Summary: Ephesians 6

“How do you work?”

Ephesians 6:5-9

Turn with me this morning to Ephesians 6, as we continue on in our study of the book of Ephesians. Remember this is a book written to Christians at Ephesus,

which was the capital of where?

(Asia Minor - modern day Turkey)

Paul writes to encourage them, reminding them in 1:3 that

they have been blessed in the heavenly realm with what?

(Every Spiritual Blessing)

He goes through the first three chapters telling us about what these blessings are:

•we are predestined for salvation

•we are redeemed, being forgiven of our sins

•we are identified and sealed, kept secure by the Holy Spirit

•Paul prays for the believers to experience the power of God at work in their lives

•Paul reminds them that Jews and Gentiles together have become one body, the church

In chapters 1-3 Paul gives us teaching, reminding us what is true. In chapters 4-6, he gives us application, reminding us what we DO with what we know to be true. He reminds us that as Christians we are to “measure up” to the standard of Christ in every area of our lives.

•We are called to Unity, as believers we are to work together for the good of the church.

•We are called to Purity, we have a new way of thinking about how we live our lives.

•And we are called to Harmony, we are called to have a new way of relating in our interpersonal relationships: both in our families and in our working relationships.

This morning, we want to talk about our working relationships.

Many times families take vacations, and we miss a lot because we focus on the DESTINATION. As a result, we can ruin the whole trip. Sometimes we have the trip timed out so we have to go so many miles a day to reach the hotel where we have reservations. We can’t stop to see sights along the way, because Grandma is expecting us at a certain time. Today, I’d remind us that the TRIP is just as important as the destination.

In the Old Testament, the Jews wandered for 40 years in the wilderness. God had promised to give them a good land, a land fill with all kinds of bounty, but they wandered in the desert 40 years. Why did they wander? Yes, it was because they refused to take the land. But the greater reason is that God wanted to teach them, over 40 slow tedious years, that they needed to listen to him. He couldn’t teach them that lesson overnight.

I’ve seen magicians who said as part of their act, “What I’m going to do is so simple a five year old can do it with 30 years of practice.”

We often want God to act now, to show us the destination, but God often cares more about the journey.

Today we want to talk about work - God wants us to be good workers, we all know that - but this morning let’s realize that God’s bigger concern is not WHERE we work, but HOW we work. The questions we often ask God are all about a destination: God, where should I work, what job do you want me to have, where should I live when I retire. But God cares about the journey: what type of worker are you going to be.

Today, as we look at God’s word, let’s see what God has to say to us about HOW we work.

Read Ephesians 6:5-9 - Pray

Paul has finished a section telling us that our lives are to be very different from the world. No longer do we live according to the ways of the world, but we have changed our lifestyle.

•Remember, Right thinking brings what? (Right Action)

Paul has gone through a list of several areas where we think differently and so we act differently. We looked last week at marriage, because we want to line up with God’s plan, we live very differently than the world.

Today, in chapter 6, we see God’s instructions for slaves and masters. In our culture we don’t see many slaves or slave owners, but what we do see is the idea of workers and employers. Sometimes at your job you may feel like a slave. But it is quite interesting to see what Paul doesn’t say.

If we were writing to slaves in the first century culture, we might want to give them hope: God wants you to be free, look for a chance to escape, masters set your slaves free. But God doesn’t say that. Instead he says, slaves, be really good slaves, and masters, treat your slaves really well. And we want to say, NO Paul, you didn’t hear right. Don’t you understand that God wants all men to live free?! But once again, we are focused on the destination instead of the journey.

We so often focus on the TASK : what should I do? where should I work. But God focuses on the TONE: HOW should I work?! God wants you to be the best worker you can possibly be!

In school, kids often come to test day, and if you are a Christian, what do you pray? God, bless me on this test and help me to do well? We don’t like it when someone prays, God, bless me in proportion to the way I studied. And in our work, we carry over the same mentality. We want God to bless our job and make us rich. But God asks the question: what kind of worker are you?

