Bondservants, obey your earthly masters with fear and trembling, with a sincere heart, as you would Christ, not by the way of eye-service, as people-pleasers, but as bondservants 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 bondservant or is 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. Ephesians 6:5-9, ESV.
Reading a book that was written almost 2000 years ago, understanding what it says in its context, mining its timeless truth, and applying that truth to our context is not always easy. It is, however, what real Bible study entails. Few passages provide as good an example of the benefits of this approach as the one before us today.
Paul applies the submission command of Ephesians 5:21 to the first-century “workplace.” He writes first to bondservants (also called slaves) and then to their masters. Slavery in Paul’s day was much different than the slavery of modern memory. Slavery was common across income brackets. Slaves could draw income and purchase property. They could even save up and buy their freedom. Many workers chose slavery because it provided economic security.
The command to slaves is to obey their earthly masters as though they were obeying Christ. They are to do their best work, even if there is little to no reward because they trust that Christ will reward obedience to this command. The command to masters is to do good to their slaves in recognition that the earthly Christian master is a slave to Christ.
In these verses, Paul addresses the situation that many, if not most, of his brothers and sisters in Christ found themselves in. As in earlier passages, he calls both the one in the submissive role and the one in charge to live in a way that reflects their new life in Christ. Through our submission in earthly relationships, we submit to, and thereby glorify, Christ.
That is the timeless truth that you and I need to apply to our lives. Whatever our employment situation, we need to relate to others per existing authority structures. We need to be the best employees and/or the best bosses. We need to reflect our dependence on Christ for rewards and submit to His rule over us.
I am praying for you today that you will, in whatever situation you find yourself in, reflect your new nature in Christ, and know the satisfaction and joy that brings.