Mike Gerhardt, Building Community through Work, Ephesians 6:5-9, Employees and Employers. In this church we have both CO's and enlisted, bosses and their workers but could you imagine a church with saves and masters worshipping together like that in first-century Ephesus. What me, work? In my hiring experience, not everyone who seeks a job is looking for work, and not everyone who wants a promotion is looking for more responsibility. Some want money for nothing. But for the Spirit-filled believer, Paul’s message is simple, work for the Lord. Most Christians want to work for the Lord but only in an advisory position: Lord this is what I want you to do for me. The manager asked his new but very slow delivery boy. Been to the zoo lately. No sir replied the teen. Well, you should go, you’d enjoy watching the turtles zip by. Paul again departs from his culture and teaches a different way. He elevates the value and dignity of wives, children, and now slaves. He upholds their rights as people of God in contrast to the practices of that day. Husbands love your wives as Christ loved the church, fathers care about your children’s feelings and do not exasperate them, masters treat your slaves with righteousness. Now a word about slavery. Aristotle regarded slaves as nothing more than living tools. Yet at the time of writing most slaves were like indentured servants and some could earn their freedom. Philemon owned slaves of whom Onesimus was one. During the first century, there were 60 million slaves in the world of 200 million. Let me say though God ordained work, marriage, family, and justice, God did not ordain slavery. The sabbatical year of rest and the celebration of the year of Jubilee were in place for the nation of Israel to release the slaves and allow them freedom. Employees Work for The Lord (verses 5-8). Chinese proverb: If a man does only what is required of him, he is a slave. If a man does more than is required, he is a free man. The quality of work is to be respectful (phobos and tromos fear and trembling), righteous (singleness of heart), consistent (not just when the boss is looking), wholehearted (from your soul) and serving God’s Kingdom (not as if but in fact you are serving God).
A hard-working wealthy man was near the end of his life, so he pleaded with God to bring his money to heaven and not leave it for his children to squander. An angel said: no way, you can’t take your wealth with you. He implored heaven to bend the rules. His prayers were relentless. The angel said: OK, you can bring only one carry-on bag to heaven, that’s it. Overjoyed the man got the largest suitcase and filled it with pure gold bars. He died and showed up at the gates of heaven dragging that suitcase. Saint Peter seeing the suitcase told him: you can’t bring that in here. The man explained his special permission. Peter check his book that allowed one carry-on bag. Opening the suitcase, Peter turns to the man: of all the things you could have brought to heaven and you brought pavement. How ridiculous.
The reasons to work are: to please the Lord and provide for others. Slaves usually have nothing to gain from diligence. But remember Joseph who served as a slave and the Lord blessed him. The initiative shows freedom from your master, for you no longer are just working for your boss but for the Lord Jesus. A great book on the subject is Your Work Matters to God by William Hendricks. The smallest deed is better than the greatest intention. Ben Franklin: Work as if you were to live to 100 and pray as if you were to die tonight.
1 Timothy 6:1-2 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 should not show them disrespect just because they are fellow believers. Instead, they should serve them even better because their masters are dear to them as fellow believers and are devoted to the welfare of their slaves. Titus 2:9-10 Teach slaves to be subject to their masters in everything, to try to please them, not to talk back to them, and not to steal from them, but to show that they can be fully trusted, so that in every way they will make the teaching about God our Savior attractive.
Employers Work for The Lord (verse 9). The quality of work is without violent and abusive words, with fairness (Colossians 4:1 Masters, provide your slaves with what is right and fair because you know that you also have a Master in heaven.), with generous compensation and affirmation. Two reminders: Jesus is your Master and Jesus shows no favoritism. Having problems with your boss, co-workers or workers? Verla Gillmor five ways to work well with others and for the Lord: Identify the real problem- do a self-check, are you the problem or the solution. Take charge of your attitude- be careful complaining or blowing off steam. Sort out what can and can’t change- pick your battles and live with the realities. Detach from the problem- step away to take another view, see the big picture. Live in the present- don’t pile up problems, keep perspective.
Ask yourself: what work do you find most fulfilling? Does your attitude toward work honor God? Work was given before sin came into the world, and there will be lots of work to do in heaven- what does that say about the nature of work now? How does your performance on the job relate to your faith and witness? Conclusion: Do all for Jesus. Two verses to guide you. Colossians 3:17 And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. Philippians 2:5-8 In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage…
John Stumbo, our C&MA president used an NFL illustration at the Converge Conference this week. He had sworn off football illustrations but as a Vikings fan, he couldn’t help it. The pass that clinched the game last Sunday has been called a Hail Millie, not a Hail Mary. Millie Wall who will turn 100 in July has agonized over the Minnesota Vikings for all 57 years of their existence. Despite four trips to the Super Bowl, Millie never gave up on her team but also never saw a playoff game. With a gifted ticket in hand, Millie and her granddaughter Ashley Wall were there Sunday to see Stefon Diggs catch the touchdown pass against New Orleans. The Fox broadcast kept trying to show that day’s most famous fan. But every time they tried to show her on the jumbo screen, Ashley would jump in front of Millie with her Vikings sign blocking the cameras from seeing Millie. There is a point to this illustration, are you in the way of people seeing Jesus. At work, in school, on the field playing your favorite sport, in your home: do your words and actions help people see Jesus or are you blocking him. Let’s pray.