work unto You and not to man. And so we pray that we would not merely be Christians on Sunday, but as Monday rolls around, we would know what it is to roll up our sleeves, to work diligently, to work respectfully, to honor those who You have placed over us and those You have placed under us, that we would know what it is to encourage them, to love them, to even bless them by our leadership. We do pray that all such work would be done unto You and not to man. In Jesus' name we pray, amen.

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