Summary: There is mutual responsibility in the relationship between employers and employees
Series Title - “The Value of Work”
Sermon Title - “The Employer, Employee Relationship.”
Donovan W. Myers
Rosemount Missionary Church
Over the last few weeks we have been trying to develop some ideas around “the value of work.” In the first instance we established the principle that work is a gift given us by God in the creation. It is through this gift that we actualize our true potential. We made three points. We said that to be a worker is to be Godlike - since we are made in the image of God and since God is a worker, then we should be workers in order to demonstrate our Godlikeness. Also, we said that to be a worker is to be Fulfilled - what gives us true self worth and satisfaction is the sense that we can participate in our own destiny and provide for our own needs; lastly, we said that to be a worker is to be Balanced . As God established work, He established the principle of rest. As we obey his desire for us to both work and rest, we develop positive balance in our lives.
Last week we made the point that stealing is not a viable alternative for work. This is so for three reasons. Firstly, Stealing goes against the heart of our faith. Secondly, Stealing robs man of his dignity. Thirdly, Stealing denies man the opportunity to serve his brethren.
Today we move away from the fact of work to look at the relationships involved in the workplace. So we look at the relationship between the employer and the employee. Hear what Paul says about this to the Christians at Ephesus in Ephesians 6:5-9.
Servants, be obedient to them that are your earthly masters, with respect and fear in sincerity as unto Christ; not only when their eyes are on you because you want to please them; but as servants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart. Do your service as unto the Lord and not to men; knowing that whatever good thing any man does, he will receive the same of the Lord whether he be bond or free. And you masters, do the same things unto them. Do not threaten them; knowing that your master also is in heaven; and he does not show favoritism.
As you read this passage, some things must be borne in mind. (1) There is an Equality in Responsibility. The jobs and expectations are not necessarily and all the same, there is obviously positional difference, but both employer and employee have responsibilities towards each other. No one is left out. Therefore, wether you work for someone or you have someone working for you, you have a responsibility to them.
(2) There is an Emphasis on Personal Responsibility. Notice that in Paul’s instructions, more time is spent talking about the employee’s side. This is so, not only because it is equalized by the blanket statement made in verse 9 which says “...masters, treat your slaves in the same way...”, but also because Paul’s audience is made up of mostly employees. So you notice that when the Bible speaks, it always comes down to my responsibility. Even when it speaks to large groups, it always comes back to personal duties and individual responsibilities. So here, Paul places the onus squarely on the shoulders of his listeners.
(3) There is an Extreme Use of Terms when Defining the Responsibilities. The terms Slaves and Master are used. A Slave is a bondman or a man of servile condition. A Master is a lord, one who has control of a person. The terms seem very harsh and drastic to be used. At a glance it may seem as they are legitimizing the owning of slaves by masters. This is not Paul’s burden. He is speaking in the context of a reality which faced his audience. So the harsh terms “Slave” and “Master” must be understood with the following in mind
(a) they are specific to the culture, the fact of masters and slaves was commonplace and acceptable; so that even in an evil situation, their is place for Christian responsibility;
(b) it was the situation which most closely equates our employer-employee relationship today;
(c) the sharpness in distinction in the terms (master and slave) makes it even more striking when they are both told to treat each other the same way. The fact that the responsibility to each other is the same, recognizes their difference in position, but their sameness in Christ.
How then should we understand what Paul says about how those who work must behave towards those for whom they work, and vice versa? Two principles are suggested which both Employers and Employees must apply to the carrying out of their duties and in relating with one another.