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Working For Christ

"Slaves, be obedient to those who are your masters according to the flesh, with fear and trembling, in the sincerity of your heart, as to Christ; not by way of eye-service, as people-pleasers, but as slaves of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart. With goodwill render service, as to the Lord, and not to people, knowing that whatever good thing each one does, he will receive this back from the Lord, whether slave or free.And masters, do the same things to them, and give up threatening, knowing that both their Master and yours is in heaven, and there is no partiality with Him."
Good Morning Beloved,
Welcome to worship this Lord's Day!
We're glad you're here

We live in a culture that is generally struggling with the concept of work. We prefer leisure. We enjoy being entertained. We are being told, as young people growing up today, that somebody owes us a living, that we should make demands for what we want and what we expect and if we make enough noise, we'll receive it. We’re producing a generation of young people who don't even want to see their parents work because if their are working parents, it’s outside the home.

And while the parents are busy working, in most cases to make money, the young people are being raised by a generation telling them that the most important thing in life is leisure and entertainment. And with that lazy culture comes drugs and alcohol and sexual immorality. We can only speculate what will become of the next generation.

In fact, in 1977, country singer Johnny Paycheck recorded the single "Take This Job and Shove It." The chorus of that song began and ended with these well-known words:

"Take this job and shove it, I ain’t working here no more."

Apparently, that song really struck a nerve with people, becoming his best-selling record, with over 2 million copies sold and inspiring a movie with the same title.

A February 2007 report by the Conference Board found that Americans are growing increasingly unhappy with their jobs. Today, less than half of all Americans say they are satisfied with their jobs, down from 61 percent just twenty years ago. Although the rate of dissatisfaction is highest among workers under 25 years old and among those who earn under $15,000 per year, as we might expect, what is really surprising is that even among older and higher paid workers the rate of job satisfaction barely exceeds 50 percent.

It's a vicious cycle you see. The employer wants more profit; the employer wants more wages. So, the government prints more money to try to accommodate everybody, therefore, the money is worth less. And people spend more than they make, consequently putting themselves in serious debt, continuing to drive up inflation, creating all sorts of problems. And then when people don’t earn enough to pay for their debts, they demand more money. Eventually the employers cave-in under the pressure, pay more money and that raises the prices of products and so the people who wanted more money to start with wind up paying more money for everything they buy. So the government tries to step in and control, and in order for them to do that, they raise the taxes and so we have less money. And so the whole thing spirals out of control.

Do you see it? The sin of greed and selfishness, our love of money is the root of all kinds of evil. Money in and of itself, isn't evil, it's man's obsession with it that is the problem.

Beloved, this is certainly not the plan God has for His children.

Look at Ecclesiastes 5:18-19, "Here is what I have seen to be good: it is appropriate to eat, drink, and experience good in all the labor one does under the sun during the few days of his life God has given him, because that is his reward. 19 God has also given riches and wealth to every man, and He has allowed him to enjoy them, take his reward, and rejoice in his labor. This is a gift of God"

Let us bow our heads.

Heavenly Father,

Thank You for the clear instruction in Your Word. Help us to be hardworking, faithful, loyal, loving, unselfish, sacrificial Spirit-filled people, whether employers or employees. We pray that You would bless those families who are raising the children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord, who want to honor You, and obey You. Help us to raise up a godly generation.

We pray for those who work and for those who employ them, that Christ might be honored in the workplace. May it all be for Your glory.
In Jesus' name

Today's Message: Working For Christ

If we are to have right relationships, whether husband and wife, whether parent and child, whether employer and employee, we must come to understand that at the foundation of those relationships, is a mutual submission and obedience to the Lord. A wife should be submissive to her husband, though he’s not perfect. A husband should submit himself, all of his strength, all of his capacities and all that he has to offer for the meeting of the needs of his wife, both physical and spiritual. Children should submit themselves to the care of their parents, and parents should submit themselves to the process of rearing their children and giving their children what is best and what is going to lead them to the knowledge of God in Christ. And the same is true in the workplace. 

Open your Bibles with me to the book of Ephesians. As we continue of our journey of this wonderful epistle, we come to a section of the Word, which I believe is very needed in our world today. Here the apostle Paul gives us very clear instruction about employer/employee relationships. I would like to encourage you to follow along with me as I read to you from this marvelous truth in Ephesians 6:5-9.

