Please turn in your Bibles this morning to Ephesians chapter 6 as we look at harmony in the workplace? I know, it sounds like an oxymoron, but that is because we are approaching this through worldly wisdom, worldly eyes and thus, it does sounds strange. You see, when we think about serving the Lord we tend to think about ministry and that is a wrong concept. We serve the Lord in life, in all that we do, it is not limited to Sunday School, the Usher Ministry, Sound Ministry, Worship Team or whatever it is, our entire life is or should be lived as service unto the Lord.
Richard Foster, in his book Celebration of Discipline, compares self-righteous service to true service in the chapter on Discipline of Service. He tells us:
Self-righteous service comes through human effort.
True service comes from a relationship with the divine Other [Jesus] deep inside.
Self-righteous service is impressed with the big deal.
True service finds it almost impossible to distinguish the small from the large service.
Self-righteous service requires external rewards.
True service rests contented on hiddenness.
Self-righteous service is highly concerned about results.
True service is free of the need to calculate results.
Self-righteous service picks and chooses whom to serve.
True service is indiscriminate in its ministry.
Self-righteous service is affected by moods and whims.
True service ministers simply and faithfully because there is a need.
Self-righteous service is temporary.
True service is a life-style.
Self-righteous service is without sensitivity. It insists on meeting the need even when to do so would be destructive.
True service can withhold the service as freely as perform it.
Self-righteous service fractures community.
True service, on the other hand, builds community.
- Richard Foster, Celebration of Discipline
This morning we are going to examine how employees are to work and how employers are to work. Now, for most of us, we are not working in a Christian environment and so it can be tough. The thing is, that is not the issue, the issue is really you and how you respond to the situations you are in, how you are being treated. What kind of work are you doing based on how you are being treated, what your boss is doing to you? That is going to be the issue and so with that said, lets begin reading in Ephesians chapter 6, starting in verse 5 and see what the Lord has for us in regards to walking in harmony in the work place.
We need to understand who Paul was writing to when he speaks of servants, slaves. In the Roman Empire, in that culture the Romans felt that work was beneath them, beneath their dignity to do it so they had salves to do their work. Within the Roman Empire it has been estimated anywhere from a low of 6 million to a high of 60 million slaves or ½ of the population of the Roman Empire were slaves. And dont think they were treated kindly because, for the most part, they were not even seen as human but just property to their owner!
Aristotle said, For a slave is a living tool, just as a tool is an inanimate salve. Cato as he gave advice to a man who was taking over a farm, said, He must go over it and throw out everything that is past its work; and old slaves too must be thrown out in the scrap heap to starve. When a slave is ill it is sheer extravagance to issue him with normal rations.
That is who Paul was speaking to and now, in spite of all that, Paul tells slaves that they are to be obedient which, in the Greek is in the present tense and it indicates uninterrupted obedience. Obviously Paul is speaking of Christians who were now slaves because this is not natural for man to respond like that. It is only by the Holy Spirit residing inside a person and empowering them to walk in this kind of harmony! You cant do it on your own!
As you read through these four verses on employees there are three things, three reasons why we are to serve our employer in a Christian way. How does that apply to us today, for we are not slaves? It is simple, you see, we can take what Paul is saying to Christian slaves back then and apply it to our lives today. And I believe that is exactly what God wants us to do. The three reasons are: WE SERVE CHRIST, IT IS THE WILL OF GOD, and THE LORD REWARDS US. So lets look at those and see what we can glean from them.
1. WE SERVE CHRIST EPHESIANS 6:5
In our society today we would revolt and say, Slaves, rise up and fight for your freedom. You are free in Christ and you are equal to your master, dont let them oppress you any longer! Destroy the bonds of slavery by overthrowing it at any cost! That is not what Paul did, he just said how slaves, who were Christians, were to work. Now I am not saying slavery was right, nor is Paul. That is not the point. It was just a fact of that period of time and what Paul is saying is that if you are a slave, and you are a Christian, you are to do your best, give it your all!
In fact, our service is to be in sincerity of heart or it is to be real, it is not to be false, or faked! The Latin word speaks of without wax. In that culture, if you made clay pots or sculptured out of stone a piece of art and the dish chipped or the nose fell off the sculpture, you could take some wax and fix them and they would look fine in natural light. The problem came when it sat in the light of the sun and you would then be able to see the cracks and after time the wax would melt and the nose would fall off, the plate would have a chip in it again.
