HARMONY IN THE WORKPLACE
Slaves, obey your earthly masters with respect and fear, and with sincerity of heart, just as you would obey Christ. Obey them not only to win their favour when their eye is on you, but as slaves of Christ, doing the will of God wholeheartedly, as if you were serving the Lord, not people, because you know that the Lord will reward each one for whatever good they do, whether they are slave or free. And masters, treat your slaves in the same way. Do not threaten them, since you know that he who is both their Master and yours is in heaven, and there is no favouritism (Eph. 6:5-9).
The third pair of interactive people on Paul’s list is slaves and masters. Although he mentions slaves first, and gives detailed instructions for the correct way to think and act as believing slaves, once again it is the master who should set the tone for honour and respect and faithful service from his slaves.
In Paul’s day, there were slaves and masters across the entire Roman Empire. Whenever an army conquered a nation, they brought back many of their vanquished foes as slaves. The unfortunate victims were sold in the slave market to the highest bidder and became the property of the slave-owner. Their owners treated them as goods and could do with them as they pleased.
Many slave-owners were cruel and heartless, breaking up families and selling off children and beating their slaves mercilessly for any and every infringement of their whims. Slaves had no recourse to justice. They were forced to submit to whatever treatment was meted out to them without protest.
It was important for believing slaves to get their thinking straight. They were not only to give faithful and loyal service to masters who treated them well, but also to those who mistreated them, period. They were now citizens of another kingdom where the right thing to do was to obey, whether they were treated well or not. They were serving, not a human master, but their Master, Jesus, who showed them what was right, even if they were treated unjustly.
Let’s examine this way of living a little more carefully. Why should slaves not rebel if they were treated harshly? For two reasons: firstly, if they reacted to cruelty with a bad attitude, they would be guilty of sin. As children of God, they were to maintain a good conscience before God.
Secondly, they were to remember that their real Master was Jesus, not some capricious and cruel earthly tyrant. The way they served was more important than who they served. If they kept their eye on Jesus, they would serve Him with excellence regardless of the way their masters treated them.
These instructions should also apply in any employer/employee situation because they are based on timeless principles. However, once again it is the one with greater responsibility and accountability who should set the tone for harmony in the workplace. It is far easier for an employee to give faithful and loyal service where the employer is reasonable and fair in his dealings with employees.
As always, an employer is a servant leader. Regardless of his position and authority in the workplace, like the husband in the home, he is not to lord it over his employees but to lead by example. Every worker deserves fair wages paid on time. Every worker deserves to be treated with dignity and respect as a human being regardless of his station in life. This not about one person being better or better educated or qualified than another and therefore deserving of greater honour than another. This is about a team working together, each person making his/her contribution for the good of the team. When the team pulls together, everyone benefits.
It is not the job of the employee to be a man-pleaser, only working well when the employer’s eye is on him. He must remember that he is always in the presence of God. The Holy Spirit is in him, not to catch him out or judge him for poor performance but to enable him to be the best he can in the workplace.
Similarly, the employer also has a Master to whom he is accountable. When we remember and become aware of God in everything, our behaviour and attitudes will be tempered by the knowledge of His presence.
Scripture is taken from THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
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