"Slaves, be obedient to those who are your masters according to the flesh, with fear and trembling, in the sincerity of your heart, as to Christ; not by way of eye-service, as people-pleasers, but as slaves of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart. With goodwill render service, as to the Lord, and not to people, knowing that whatever good thing each one does, he will receive this back from the Lord, whether slave or free. And masters, do the same things to them, and give up threatening, knowing that both their Master and yours is in heaven, and there is no partiality with Him."
In verse 5, Paul writes "Slaves, be obedient to those who are your masters according to the flesh, with fear and trembling, in the sincerity of your heart, as to Christ." 
What Paul is saying here is, The worker submits to the one who is over him. The one who is over him, the employer, exercises a kind of submission in that he seeks the very best for his employee. I'd like to add as a footnote, this is all workable if you submit to the control of the Holy Spirit. This is the work of the Spirit of God, and it certainly should manifest itself and likely will only manifest itself among those who follow God’s pattern, those who belong to Jesus Christ.
I know that for many of you, the reaction may be that Paul isn’t addressing our work at all in this passage. He’s writing here about the relationship between slaves and masters. However, we must first understand the nature of slavery in the Greco-Roman world in which Paul lived. 
Most of us get our ideas about slavery from our study of slavery in the United States where slaves were kidnapped from Africa and brought here to the United States where they were forced to work for their masters, quite often under cruel and harsh conditions. There are some who would say the Bible is an advocate of slavery and therefore is to be rejected. But the slavery in the Greco-Roman world of Paul was much different.

In the Roman Empire there may have been as many as sixty million slaves, with somewhere between one-third and one-half of the population in some form of servitude. In some areas of Asia Minor, slaves actually outnumbered freemen.

Initially, most slavery resulted from conquest in war, where the vanquished foes were forced into slavery by the Greeks, and later the Romans. Others became slaves as a result of incurring a debt and they were forced into slavery in order to pay their debt. Jesus refers to that kind of slavery in several of His parables. Still others were born into slavery. Although some forms of slavery, such as rowing on a ship or working in the mines, did involve poor working conditions and harsh treatment, this was not the normal circumstance for most slaves.

In fact, nearly all labor was performed by slaves, even those tasks that we would consider to be desk jobs like teachers and tutors, secretaries and personal advisors. Most slaves were actually members of the household and the law required the masters to provide them with food, clothing and shelter. 
And in many cases, slaves could even save up money and buy their freedom. Paul alludes to that practice in I Corinthians 7. Although masters had absolute authority over their slaves, there were some laws, though quite inadequate, that did provide penalties for mistreating slaves. Nonetheless, slaves had absolutely no rights before the law, evidenced by the fact that they could not even marry.
For most slaves, the best that could be hoped for, was to be owned by a good master, to stay in his good graces and one day earn enough money or favor to gain his freedom and become a citizen of Rome.

That was the lot of many of Paul’s readers. We know from historical records that the early church primarily consisted of those from the lower classes, many of whom would have been in some form of slavery. And from what we know of slavery in Paul’s day, we really don’t have to make any kind of stretch at all to apply what Paul wrote to our jobs today, since most of them aren’t all that different in many respects from the relationship between slave and masters in the first century.

Before we get too deeply into our text, I'd like to remind of Paul's words in Ephesians 5:21, "and subject yourselves to one another in the fear of Christ." This is the general principal that must be applied to our relationships. Paul first applied this principle to the relationship between husbands and wives, and then to parents and children. He is now going to wrap up this section of his letter by applying that same principle to the relationship between masters and slaves, or as we'll do today, to employers and employees. Slavery, like any employment relationship, was both good and bad depending on the character of the people involved. 

Today, we have many grievances today without slavery. My point in saying this is, slavery was not the overall issue. There are good employers and bad employers. Good employees and bad employee. Employment today, like slavery in Paul's day, could either be profitable and beneficial, or a form of evil oppression. In the same manner, there are employees that work hard, who don't spend their time trying to keep from doing their assigned duties. And there are those who steal the credit for others work, stepping on the backs of others to gain a promotion etc.  

Throughout the Old Testament, particularly Exodus and Leviticus, which state how a slave was to be cared for, to be treated and protected. Exodus 21:16, "He who kidnaps a man, whether he sells him or he is found in his possession, shall surely be put to death." The form of slavery that existed in the Old Testament, was regulated by God’s laws of kindness and care, and slaves were to be protected like children, and they were to be cared for like family members. To be perfectly clear, I certainly do not advocate or defend any of the abuses that occurred within modern slavery.

