Today’s reading is Ephesians 6.
This chapter began by continuing to specify what it meant to “walk in the way of love “ (5:2a) for children (vv. 1-3), fathers (v. 4), slaves (vv. 5-8), and masters (v. 9). The rest of the chapter encouraged believers to prepare for spiritual battle (vv. 10-20) and gave Paul’s final greetings. I want to focus on part of Paul’s instructions to slaves. In verse 6b, Paul encouraged slaves to work “as slaves of Christ, doing the will of God from your heart.” Then he repeated the point in verse 7 when he wrote, “Serve wholeheartedly, as if you were serving the Lord, not people….” These were helpful instructions to people stuck in a bad situation. Neither Paul nor the church at Ephesus had the political power to end slavery and Christ’s mission was not to reform this world’s kingdoms but to save people for his coming kingdom.+ Slavery was a fact of life in a world dominated by the Roman empire but Christians who were slaves could act differently because of their faith in Christ. Although they were in an unjust situation that they could not change, they could change their hearts toward the situation. Instead of cursing their masters, producing as little as possible, and stealing if they could get away with it, Paul urged them to think and work differently because of their faith in Christ.
Instead of doing the work slaves do reluctantly, fearful of being beaten but with little positive motivation, Paul encouraged slaves to “serve wholehearted.” That is, “Act like you want to be there doing this work.” What would motivate someone to do that? Not their human masters who may have treated them like they were animals. Instead, they should act “as if you were serving the Lord, not people….” That attitude makes work, even if it is dull or difficult, an act of worship. The master may not notice or care but God does! Verse 8 says, “because you know that the Lord will reward each one for whatever good they do, whether they are slave or free.”
Do you believe that God sees every act that you do for his glory? If you are taking care of an ill relative, mopping the floors of your employer after the work day is over, showing kindness to someone in the office who isn’t kind on their own, God sees it. Or if you’re faithfully entering data into a computer, steel into a machine, or baby food into your infant’s mouth, it matters–not because it will change the world in some way but because it is done as an act of worship from your faith in God.
If you’re facing a tough day at work today, let these words encourage you and guide you.
+Though Paul recommended freedom for slaves in 1 Cor 7:21b, Philemon 10, 15-16.