Summary: This passage addresses the responsibilities and duties of slaves and masters. At first glance, you may be tempted to conclude that this passage has no relevance for today. This would be a mistake.
Ephesians: Our Identity In Christ ~ Part 25
How To Win At Work
5. Slaves, be obedient to those who are your masters according to the flesh, with fear and trembling, in the sincerity of your heart, as to Christ;
6. not by way of eyeservice, as men-pleasers, but as slaves of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart.
7. With good will render service, as to the Lord, and not to men,
8. knowing that whatever good thing each one does, this he will receive back from the Lord, whether slave or free.
9. And masters, do the same things to them, and give up threatening, knowing that both their Master and yours is in heaven, and there is no partiality with Him.
Many of us view physical work as a burden. It is something to be avoided. Rather than something which gives us dignity, work is viewed as demeaning. Why is this? Why do many view work as a burden? Whatever happened to the idea of the dignity of work? I heard of a man applying for a job. The manager reviewing the application said, “I'm sorry I can't hire you, but there isn't enough work to keep you busy.” The applicant replied, “You'd be surprised how little it takes.”
The Bible, gives the real wisdom of the ages. God's Word speaks directly to the issue of work. It holds the worker and the employer accountable it dignifies work, and the worker. In fact, as we will see in our text, it gives us a formula for how to win at work.
This passage addresses the responsibilities and duties of slaves and masters. At first glance, you may be tempted to conclude that this passage has no relevance for today. This would be a mistake. As we will see, there is a direct application which can be made to employee/employer relationships.
It is interesting to know that the Roman Empire is estimated to have had as many as 60 million slaves. It is also estimated that from one-third to one-half of the populations of large cities like Ephesus and Rome were slaves. Just as Philemon in the Colossian church was a master, some in the Ephesian church were also masters.
It is true that many slaves were horribly mistreated. In many cases they were considered as property. Aristotle, in his Nicomachian Ethics refers to a slave as “a living tool.” Gaius, the Roman lawyer, confirmed the right under Roman law that a slave could be bought and sold and was not a legal person. In the Institutes he says, that “…it is universally accepted that the master possesses the power of life and death over the slave.”
Even though many slaves were mistreated, there is evidence that, by the time of the Christian era, changes had been introduced. In the First Century, under Roman law, many slaves were being set free. In fact, Augustus Caesar was so concerned about it that he introduced legal restrictions to stop the trend. Slaves, even while they remained the possession of their masters, could own property --- including other slaves. Slaves were used in all kinds of jobs. The Romans delegated almost all work to them. A slave could be a teacher, doctor, or administrator. From custodian to C.E.O., slaves were the backbone of society. In the Hebrew society, slaves had even more rights, including the right to be set free in the seventh year. In many respects, the position of bond servant could be compared with that of employee today. There are some significant differences, but there are some important similarities. The position of master could also be compared with that of employers.