In the New Testament, Slavery was a workable system. It was a system of employment in which the employer in many cases literally took over the care of his employee. It was like a company store where housing and food and all the care was granted by the employer. We have much of that today where employers provide a salary, they provide an insurance policy, they provide a retirement fund, they provide medical care, all of those kinds of things, everything short of providing the actual housing while at the same time paying the employee enough so that he can provide his own housing.

As followers of Jesus is that we have a tendency to compartmentalize our lives. On one hand we have our “spiritual” lives which consist of reading the Bible, praying and going to church. Then we put everything else in the “secular” category – our families, our hobbies, our entertainment and leisure, and, most pertinent to our discussion this morning, our jobs. How many times have you either said or heard someone else say something like this: "I’d really like to serve God, but I have to spend so much time on my secular job."

But by the way Paul weaves Jesus throughout his instructions concerning work, he makes it very clear that we can’t separate our work from our relationship with Jesus. You’ll remember that Paul did exactly the same thing when he wrote about marriage and about the relationship between parents and children. There should be no area of our lives that is not impacted through and through by our relationship with Jesus. In other words there is no area of our lives that is really "secular." And that is certainly true of our work.

So in verse 6 Paul says, "not by way of eye-service, as people-pleasers, but as slaves of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart."

Paul makes it clear that if we really want to love our jobs, then the key is making every day "Take Jesus to Work Day." And I’m convinced that if we could learn to do that, Jesus would radically transform our work and the way we view it. The right behavior, perspective, the right attitude, the right commitment, the right motive, and the right diligence. You do it not by way of eye-service. In other words, putting on a show while the boss is watching or when it’s time for somebody to come and evaluate you or the month that’s just before pay increases.  

Then, in verse 7 he writes, "With goodwill render service, as to the Lord, and not to people," In other words, with literally a ready mind. "as to the Lord and not to men,"  With the right eagerness. In other words, I’m not just reluctantly willing to do this. I’m just going to grit my teeth and try to pull it off.
Although much of what Paul writes is directed toward the proper behavior, he is much more concerned with the heart behind the action. So let’s look at how taking Jesus to work ought to impact our mind-set.

When I honor my earthly boss, I also honor Jesus. Paul commanded slaves to obey their earthly masters with respect and fear. He also says that they are to work as if they were slaves of Christ Himself because that results in doing the will of God from their heart. And we know from the rest of the letter that the will of God he is referring to here is God’s plan to one day bring all things together and restore them in Jesus. So when we treat our earthly bosses with the proper respect, that actually furthers the will of God here on this earth and that obviously brings honor to Jesus.

It’s interesting to note that Paul doesn’t command that kind of respect and fear only towards those masters who were kind and treated their slaves in a considerate manner. All slaves, regardless of their circumstances owed that kind of honor to their masters.

In I Peter 2:18, Peter makes it even clearer: "Servants, be submissive to your masters with all respect, not only to those who are good and gentle, but also to those who are unreasonable."

One of the keys to finding satisfaction in your job is learning to treat your superiors with honor and respect, not because they necessarily deserve it, but because it honors Jesus.

I can serve God wherever I am. Probably a large majority of those who read Paul’s letter were slaves and my guess is that they were looking at Christianity as a way to escape from that slavery. But it is really interesting that Paul never encouraged them to try to escape from their circumstances. In fact, in I Corinthians 7:20 Paul writes, "Each man must remain in that condition in which he was called." Paul is encouraging his readers to realize that they can serve Jesus right where they are. They don’t need to change their circumstances in order to do that.

Certainly one of the best Biblical examples of this principle is the account of Daniel. He served under a number of ungodly kings, but he never tried to escape those circumstances. Instead, he committed to serving God right where he was. So it’s really not surprising to see how Darius addresses Daniel the morning after he was thrown into the lion’s den, in Daniel 6:20. "When he had come near the den to Daniel, he cried out with a troubled voice. The king spoke and said to Daniel, “Daniel, servant of the living God, has your God, whom you constantly serve, been able to deliver you from the lions?"

Its interesting that even the pagan king Darius recognized that Daniel had been serving God constantly all along, right where he was? I believe this is the great message of Christianity to every man is that it is where God has set us that we must live out the Christian life. The circumstances may be against us, but that only makes the challenge greater. Christianity does not offer us escape from our circumstances; it offers us conquest in our circumstances.

