Summary: Understanding that stress and incivility on the job lead to poorer health, and knowing that both are on the rise, how do we transform our workplaces?

“Building Quality Relationships: With Workers - Transform Your Workplace”

Eph. 6:5-9

Your job might be killing you—literally. More specifically, strained relationships with co-workers could be negatively impacting your health and longevity. That's the conclusion of a 20-year study conducted by researchers at Tel Aviv University. They examined the relationship between the workplace and a person's risk of death. In 1988 the researchers recruited 820 adults and asked them detailed questions about their workplace conditions. At the start of the study the participants ranged in age from 25 to 65 and they worked in a variety of careers.

For the next 20 years the researchers tracked the participants. By 2008, 53 of the workers had died. The study found that those who died were significantly more likely to have reported a hostile work environment. Surprisingly, the greatest source of stress came from the employees' co-workers, not their bosses. The workers who reported little or no social support from their co-workers were 2.4 times more likely to die during the 20-year study than those who said they had supportive bonds with their co-workers. The article concluded that the findings "add evidence that having a supportive social network decreases stress and helps foster good health."

Unfortunately, the same article noted another 2011 survey that provided evidence that workplaces are becoming less supportive and less civil. The American Psychology Association study found that 86 percent of nearly 300 workers surveyed reported incivility at their job, including rudeness, bad manners, and insults. (1) So how do we transform our workplaces? The apostle Paul sheds some light.

He wrote, first, that THERE IS A MANDATE. Ephesians 6:5 -“Slaves, obey your earthly masters…” To fully understand this mandate, we need to understand THE CONCEPT OF SLAVERY IN PAUL’S DAY. Tim Keller has shared interesting historical insight that is extremely helpful. (2) Slavery in the Greco Roman cultures of the New Testament is more like indentured servanthood. It's not what we think of as slavery. When we see the word "slave" in the Bible, we immediately think of 17th, 18th, and 19th century New World slavery: race-based, African slavery. When we do that, when we read it through those blinders, we aren't understanding what the Bible's teaching.

Historian Murray Harris in his book about slavery the 1st century Greco-Roman world, says that in Greco-Roman times, number one, slaves were not distinguishable from anyone else by race, speech, or clothing. They looked and lived like everyone else and were never segregated off from the rest of society in any way. Number two, in many cases slaves were more educated than their owners and many times held high managerial positions. Number three, from a financial standpoint, slaves made the same wages as free laborers and therefore were not usually poor and often accrued enough personal capital to buy themselves out. Number four, very few persons were slaves for life in the first century. Most expected to be manumitted after about ten years or by their late thirties at the latest. That is quite different from the slavery that plagued America for so many years.

So the point is that when we hear somebody say, "The Bible condones slavery," we can say, "No it doesn't—not the way you and I define 'slavery.' It's not talking about that." So Paul’s words apply to all workers in the employ of someone else. And, as elsewhere, Paul says WE ARE TO OBEY AUTHORITY. Paul talks about obeying authority in government, in the church, in the family, and, here, in the workplace.

What a message for our day, when there is such a need for respect for authority. AUTHORITY PROMOTES ORDER – even in heaven by the way! This emphasis on authority is not a new thing but applied in new way – in the workplace. Wherever you work, whatever you do, whatever your job remember your place in the order. Be obedient. That’s the mandate.

Secondly, Paul points out that THERE IS A MINDSET. There are three components in this mindset. Number one is INTEGRITY. “Obey your earthly masters with respect and fear, and with sincerity of heart…” Notice the attitude: Respect, fear, sincerity. It means to work and labor on your job with undivided attention and effort. Give it all you have. Work not with your eye focused solely to impress or gain the favor of people – your boss or coworkers. GIVE IT ALL YOU HAVE BECAUSE THAT IS THE RIGHT THING TO DO. Give it all you have not only when watched but at all times. It’s a matter of integrity.

Kevin Miller wrote about an experience of one of his friends. Joe was an executive who did a lot of business traveling. One day when Joe was on a flight, he commented to himself that he could not believe the flight crew. They were the most attentive, responsive flight crew that he’d ever seen. So, toward the end of the flight, he stopped one of the flight crew members and said, "Excuse me, I don't mean to bother you, but I fly a lot, and I have never seen a flight crew this. You are the most engaged, enthusiastic, service-oriented flight crew that I've ever seen." The flight attendant got a little smile on her face as she bent down and whispered to Joe, "Thank you, sir, but for that you can thank the woman seated back there in 12B." She paused, nodded her head slightly towards seat 12B, and continued: "You see, sir, the woman in seat 12B is the head supervisor for all of the flight attendants for our airlines. And she's on our flight!" (3) Understanding that Jesus is in our midst through our employers and bosses profoundly changes the way we serve other people.

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