Ephesians 6:5 Slaves, obey your earthly masters with respect and fear, and with sincerity of heart, just as you would obey Christ.
I frequently quote the verse ahead of this in relation to parenting, as part of my faith declarations, but this verse can come as a gut punch! This and the several verses that follow deal with slavery as an accepted social institution, a part of “things as they are.” It’s not that slavery was thought of as a good thing, and it’s not at all that the abolitionist movement, and William Wilberforce in England, were at all unbiblical, whatever some in the US South insisted. However, the 1st Century was not when God chose to deal with that issue. The application today of the various passages, like this one, that address slavery is to employment relationships. Some of them can feel like slavery! (I need to include a caveat here that this does NOT apply to the current scourge of human trafficking. Yesterday’s reading is what applies there.) Paul’s words to slaves show the extent to which we are to be devoted to Christ. When we relate to others in authority over us as we relate to Christ, we will be independent but not rebellious. This section of Scripture sounds like a lot of employers would love to adapt it for their employee manuals! When we submit to others not because we fear their retribution but out of respect for Christ, amazing things can happen. I have heard various testimonies to that effect. A Biblical example is Joseph, the son of Jacob. He was literally a slave for a while, but his relationships to people were governed by his relationship to God. That got him into trouble when he refused immorality, but it eventually got him promoted to Prime Minister. We too are to refuse immorality, regardless of the consequences, but a sincere Christian is going to be an ideal employee.
I have had various jobs over the years, with good bosses and not so good. The only time I’ve ever been fired was when I really didn’t fit the company culture. (I honestly can’t think of another reason.) I have crossed swords with some bosses, and one such incident resulted in financial loss for me, but God turned it around for good, and I ended up with a good relationship with that person. Japanese employment situations can often feel like slavery to Americans, and the employment dynamics can seem strange. That’s all the more reason to apply what Paul says to slaves, not “slavishly” obeying your boss but doing what is asked, within moral bounds, as service to Christ even more than as service to your boss. For example, I’ve been to lots of bars with my boss, without drinking alcohol myself. Right now I am employed, but there is no one who gives me orders, which is nice. I am to relate to everyone as a reflection of my relationship to Christ, so that His presence in me by His Spirit may draw them to Him, for their salvation and His glory.
Father, looking back over the years, You have really been gracious to me in my employment situations. Thank You. Help me indeed serve You in all things, whoever else is involved in the process. Thank You. Praise God!