Read: Ephesians 6:5-9
Bondservants, obey your earthly masters with fear and trembling, with a sincere heart, as you would Christ. (v. 5)
For one year I worked in a grocery warehouse. Co-workers assigned to the misery of the cooler section were known to break open cartons of cookie dough and help themselves. Over one weekend, the company installed hidden cameras. The very first shift of Sunday night employees were fired for stealing. Everyone learned that “eye-service” (v. 6) was not optional!
It is strange for us to read this passage today, but historians estimate that in Paul’s time, roughly one-third of the population of Roman Italy were slaves, including believers who owned slaves. Potentially, masters and slaves alike were in the church together. By poverty or by force, people were compelled to become slaves of richer citizens. They lived in the same house and ate from the same table but were still property of the homeowner.
Paul is not condoning slavery, however. His teaching about masters and slaves is no less disruptive to Roman culture than the idea of faithfulness in marriage. As with marriage and parenting, the same “submitting to one another” (5:21) applies to this relationship. We might think of work relations today. Employees are to work with a servant attitude as if serving Christ. Employers must “do the same to them” (v. 9). Imagine a work culture where that were true. Paul believes it’s possible. —Jon Opgenorth
As you pray, ask God to give you a sincere heart for your work and employer, and for the Lord Jesus, your true Master.
About the Author
Rev. Jon Opgenorth serves as president of Words of Hope. Previously, he served for 18 years as senior pastor at Trinity Reformed Church in Orange City, Iowa. In preparation for ministry, he received a BA in Religion from Northwestern College, and an MDiv from Fuller Theological Seminary.