Summary: Servanthood

SERVANTS, SIBLINGS AND SONS (1 TIMOTHY 6:1-2)

Here’s what the internet has to say about “a good worker”:

A good worker is never neglectful of his duty.

A good worker is never overpaid.

A good worker is never late, nor is he early; he arrives precisely

A good worker is not enough; one must also be team player and share camaraderie with colleagues.

Losing a good worker is not only a loss for the company, but it is also expensive.

A good worker is not a good worker if he does not have good tools.

The mark of a good worker is really the attitude and not the aptitude.

A good worker is one who knows his/her job and delivers results - needing not much of supervision.

A good worker is a fresh worker.

The estimates of the percentage of the population of Italy who were slaves in the 1st century BC range from 30 to 40 percent, upwards of two to three million slaves in Italy by the end of the 1st century BCE, about 35% to 40% of Italy's population. For the Empire as a whole, the slave population has been estimated at just under five million, representing 10-15% of the total population of 50-60 million+ inhabitants. An estimated 49% of all slaves were owned by the elite, who made up less than 1.5% of the Empire's population. About half of all slaves worked in the countryside; the remainder the other half were a significant percentage 25% or more in towns and cities as domestics and workers in commercial enterprises and manufacturers. (Wikipedia, “Slavery in Ancient Rome”)

For some, the workplace is a location. For others, it is a livelihood. For many others, it is nothing more than labor. No matter how you define it, the workplace or the marketplace is not going away soon. There will always be employers and employees, chief and commoner, the masters and their masses.

What do you with a demanding employer and a disgruntled employee? Is there a line of harmony and hospitality between both? What if only one side is a believer, and what if both the parties are believers?

CHANGE YOUR MIND

1 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. (1 Timothy 6:1)

A monastery was going through a time of crisis. Some of the monks had left the monastery; no new candidates joined them in years; and people were no longer coming for prayer and spiritual direction as they used to. The few monks that remained became old, depressed and bitter in their relationship with one another. But, the abbot heard about a holy man; a hermit living alone in the woods and decided to consult him. He told the hermit how bad things had become and that only seven old monks remained. Praying on this, the hermit told the abbot that he has a secret for him: one of the monks currently living in his monastery was actually the Messiah, but He was living in such a way that no one could recognize Him.

With this revelation the abbot returned to his monastery, and recounted what the holy hermit told him to the community. The aging monks looked at each other in disbelief, trying to discern who among them could be the Christ. The abbot reminded them that the Messiah had adopted some bad habits as a way of disguising His true identity.

From that day the monks began to treat one another with greater respect and humility, knowing that the person they were speaking to could, in fact, be Christ. They began to show more love for one another, their common life became more brotherly and their common prayer more fervent. Slowly people began to take notice of the new spirit in the monastery and began coming back for retreats and spiritual direction. Word began to spread and, before you know it, candidates began to show up and the monastery began to grow again in number as the monks grew in zeal and holiness. http://afriarslife.blogspot.hk/2011/12/messiah-is-among-you.html

The word “worthy” is translated as “meet” (Matt 3:8) and “due reward” (Luke 23:41). Worthy implies reasonable, regular and rightful respect. “Full respect” is honor (time), or “price” (Matt 27:6), including worth or merit of dignity, duty, directions – including the master’s authority administration and accommodation. This attitude and approach go a long way to maintain, mediate and mend any tension or trouble they have.

The imperative verb “consider” is weak, with its 50-50 possibility of happening or fulfillment. It is translated stronger and stricter elsewhere as think (Acts 26:2), esteem (Phil 2:3), suppose (Phil 2:25), judge (Heb 11:11), count (2 Peter 2:13) and account (2 Peter 3:15). It implies hold in high regard, to respect, recognize and reassure them, and not to react, retaliate or reduce them in your eyes.

The hina subjunctive is “slander,” but other translations are blaspheme (Matt 9:3), revile (Matt 27:39), rail (Mark 15:29), and speak evil (Titus 3:2). Slander or blaspheme means to speak falsely, frequently and flippantly about a person. It is to defame, demean and denigrate, causing horror, humor or humiliation to others. It is faulty and not factual criticism, contempt and crudeness. To be blasphemed implies to be blamed, belittled and badmouthed.