God took Joseph, and let him be a slave, and he was the best slave Potiphar had. He was thrown into prison, and he was a model prisoner, and placed in charge of the jail. And then God took Joseph and placed him in charge of all the food in Egypt, second only unto Pharaoh himself. Did God care about WHAT Joseph did, yes, but he also cared about HOW Joseph conducted himself. Until Joseph was faithful as a slave and as a prisoner, God wouldn’t place him in charge of the nation.

Don’t be embarrassed if you have a job that seems menial: working at McDonalds, collecting garbage, working in a foundry, let’s realize than ANY job is important if it is done for Christ. I will make a few exceptions - if your job is SINFUL, you need to change. A prostitute or an oddsmaker definitely needs a new job. But don’t fall into the trap of disrespecting your job or employer because it is not as glamorous or idealized like a doctor or teacher. All work done for Christ is important, because God cares HOW we work.

And he cares HOW we think about our work.

•Remember, Right thinking brings what? (Right Action) Paul tells us what we should KNOW, and that determines HOW we act. Look in verse 8 to first see what we need to know:

Because you KNOW that the Lord will reward everyone for whatever good he does, whether he is slave or free.

The lesson we learn is this:

•God Rewards Faithfulness! Now, right thinking, thinking the way God wants us to think, really believes this. But the sad reality is that many of us don’t really believe it. We SAY we do, but by our actions, we show we really don’t believe it to be true. We think God is a STINGY giver.

We believe that we’ll get to heaven one day when we die, but we don’t believe that God rewards faithfulness because we live like we have to get everything we can for ourselves. That’s what society teaches us: don’t let anyone stand in your way to the top. And if we have to lie, cheat, steal, or use others to get what we want, we’ll do it. But God is more concerned with HOW we work than where we work.

This is the reason that God doesn’t tell slaves to seek their freedom: because in the end, God will set everything right. The book of Job teaches us this. God let’s Satan take away all the worldly possessions Job has, but God makes it right, and in the end doubles everything Job had. If I told you that you were going to go through a rough couple weeks and lose your home, job, and car, you would be devastated. But if I also told you in a month you’d get back your home PLUS a beautiful cabin at Houghton Lake completely paid for, plus a promotion at your job, plus win a brand new minivan, it would give you a completely different attitude on the trial. So, if God does reward faithfulness, but we don’t live like it, it simply shows that we really don’t take God at his word and believe what he says. If you are going through a difficult time right now, BE FAITHFUL, and God will reward you amazingly for your faithfulness.

Pause right now and evaluate your heart:

•Do you really believe that God will reward you for being faithful? If so, you won’t get upset if you get passed over for promotion or don’t get a raise when someone else gets a raise. God will make everything right in the end. Are you looking for rewards in this life, or are you content to let God reward you in the future?

So, since we think rightly, and understand that God rewards faithfulness, therefore we can act rightly. Let’s see what that looks like in verse 5.

•God’s command for workers: obedience. In the ancient Roman world, slaves were to give unquestioning allegiance and obedience to their masters. Paul puts a different focus on this obedience though. The first thing that Paul says is that we show our obedience through RESPECT. There are a lot of employees out there who do what they have to do to get a paycheck, but show no respect to their employer. On their way out of the plant with paycheck in hand, they turn around making obscene gestures towards the employer who just provided that paycheck.

As Christians, we are called to respect our employers. That doesn’t mean that our employers are always respectable. Sometimes they’re downright unethical, corrupt, immoral, and foul. But in the same way we learned last week that wives show respect to husbands for the position they hold, regardless of their personal morals, so as employees we are to respect our employers. We respect them for the position they hold.

The second thing we see about our obedience is we show it without REWARDS. Some people have ulterior motives for respecting their boss. They want to take long weekends, so they butter up to the boss. They want to borrow the company van, so they work real hard for two or three days. Their motivation is a reward they want from the boss. Paul writes that we are to obey with sincerity of heart or singleness of heart. This means we have no other motive of showing respect than our obedience to Christ. We don’t just put on a good show to get something from the boss.