Paul is saying that our service to our employer is to be sincere; it is to be real, because as we serve our employer we are in reality serving the Lord! If that is your perspective, that you are serving the Lord in all you do, that your service at work is done unto Him, then it wont matter the wrongs that are done against you. It wont matter how unfairly, how badly you are treated. It doesnt matter because you ultimately are serving Jesus Christ! It is as Paul said in Colossians 3:23-24, And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance; for you serve the Lord Christ. The Amplified Bible puts it this way, Whatever may be your task, work at it heartily (from the soul), as [something done] for the Lord and not for men, Knowing [with all certainty] that it is from the Lord [and not from men] that you will receive the inheritance which is your [real] reward. [The One Whom] you are actually serving [is] the Lord Christ (the Messiah). You are serving the Lord, dont forget that!
2. IT IS THE WILL OF GOD EPHESIANS 6:6-7
Christians want to know what Gods will is for their lives? Here is one aspect, serve the Lord in your work and do it with your entire being, not halfheartedly! A few years back there was a commercial showing these people in this office having a party, just having a grand old time because their boss was out of town. The place was a mess, a disaster zone but that was not a problem, the boss was gone. You know, when the cat is away the mice will play mentality! That was until he made a phone call to them saying he would be at the office shortly and then you should have seen their faces. From great joy to fear!
For Christians, that should not be our attitude in the workplace. We dont work hard when the boss is around and then, as soon as he is gone, we goof off! That is eye-service, that is trying to please man by making yourself look better than you really are! And think about it, what kind of witness are you showing others if your behavior is one of eye-service only? It is horrible, it is hypocritical, you are acting a part but that is not who you really are! In fact, it would seem that you have a split personality, acting one way when your boss is around and another way when your pastor is around or you are at church! That should not be, we are a new creation in Christ and all that garbage is gone and we are brand new, we have put on Christ! If that is true, then let us walk accordingly!
You see, if things are a mess at work, the boss is out of control, or as someone commented, Hes demon possessed! Maybe many of you feel that way about your boss. But what are you going to do about it? How are you going to respond? People are watching you and you need to do the will of God in this situation. What is Gods will in this situation? Paul tells us it is done with good will doing service or doing your best! Do your job to the best of your ability, not grudgingly or out of compulsion, but cheerfully unto the Lord, it is His will for your life.
Now, let me also say this. If your boss wants you to do something illegal or unethical then you must be obedient to the Lord in this matter, who is over all. It is as Peter said in Acts 5:29, . . . We ought to obey God rather than men. That is the only time we are not to be obedient to our boss!
I do realize that at times it can be unbearable at work, it can seem so unfair but I also think at times we have lost perspective of things. This notice was found in the ruins of a London office building and it is dated 1852. Now if you think you are overworked, over-regulated, under-leisured, under-benefited, listen carefully and take this to heart. We are told:
1. This firm has reduced the hours of work, and the clerical staff will now only have to be present between the hours of 7 a.m. and 6 p.m. weekdays.
2. Clothing must be of a sober nature. The clerical staff will not disport themselves in raiment of bright colors, nor will they wear hose unless in good repair.
3. Overshoes and topcoats may not be worn in the office, but neck scarves and headwear may be worn in inclement weather.
4. A stove is provided for the benefit of the clerical staff. Coal and wood must be kept in the locker. It is recommended that each member of the clerical staff bring four pounds of coal each day during the cold weather.
5. No member of the clerical staff may leave the room without permission from the supervisor.
6. No talking is allowed during business hours.
7. The craving for tobacco, wine, or spirits is a human weakness, and as such is forbidden to all members of the clerical staff.
8. Now that the hours of business have been drastically reduced, the partaking of food is allowed between 11:30 and noon, but work will not on any account cease.
9. Members of the clerical staff will provide their own pens. A new sharpener is available on application to the supervisor.
10. The supervisor will nominate a senior clerk to be responsible for the cleanliness of the main office and the private office. All boys and juniors will report to him 40 minutes before prayers and will remain after closing hours for similar work. Brushes, brooms, scrubber, and soap are provided by the owners.
11. The owners recognize the generosity of the new labor laws, but will expect a great rise in output of work to compensate for these near Utopian conditions.
- Bits & Pieces, May 26, 1994, pp. 13-15
Can you imagine if those conditions existed today, no one would work for a company like that, and yet that was probably the norm for that day and the work was done. Folks, at work, no matter what you are going through, serve your employer with your entire being because it is not only the will of God, but you are also serving the Lord! You shouldnt say, That is not my job! but Praise God for the work and may He get the glory!
3. THE LORD REWARDS US EPHEHSIANS 5:8
How often have you pitched in extra, worked overtime, done a great job, went that extra mile at work and you wait for the Thank you! or the pat on the back, and you wait, and wait and wait and nothing! Im sure it has happened to you many times, everyone of us, maybe even here in this church by me, and I am sorry! But again, we want the praise of men, which is only temporary instead of the rewards from the Lord, which are eternal. Look at how many award shows Hollywood has now, it is unbelievable! We have The Academy Awards, The Peoples Choice Awards, The Golden Globes, the Who Really Cares awards, and-so-on! Why do we have them? People like the praise of men!
