Summary: This is a Scriptural examination of the responsibilities and duties of Christian employers and employees.
One does not have to know me very long before they become aware of the fact that I love the study of history - learning about past civilizations and cultures. What it was like to live in the Roman Empire during the first two centuries particularly fascinates me.
An area of Roman life that I found to be rather interesting was the position of slaves. In Paul’s day, half of the Empire’s population were slaves (60 million strong). Most of these slaves’ lifestyles was quite unlike those that existed in America during the 18-19th centuries. They were not only crop harvesters and blacksmiths… the Roman slaves were usually educated or skilled individuals who were teachers, craftsmen, merchant sailors, beauticians, doctors, secretaries, cooks, waiters and waitresses, treasurers, messengers, groundskeepers, political assistants or advisors, athletes, mechanics, personal bodyguards and the list goes on.
In many ways, I found that the relationship between the Roman slave and Slav master back then is fairly comparable to today’s relationship between the typical employee and employer in the business world. With that in mind, I do not believe we would be overly presumptuous to apply Paul’s instructions for yesterday’s Christian slave/slave master to today’s Christian employee/employer.
I. Duty of Employee: Obedient Labor (Vs. 22).
“Slaves, in all things obey those who are your masters on the earth, not with external service, as those who merely please men, but with sincerity of heart, fearing the Lord.”
It should be noted that the Apostle condemns “external service” or “eye-service”, referring to the practice of performing a task with everything we got only under supervision of our superior. When the boss or supervisor isn’t looking or nearby, we don’t labor quite so diligently but are rather sluggish.
Instead, the Christian laborer will always put his/her heart into his work out of respect for the Lord’s wishes. Ephesians 6:6, “not by way of eye-service, as men-pleasers, but as slaves of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart.”
On his/her job, the Christian workman will give his all because he/she is not laboring for merely his earthly master, but for his/her heavenly Master - Colossians 3:23, “Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men.” We do not work for pay or ambition or to satisfy an earthly master; we work so that we can take every task and offer it to Christ. All work is done for God so that His world may go on and His men, women and children have the things they need for life and living. Thus, as Ephesians 6:7 instructs, “With good will render service, as to the Lord, and not to men.”
RAMIFICATIONS OF THIS ATTITUDE -
A. We will not be an argumentative or disruptive worker.
1 Timothy 6:1, “slaves regard their own masters as worthy of all honor so that the name of God and our doctrine may not be spoken against.”
Titus 2:9, “Urge bondslaves to be subject to their own masters in everything, to be well-pleasing, not argumentative.”
The Church has historically taken a negative view on membership in labor unions due to the fact that labor unions prevent a direct relationship between the employee and their employer. Labor unions, by their very nature and purpose, do not hold the employer with much honor and oft times are quite argumentative. Through the means of strikes or threatening to strike, they are very disruptive.
I recognize that there have been companies and employers that have been and are guilty of abuse and negligence toward their employees. However, the Scriptures do not provide circumstances in which it is acceptable to be argumentative nor disruptive.
1 Peter 2:18-19, “Servants, be submissive to your masters with all respect, not only to those who are good and gentle, but also to those who are unreasonable. For this finds favor, if for the sake of conscience toward God a man bears up under sorrows when suffering unjustly.”
Christianity never in this world offers escape from hard work; it makes a man able to work still harder. Nor does it offer a man escape from difficult situations; it enables him to meet situations better.
1 Thessalonians 4:11-12, “make it your ambition to lead a quiet life and attend to your own business and work with your hands, just as we commanded you; so that you may behave properly toward out-siders and not be in any need.”
B. Will not be a dishonest worker.
Titus 2:10, “not pilfering (stealing products and supplies, wasting products or supplies, reselling goods, embezzling, padding expense account, etc.), but showing all good faith that they may adorn the doctrine of God our Savior in every respect.”
One out of three companies that go bankrupt each year do so as a result of employee theft, costing businesses between $60 billion and $120 billion a year. A survey done a couple years ago found that an overwhelming 79 percent of workers admit they have or would consider stealing from their employers. Of those who have stolen from their employer, 49 percent said they steal out of greed. 43 percent said they do it to get back at their employer. Only 8 percent of respondents said they steal because they need to.