The third thing God instructs us is to obey with RESPONSIBILITY. We don’t just obey when the boss is with you. Verse 6 tells us Obey them not only to win their favor when their eye is on you or as the KJV says Not with eyeservice, as menpleasers. I have worked a number of jobs where employees worked real hard as long as the boss was right there. I worked doing industrial insulation, and one crew in particular was led by the boss’ brother. They would sit in the work trailer about 45 minutes after the work day was supposed to start, until the boss’ brother decided he was ready to get going. I worked at a grocery store where employees on the night shift would take long breaks because no boss was around. I would keep on working, and it’s amazing how one employee doing right confronts the wrong action of several other workers.

As Christians, you are not working for the boss, the company, or even for the good the company does. We work for one reason only: no, not the paycheck. We work for the Lord. Paul reminds us, we work as slaves of Christ. We give respect and obedience to our earthly masters because we want to please our heavenly master. Because, as we’ve already said, we firmly believe our heavenly master will reward us for our faithfulness.

Verse 7 tells us to work without RESERVE, it says to serve wholeheartedly - we put our whole hearts into it, we give the best we have. I remember once working in a warehouse, and the crew chief was absent one night. The supervisor made me the crew chief that night. We were told if we made the quota we could go to break early. Everyone normally worked only half-heartedly. I continually encouraged everyone to work together and we went to break a half hour early. Why? Because most of us only ever work HALF-heartedly. We don’t put our whole hearts into it.

Remember once again what it says: the Lord will reward everyone for whatever good he does. If we really believe that, it will affect how we work.

When I worked at the Hershey Chocolate Factory, one summer I spent a lot of time in the wrapping room. A conveyor belt sends row after row of candy bars down into wrapping machines. The machines are largely manned by little old ladies who have worked these machines for 40 years. When I worked there they used to be paid “piece work” - for each candy bar they got a fraction of a cent extra in their pay. When their machine broke down or jammed, these ladies went ballistic, yelling for the line mechanic, getting tools out of their pockets and trying to unjam the machines before the line mechanic got to them - all because they knew they were getting a reward for every single bar they packaged.

If we had that same confidence - that God would faithfully reward us for everything good we do - how much better workers we would be!

Take a moment and evaluate the way you work. If Jesus Christ was president at your company and physically watched you work, would you work any different than you normally do?

And then Paul gives God’s commands for employers - in his day, masters. He tells them to treat their workers the same way the workers are to work for them: with respect and diligence, as unto the Lord, and not focused on self. A Christian worker who lives out his faith will provide well for his workers.

When we were in Fort Wayne there was a man in the congregation who ran a roofing company. He was a whiz at roofing and had no problems doing the work. His greatest headaches was making sure there was enough work for his men, because he knew that these men were depending on him. Their families depended on having enough work to bring home that paycheck. As employers, we can’t ignore workers, but must think of them and care for them as brothers and sisters in Christ.

Paul gives one strong reminder to masters: Give up Threatening. The great temptation for employers is to be demanding of employees: to squeeze them like a sponge and throw them away. When employees don’t give the type of output or production that the employer wants, he becomes forceful, yelling, screaming, calling names, making threats. But that is totally out of place for a Christian.

Once when I worked for UPS my supervisor told me to park a package car around back of the building. It was about 3:30 in the morning and pitch black. I bumped into the back door. My plant manager came out and threatened to make me pay for the repairs. I didn’t feel like it should come out of my pay as I was following my supervisor’s orders. He then said he was going to fire me. I said, “Well, I guess you’ll have to fire me.” He fumbled in his file cabinet a minute, then said, “Well, I can’t find the right forms, go on back to work.” My relationship with that plant manager was never the same after that. He wanted to use threats and intimidation to manipulate his workers. And manipulation is a dangerous trap that we can easily slip into. We need to make sure we treat employees as we would treat Jesus Christ is he were on the payroll.

Today, in closing, let me remind you, that before you get caught up in seeking God’s will for your future, you need to be obedient to God’s will for the present. And God’s will for you today is this: if you are an employee, be the best, most ethical, hardest working, best attitude employee that your boss has in the company. If you are an employer, Be the most respectful, kind, caring employer your employees have ever had. Don’t threaten and manipulate them. Treat them in a way that honors Christ.

Because when we work in this way and manage in this way, we bring testimony to the fact that what we SAY we believe about God is really TRUE in our lives. Matthew 5:16 - In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven. What changes do you need to make in the workplace this week to follow God’s commands? Let’s pray.