Listen to what Jesus had to say in regards to servants and it is far different than you might think. In Luke 17:7-10 He tells us, And which of you, having a servant plowing or tending sheep, will say to him when he has come in from the field, Come at once and sit down to eat? But will he not rather say to him, Prepare something for my supper, and gird yourself and serve me till I have eaten and drunk, and afterward you will eat and drink? Does he thank that servant because he did the things that were commanded him? I think not. So likewise you, when you have done all those things which you are commanded, say, We are unprofitable servants. We have done what was our duty to do. You see, as servants we are to serve and do it joyfully, wholeheartedly unto the Lord and our employer is the one who benefits from our service and God is the one who gets the glory! It is what we are suppose to do and what praise is seen in that, it is our job is the idea!
It is as Peter tells us in I Peter 2:18-21, Servants, be submissive to your masters with all fear, not only to the good and gentle, but also to the harsh. For this is commendable, if because of conscience toward God one endures grief, suffering wrongfully. For what credit is it if, when you are beaten for your faults, you take it patiently? But when you do good and suffer, if you take it patiently, this is commendable before God. For to this you were called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps. Chances are you are not going to get praise from men, you may even be persecuted don-t let that stop you from serving your boss, your employer. Be an example to others.
As I have said, in the end, as we serve the Lord in all our actions, all the work we do, even in the workplace, He will reward us. Jesus said in Revelation 22:12, And behold, I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me, to give to every one according to his work. Also, in Isaiah 40:10-11 we are told, Behold, the Lord GOD shall come with a strong hand, And His arm shall rule for Him; Behold, His reward is with Him, And His work before Him. He will feed His flock like a shepherd; He will gather the lambs with His arm, And carry them in His bosom, And gently lead those who are with young. Folks, this is not our home, we are aliens and strangers, we are just passing through for our citizenship is in heaven with the Lord and He will reward us for faithful service!
There is a story of an elderly missionary couple who were closing out their sacrificial service to the Lord in Africa. After 40 years of service to the Lord they were finally coming home. On the same ship in which they were returning home on was Theodore Roosevelt. It seems that Theodore Roosevelt was coming home after completing a highly successful big game hunt in Africa. As this big ship docked in New York harbor, thousands of people and dozens of reporters came to welcome Roosevelt home. As the couple looked at all these people that came for Theodore Roosevelt they noticed that not a single person came to welcome them home. These missionaries came home silently after 40 years of service with no fan fare or even some recognition.
The couple took a taxi ride to the hotel they would be staying at in New York and the man started complaining to his wife. He said, It just doesnt seem right. We give forty years of our lives to Jesus Christ to win souls in Africa, and no body knows or cares when we return. Yet the president goes over there for a few weeks to kill some animals and the whole world takes notice.
That night, as they prayed together before retiring for the night the Lord spoke to them and said, Do you know why you havent received your reward yet, my children? It is because you are not home yet! May we not forget that! In our relationship with our employer, may we remember that as we work we serve Christ, it is the will of God that we serve with our entire being when our boss is there and when he is not, and ultimately, the Lord rewards us!
Now lets finish up by looking at Christian employers and how they are to treat their employees, for that too is a witness of God in your life, that He is real, that He has impacted your life!
1. SEEKING THE WELFARE OF YOUR EMPLOYEES EPHESIANS 6:9a
Like the servants or employees, the master or boss is to do his job unto the Lord, wholeheartedly and not for the praise of men but out of concern, out of interest for those that are working for them. What a positive impact that would have on employees if their boss showed concern for them.
Ive worked in hospitals for over 25 years now and that is one of the things I try to let management know, it is important for them to be seen, to talk with those who are working for them. I realize that they cant solve every problem; they wont agree with everything that is said, but that doesnt matter, just be there, be involved, show you care. I have seen recently this faked, for show, and it was horrible. I have also seen one hospital I use to work at where management did come by and they talked with you. The head of the hospital would take the time to talk with me, and it was not just superficial, he really cared! It was great!
2. YOU MUST NOT THREATEN EPHESIANS 6:9b
Intimidation, fear, threats dont work, they just make things worse. Of course, as the boss, if there is a problem it must be dealt with and if not rectified there are consequences, that is just the way it is. That is not what Paul is saying here. The idea here is not throwing your weight around, your power. I have seen that recently at work and it is just plain ugly. The intimidation, the threats, people were fearful to say anything at all, people left work crying. That does not cause harmony but chaos! It doesnt have to be that way. Treat your employees with mercy, be kind to them.
3. SUBMITTED TO THE LORD EPHESIANS 6:9c
Dont get too big for your britches. God is still on the throne, He is not sharing it with you and thus, you need to submit to Him, to His control, His will for your life! A boss, or any person for that matter, who is not submitted to the Lord is like a loose cannon ready to explode and it gets messy and it gets ugly. Get your vertical axis with God in line before you enter the workplace and then, as you enter your workplace your horizontal axis with your fellow man will also be in line.