Verse 8, "knowing that whatever good thing each one does, he will receive this back from the Lord, whether slave or free." This is truly the greatest incentive of all. I mean, this is the capstone. One may face some significant difficulties in being a slave socially, but God is going to reward you whether you’re slave or free for what you’ve rendered to Him. That’s such a magnificent incentive. Christ is the final pay master. I believe that is what Paul was saying, as Christian was saying, I’m going to wait the day when the final paymaster gives me everything I’ve earned through all the years of service. It's like Jesus says in Revelation 22:12, "Behold, I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me, to render to every man according to what he has done." I believe that's how Paul saw it.

Paul very clearly makes the point that our work actually serves God. I’m convinced that the most significant way that we serve God through our work is by meeting the needs of those he loves. Remember these words of Jesus as He commented on the parable of the talents in Matthew 25:37-40, "When the righteous will answer Him, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry, and feed You, or thirsty, and give You something to drink? And when did we see You a stranger, and invite You in, or naked, and clothe You? When did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’ The King will answer and say to them, ‘Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me."

Jesus spent the better part of the first 30 years of his life working as a carpenter alongside Joseph. By doing so, He demonstrated for His followers the intrinsic value of work. He also served His heavenly Father by serving people who had the need for a place to live by building houses for them.

One of the ways to transform your view of your job is to think about how what you are doing meets the needs of other people. By taking Jesus to work, the first thing that happens is that our mind-set is transformed. And that new mind-set naturally leads to a change in our movement. Although Paul focuses a lot on our mind-set, he also describes how that ought to affect our movement – how we physically carry out our work. Obedience is really the crux of what Paul commands of slaves – they are to obey their masters. He uses the same exact word he used in verse 1 when he commanded children to obey their parents. You’ll remember that it is a word that indicates hearing and then responding positively to what is heard.

As with children’s obedience to their parents, there is obviously a limit to our obedience to our superiors in the workplace. We can never obey an instruction that would cause us to violate a clear command of Scripture. But, as I pointed out before, that exception is likely to occur very rarely and we need to be careful of trying to put words in God’s mouth as a justification for our disobedience.

Paul warns against two specific ways that we can destroy our integrity in the workplace. The first is what he calls "eye-service."  He is addressing those who only work hard while the master is watching and then loaf when he is away. Of course, that is not really relevant in today’s workplace now is it?

Before you just dismiss the practice of eye-service as something only other people do, I want you to think about the time you spend at work checking personal emails and making personal calls, taking long lunch hours, surfing the internet, chatting with fellow employees about last night's episode of your favorite TV show. The point is, as Christians, we should be 100% trustworthy, whether someone is watching what we’re doing or not.

The other practice that Paul warns about is "men-pleasing." In today’s language, we would call this "brown-nosing." And, I'm sure you're all aware of some of the more graphic terms used, but the idea here is that a person works in a way that is designed to make brownie points with the boss, but which is in effect actually an act of disobedience because it goes against the best interests of the company and/or our superiors. That can be anything from saying one thing and doing another, gossiping about other employees in order to make them look bad and ourselves look better, to blowing our own horn. 

But that's not all, there is a further motivation. God will reward everyone, whether slave and free, for whatever good he does in the workplace. Paul is obviously not writing about salvation here, but rather looking forward to that time when all believers will stand before God and give an account of their lives for the purpose of receiving rewards.

Finally then we turn from the servant to the master for one final word in verse 9. "And masters, do the same things to them, and give up threatening, knowing that both their Master and yours is in heaven, and there is no partiality with Him." And masters, do the same things to them.." That just sums it up, doesn’t it? In other words, serve them with honor and respect, serve them sincerely, serve them as if you were serving Jesus Christ. Treat your employees in such a way that will bring an eternal reward. Wow, it can't get much clearer than that!

Colossians 3:23-24, "Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance. It is the Lord Christ whom you serve."

In Closing...

All earthly distinctions are leveled in the presence of the Lord. He's not interested whether you were are slave or a master, God is not impressed with your accomplishments. He is not impressed by your social status or power. What He is interested in is how you treated others.

So whatever you do, do it with this in mind and heart.

May it be so...

And now may the Lord bless you and keep you;

the Lord make His face shine upon you,
And be gracious to you;

The Lord lift up His countenance upon you,
And give you peace.

Now and forever, in Jesus' name

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The Brian Monzon Ministries



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