The surprise in the end is that the one who suffered the most is not the servant or his master but God, His name and teaching or “doctrine” in Greek. Bosses and bystanders would end up debating, doubting and discounting the name of God and His teaching.

CHECK YOUR EYES

2 Those who have believing masters should not show them disrespect just because they are fellow believers. (1 Timothy 6:2)

Pope Francis once had a scathing criticism of some members of his own church: “It is a scandal to say one thing and do another. That is a double life. There are those who say, ‘I am very Catholic, I always go to mass, I belong to this and that association. Some of these people should also say “‘my life is not Christian, I don’t pay my employees proper salaries, I exploit people, I do dirty business, I launder money, [I lead] a double life. There are many Catholics who are like this and they cause scandal,” he said. “How many times have we all heard people say ‘if that person is a Catholic, it is better to be an atheist’.”

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/feb/23/pope-francis-better-to-be-atheist-than-hypocritical-catholic

Of course nothing is worse than being an atheist, but a hypocritical Christian is not far behind.

The second category is “believing masters.” The imperative is “disrespect” or “despise,” in KJV. Blaspheme is usually with the tongue, but despise is with the mind (phroneo). The English meaning of “despise” means to deplore, dislike and detest, but the Greek version of despise (kataphroneo) is derived from the prefix “kata,” which means down or against, denoting opposition, and “phroneo” is to think or opine, conclude. It implies to diminish, downsize, demote, downgrade, disgrace or deprecate a person.

Believing slaves could have a changed mindset and motivation. They could reason in their mind: Why did my believing master not rescue me, release me, or reward me? In the workplace a Christian might question the same thing: Why did my believing boss not praise me, promote me or protect me? The mind games make the servant or employee lower his regard for his master or employer, lose his focus on the job, lock the person in a mental jail.

There is a clarification (hoti), that they are brothers. “Brothers” means we are family, we are siblings, and we are children of the same God. In Christ, a boss is transformed into a brother, a slave into a sibling, and managers into ministers of God. A brother does not have to have the same bloodline, surname or features. A brother in the Lord crosses culture and class, age or authority, birth and background.

CORRECT YOUR ATTITUDE

2 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. (1 Timothy 6:2)

At a cafeteria near our home there used to be a pleasant young man by the name of Kit, who was outstanding as a barista, employee and supervisor,. Whenever my wife ordered a bagel, he would prepare the bagel my wife liked it – slice the bagel lying flat on the counter on its belly into two, toast both ends, then sliced the bagel two times more to make it eight pieces, so my wife can enjoy it in little pieces like a dip. Whenever Doris ordered a mocha, he would carve a heart or an animal cream figure at the top. No employee who followed since he left could offer the same special service.

Serve means to attend, assist, and answer to them, not necessarily to appease, amuse or admire them. It means to be present, pleasant and proven at work. The servant is to be able, available, approachable, accountable, and admirable in his or her task. The risk in serving is that others might take advantage of you and take you for granted, talk down on you and treat you like dirt.

A good worker, while not afraid his boss, is never argumentative or antagonistic either. A spiteful, scornful or slothful employee delivers no service to his master, nor draws any sympathy or sentiment from the master.

The phrase “even better” is missing in Greek, so we do not have to pile more pressure and tasks on poor servants.

Believing masters are faithful, beloved and partakers (KJV). Partakers is translated as help (Luke 1:54), support (Acts 20:35) and partaker (1 Tim 6:2). Benefit is good work. They are faithful, family and fellow workers. We are united in the Lord, in His love and in His labor. He is a genuine believer, a godly person and a good coworker. Both servant and master are sons of God, saved by the Lord and sealed by the Spirit.

Conclusion: The real workplace or marketplace is wrought with many challenges, contradictions and choices. There are believing and unbelieving bosses, colleagues or subordinates. Some unbelievers are respectable bosses and workers, while some believers are rotten bosses and workers. There is no easy solution to the master and slave or employer and employee relationship. A believer’s mission at the workplace is not to slave at work but to share the Lord; not to work for your boss but to witness to the Lord; not to bask in glory but to give glory to God. Finally, no matter our status or specialty, our purpose at work is not to strengthen, survive or sabotage the system, but to serve the Lord.