4. DO NOT PLAY FAVORITES EPHESIANS 6:9d
Showing favoritism towards an employee will just make the other employees mad, angry with you. I know it is hard, but try to treat everyone fairly. God does not show partiality or favoritism towards anyone but as His children He treats us the same. It doesnt mean we all get the same promotion, raises, and-so-on but God gives to us as He sees fit. It is right, it is just, it is perfect. Now we are not perfect in all our actions, but seek the Lord, be careful, dont go by feelings, if God doesnt judge with partiality neither should we!
Folks, when this is done, when employees and employers are functioning like this, you know what happens? There is harmony in the workplace! I love the story of Ruth, it is rich and there is one of many verses in this book that blows me away because I would love to see it played out in the workplace today. In Ruth 2:4 we are told, Now behold, Boaz came from Bethlehem, and said to the reapers, The LORD be with you! And they answered him, The LORD bless you! Wouldnt that be cool to go into work and that is what is heard! What we see is the love of God working in both the employees and the employer and they respond to each other in a loving way, a caring way!
As I begin to rap this up this morning, let me share with you this story by H. A. Ironside that shows how our conduct in the workplace affects people in powerful ways. We are told:
When I was a boy, I felt it was both a duty and a privilege to help my widowed mother make ends meet by finding employment in vacation time, on Saturdays and other times when I did not have to be in school. For quite a while I worked for a Scottish shoemaker, or cobbler, as he preferred to be called, an Orkney man, named Dan Mackay. He was a forthright Christian and his little shop was a real testimony for Christ in the neighborhood. The walls were literally covered with Bible texts and pictures, generally taken from old-fashioned Scripture Sheet Almanacs, so that look where one would, he found the Word of God staring him in the face. There were John 3:16 and John 5:24, Romans 10:9, and many more.
On the little counter in front of the bench on which the owner of the shop sat, was a Bible, generally open, and a pile of gospel tracts. No package went out of that shop without a printed message wrapped inside. And whenever opportunity offered, the customers were spoken to kindly and tactfully about the importance of being born again and the blessedness of knowing that the soul is saved through faith in Christ. Many came back to ask for more literature or to inquire more particularly as to how they might find peace with God, with the blessed results that men and women were saved, frequently right in the shoe shop.
It was my chief responsibility to pound leather for shoe soles. A piece of cowhide would be cut to suite, then soaked in water. I had a flat piece of iron over my knees and, with a flat-headed hammer, I pounded these soles until they were hard and dry. It seemed an endless operation to me, and I wearied of it many times.
What made my task worse was the fact that, a block away, there was another shop that I passed going and coming to or from my home, and in it sat a jolly, godless cobbler who gathered the boys of the neighborhood about him and regaled them with lewd tales that made him dreaded by respectable parents as a menace to the community. Yet, somehow, he seemed to thrive and that perhaps to a greater extent than my employer, Mackay. As I looked in his window, I often noticed that he never pounded the soles at all, but took them from the water, nailed them on, damp as they were, and with the water splashing from them as he drove each nail in.
One day I ventured inside, something I had been warned never to do. Timidly, I said, I notice you put the soles on while still wet. Are they just as good as if they were pounded? He gave me a wicked leer as he answered, They come back all the quicker this way, my boy!
Feeling I had learned something, I related the instance to my boss and suggested that I was perhaps wasting time in drying out the leather so carefully. Mr. Mackay stopped his work and opened his Bible to the passage that reads, Whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of god.
Harry, he said, I do not cobble shoes just for the four bits and six bits (50c and 75c) that I get from my customers. I am doing this for the glory of God. I expect to see every shoe I have ever repaired in a big pile at the judgment seat of Christ, and I do not want the Lord to say to me in that day, Dan, this was a poor job. You did not do your best here. I want Him to be able to say, Well done, good and faithful servant.
Then he went on to explain that just as some men are called to preach, so he was called to fix shoes, and that only as he did this well would his testimony count for God. It was a lesson I have never been able to forget. Often when I have been tempted to carelessness, and to slipshod effort, I have thought of dear, devoted Dan Mackay, and it has stirred me up to seek to do all as for Him who died to redeem me.
- H. A. Ironside, Illustrations of Bible Truth, pp. 37-39
What an influence he had on young Ironside. He did his job unto the Lord and he touched many people because of it, touched by the Lord through him. May we, as Christians, do all things in the name of the Lord. May we do things to please Him, to bring glory to Him. It is as Jesus said, in Matthew 5:16, Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven. Thus, as employees, as employers, may our work be glorifying to God, for He sees all and His rewards are with Him when He comes for His Bride, the Church!