Summary: Make God your Boss! At work, making God your boss will keep you out of unhealthy power struggles, make work more rewarding, and help you treat others with respect.
IN CHRIST, I AM…WORKING FOR GOD Ephesians 6:5-9
On a scale of 1 to 10, how would you rate the atmosphere where you work? Is everyone treated with respect? Are workers valued not only for what they do, but also as people whose lives matter? Are employees fully engaged in their work, giving their best efforts, with a positive attitude? Are people encouraged and affirmed when they do their best?
Maybe you are thinking, “I wish it could be that way, but you haven’t met my boss.” Or, if you are the boss, you are thinking, “It is really hard to motivate my employees, without being the bad guy.” Or maybe it is not the boss or the people you supervise, but negative, even nasty attitudes that poison the work environment.
If you work for yourself, you don’t have those problems, but you may have other problems. You have to deal with customers or clients, advisors or bankers, regulators or suppliers. You have to satisfy the toughest boss in the world: yourself. There is nobody to say, “You did good.”
Work can be rewarding, and working with people can be fulfilling. Yet, sometimes the workplace can be unhealthy, even toxic. There might be power struggles. There might be unfair systems of recognition and reward, where the contributions of many are not valued. There might be rampant disrespect, with bosses treating “the peons” like dirt, and employees undercutting those above them at every opportunity.
The Apostle Paul wrote the letter of Ephesians to people working in a degrading social system. Slavery was common, and masters had ultimate authority over their slaves. The system was inherently unfair, and an affront to human dignity.
In a perfect world, every person would be free. Paul told slaves that if they could gain their freedom, they should do so (1 Cor. 7:21). In a similar vein, if you are in a toxic work environment, and you can change jobs, you might want to do that.
Yet the world is not perfect. You might not be able to move to a healthier work environment. Paul recognized that the system of slavery in his time would not change any time soon. Meanwhile, there were slaves and masters in the church. How should they live as Christians, in their work environment? How could being “in Christ” transform the workplace?
Read Ephesians 6:5-9.
The clear message of this text, for both slaves and masters, is to MAKE GOD YOUR BOSS. Paul says it in every verse. (Note to pastor: Project these verses if you can, and highlight the phrases.)
Ephesians 6:5-9 “Slaves, obey your earthly masters with respect and fear, and with sincerity of heart, JUST AS YOU WOULD OBEY CHRIST. Obey them not only to win their favor when their eye is on you, but AS SLAVES OF CHRIST, DOING THE WILL OF GOD from your heart. Serve wholeheartedly, as if you were SERVING THE LORD, not people, because you know that the Lord will reward each one for whatever good they do, whether they are slave or free. And masters, treat your slaves in the same way. Do not threaten them, since you know that HE WHO IS BOTH THEIR MASTER AND YOURS IS IN HEAVEN, and there is no favoritism with him.
HOW WILL MAKING GOD YOUR BOSS TRANSFORM HOW YOU WORK?
1. MAKING GOD YOUR BOSS WILL KEEP YOU OUT OF UNHEALTHY POWER STRUGGLES.
Power struggles are not usually about exercising legitimate authority. When the lines of authority are clear, the organization runs smoothly, and people thrive.
Most power struggles are about personal power and control: Who is “The Big Dog?” They are often about petty things: Who gets their way, who wins the argument, or who gets the most people to agree with them.
Paul was writing to slaves and masters, and he did not challenge the relationship of authority or power between them. He was concerned about HOW they dealt with authority.
To slaves, Paul said, (literal translation), “Obey your fleshly masters with fear and trembling…” That is, accept the reality of the situation. The master has authority and power, and you can’t change that. What you can change is your attitude. So Paul goes on to say, “Obey…in singleness [or generosity] of your heart, as to Christ.” Don’t give grudging obedience, doing the bare minimum to satisfy the demands of your boss; respect the authority of your boss, and get on board.
There might be situations at work where you simply have to accept that the boss is the boss, and you must fall in line. Your only choice will be your attitude. Some workers have a surly attitude, or they mock the boss when he is not around, or they do only the bare minimum, hoping to make the boss look bad. The only thing they accomplish is making the workplace unpleasant.