Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Ephesians 6:5-9 comments: Employers and Employees

5  Servants, be obedient to them that are your masters according to the flesh, with fear and trembling, in singleness of your heart, as unto Christ; 6  Not with eyeservice, as menpleasers; but as the servants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart; 7  With good will doing service, as to the Lord, and not to men: 8  Knowing that whatsoever good thing any man doeth, the same shall he receive of the Lord, whether he be bond or free.

The admonition for servants presumably applies to employees, as well, and since I don’t personally know any bondservants I’m going to apply it that way. Notice that the servant is told to be obedient to their master, “according to the flesh.” Your boss, manager, supervisor, foreman, leadperson, or company owner is not your true head. That is Jesus Christ. You represent Jesus Christ to your saved or unsaved supervisor.

Remember how the wife was to be in submission to her own husband, “as unto the Lord.” Here, the employee is to be in obedience to his or her employer, “as unto Christ.” Now, this presents a quandary in our age of rebellion towards authority (which is really nothing new but has been an underlying trend in Western culture since the Reformation) and hostility between management and labor.

Can you purposefully and singlemindedly give your employer his or her due in the awe and reverence of the Lord? It’s a hard knot to swallow, as are most of the admonitions Paul gives us, and we gladly ignore it like the others because we are carnal, disobedient children of God.

We’re not to do it, just to get by, to stay under the radar, keep a low profile, and all of that, as employees who just want to look good enough to get a raise or a promotion but we are to work for our employer diligently and with dedication.

That being said, should you be working for someone else or should you be working as a self-employed person, a contractor? If you want to be literal Paul gave us instruction to work with our own hands and do our own business.

1Thessalonians 4:11  And that ye study to be quiet, and to do your own business, and to work with your own hands, as we commanded you;

And we are told to be diligent about it.                                       

Romans 12:11a  Not slothful in business;

Paul himself was self-employed as a tent-maker.

 Act 18:1 ¶ After these things Paul departed from Athens, and came to Corinth; 2  And found a certain Jew named Aquila, born in Pontus, lately come from Italy, with his wife Priscilla; (because that Claudius had commanded all Jews to depart from Rome:) and came unto them.

3  And because he was of the same craft, he abode with them, and wrought: for by their occupation they were tentmakers.

So, my advice to a young Christian would be to seek to learn a trade that would permit you to be as independent as possible, under no man’s authority in employment save your customers. If that is not possible then remember, you represent Christ to your employer and the Holy Spirit speaking through the wisdom He has given to Paul has told you how to regard and treat that employer.

God’s wages are sure and He will respond to your faithful service to your employer, done without bitterness or superficial service. In Colossians Paul expounded on this theme even more clearly.

Colossians 3:22  Servants, obey in all things your masters according to the flesh; not with eyeservice, as menpleasers; but in singleness of heart, fearing God: 23  And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men; 24  Knowing that of the Lord ye shall receive the reward of the inheritance: for ye serve the Lord Christ. 25  But he that doeth wrong shall receive for the wrong which he hath done: and there is no respect of persons.

9  And, ye masters, do the same things unto them, forbearing threatening: knowing that your Master also is in heaven; neither is there respect of persons with him.

Christian employers here are told not to be despots, tinhorn dictators who threaten and bully their workers, remembering that you, too, have a Master, your boss in everyday speech today, who you will answer to, in Heaven. In Colossians again we have a clear command.

Colossians 4:1 ¶  Masters, give unto your servants that which is just and equal; knowing that ye also have a Master in heaven.

A Christian employer is constrained to exercise behavior toward his or her employees that is just, right, and fair. He is to treat everyone the same, or equal, with no preferential treatment for any. Cronyism, nepotism, bribes to even get a job, and sexual and physical harassment on the job have been standard in times past particularly after the Industrial Revolution kicked in and people left home en masse to work in factories. Fair pay policies and just treatment of employees are called for, however, with regard to Christian employers.

There are many different theories about what a Christian employer should do with regard to pay. Some say that a Christian employer is only required to pay what is comparable and competitive in his or her industry. So, it’s based on self-interest. What do I need to pay to keep good people? Under that theory the employer’s relationship with the employee does not go beyond the workplace. The employer is not concerned, as an employer, with the employee’s ability to survive physically outside of that.

Others believe that a Christian employer is required to pay what is called a living wage, that is one that can maintain a person in safe housing, decent food, and clothing. This attitude is more comprehensive. This is not possible in some industries or the employer couldn’t stay in business so you have the conflict between paying your employees what they can live on and being able to offer them a job at all.

In the end, whatever the Christian employer feels led to do, he or she must remember that they are answerable to God for their treatment of others, regardless of how much money they give to charity or their church and the question of how much do they really trust God to provide is as applicable to them as it is to their employees.

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