Chapter 6:5-9 (ESV) - 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.
Question to consider: Why does it matter how we serve in the workplace?
The apostle Peter said something similar to Paul in 1 Peter 2:18-25, and I recommend going through my study in 1 Peter if you have not already done so because it approached a lot of the same issues Paul covers but from a Jewish perspective. Peter began with our attitude in society and worked his way down to the marital covenant whereas Paul started with the marital covenant and worked his way up to society.
The family unit is the building block of society much like the believer is the building block of the church. So knowing that the mystery of marriage points to Christ’s sacrificial love for the church helps us see that our relationship with Christ is infused into every relationship we have in this life.
People get really hung up that Paul wrote to bondservants as if Paul was somehow giving an endorsement of slavery. This letter was not a political statement on how society should operate, but how the Ephesians (and other believers reading this letter) should operate in society. It was easy for Paul to transition from the obedience of children to that of the bondservant. A bondservant usually served in the household and was treated as a part of the family except for the fact that they generally did not receive an inheritance like children did. Paul might have had the situation with Philemon and Onesimus in mind when he wrote this since Paul’s letter to Philemon was also written while Paul was under house arrest. We will look more at that letter in a few days.
In this letter, Paul was pointing out that a Christian bondservant was really serving Christ so their work should be done genuinely for the glory of God rather than trying to please people for personal gain or appear to work hard when they really didn't. For those who had masters who were not Christian, this would serve as an opportunity to point them to Christ. What master would receive the gospel from a rebellious servant? But if a bondservant was humble and showed reverence for their master, it would have a much more positive impact on the heart of the master. The same for Christian masters. What bondservant would receive the gospel from a cruel master? Imagine the impact if a master instead acted as a bondservant of Christ and treated his Christian servants as brothers who would receive the same eternal inheritance! Those who did not know Christ would have a desire to learn about Him.
Though we may not be able to relate to the master-bondservant relationship, we should be able to apply these truths to our own vocations. A Christian employee or business owner would have a greater impact on unbelievers if they acted with the knowledge that they are really serving Christ in their vocation. And according to Jesus, people know we are His disciples by the love we show to our brothers and sisters in Christ.
Dear heavenly father, thank You for providing us with work. Help us to serve You well in our work no matter what You have put in front of us to do. May those with whom we work recognize that we are bondservants of Christ, and may that bring them to the place where they will call Him Lord. Amen.