Several years ago, one major newspaper was doing a story on the worst jobs in America.
- And so, they asked those who thought they had the worst job to write in and describe what they do.
- So what were some of the worst jobs around? Well, let’s just say that you should be thankful for whatever job you have.
The guy who cleans up all debris in nuclear reactors figured he’d the title of worst job.
- But the woman who cleans up after a crime scene was pretty sure she had it won.
- There was a poultry farmer whose got to slaughter & clean out the poor fellas all day…
- I mean, everyone from the guy who cleans asbestos in basements to those collecting our garbage each week, all claimed to have the worst job!
One of the people who wrote into that newspaper was Roger Hill. His job is to help turkeys to breed with one another.
- Apparently, the problem with Turkey breading these days is that Turkeys are genetically bred to produce a lot more white meat.
- And, because of that… they’ve become so large that they can’t get close enough to each other to breed!
- So each day, Roger Hill is bitten, pecked, and scratchedas he helps these turkeys… come together in their pursuit of amour!
Martha Huerta works with a diaper service in California. All day long she handles 1000s of diapers.
- She says that no matter what she does she can never escape the stench.
- Then there was this naturalist who, for several years, was assigned the task of climbing trees in a certain region in order to collect bird droppings for a research project his company was working on.
- Can you imagine doing that for a living?!
- Can you imagine meeting your fiancé’s father… your future father in law for the first time… and he asks you what you do for a living?!
Of course, in spite of the heftier paycheck, there’s always the proctologist. A few years back I saw an old Math teacher from High School.
- I asked him if he’s seen anyone else from my class. Turns out he had.
- He was bent over in the proctologist’s office with his pants down when in-came the doctor with scope in hand.
- Just the idea of going to a proctologist can stress me out. I mean, when a doctor walks into an examining room, the first thing they do is reach out to shake your hand.
- Well, there are certain people whose hand I’d prefer not to shake!!
You see the problem is that even though we will spend between one-third and one-half of our lives at work,
- a full 65% of American workers say that they are unhappy with their jobs while another 15% would say that they hate their job.
- Someone once said, “Choose a job you love and you’ll never work a day of your life.”
- Well, sadly, only 20% think their job is ok… and, of course, less than half of them would say they love their job.
Hopefully, that includes some of you! Of course, I’m sure there are some here that would like your job more…
- And yet, office politics and a pesky boss can make your life at work fairly miserable at times.
- Truth is, working for a bad boss can be a pretty frustrating and emotionally draining experience…
- bosses who couldn’t care less about you… who aren’t interested in your career but only how you can help theirs…
- bosses whom you know shouldn’t be in their position.
How competent was the investment manager, for example, who was approached by a young man looking for some investment capital.
- He was apparently willing to give up a good percentage of future profits to get the necessary startup cash now,
- But the investment banker felt as though the business would never grow… and so, he turned the young man away.
- Well, that young man, Bill Gates, eventually found someone who was interested in investing with him… and, as you can imagine, that man made a fortune!
How would you have liked to work for that Decca Records executive who refused to sign a quartet who called themselves the Beetles b/c, as he put it, “groups with guitars were on the way out?!”
- What about the newspaper executive who confronted a young cartoonist, telling him that he has no future in the business…
- that he has no creative spark… no new ideas… and then fired the young Walt Disney?!
A young Vince Lombardi was told by a senior football coach that he probably didn’t have much of a future as a coach since he didn’t feel Lombardi had what it took to motivate the players.
- An executive at electronic firm in late 40s decided not to invest in building TVs b/c he felt TVs would never make it in the US.
- He said that Americans, being as active as we are, simply would not sit still and stare at a screen long enough to make it worthwhile.
We’ve all had a bad job or two and we’ve all had the pleasure of working for a bad boss.
- We’ve also had the opportunity of meeting up with a whole lot of bad workers…
- From that obnoxious waiter who, for some reason, can’t manage to crack a smile… let alone get your order right.
- To that employee that never seems to care about what they’re doing.
Honestly, with all the problems & frustrations people face at work… either as employees or employer,
- you would think that the Bible would share with us a biblical perspective with regard to work… and our relationships at work.
- In fact, there are a number of places that do speak to this… one of which is Ephesians 6 starting in verse 5.
- But as you’re turning there, let me give you some context to what Paul is sharing here.
In the first part of chapter 5, Paul calls us to follow God’s example in all that we do…
- to imitate Christ, who loved us and gave Himself as a sacrifice.
- Then, in verses 18-21, Paul explains that we can only do all this as we are filled with the Holy Spirit.
- And one of the evidences of our being filled with the Spirit is that we are submitting to one another out of reverence for Jesus.
And now, in chapter 6, he’s gonna share three unique contexts where a Spirit-empowered life can be lived out:
- Between husbands & wives (22-33); parents & children (6:1-4); and between slaves & masters (5-9).
- Now, this morning, I’d like to focus on that third example of slave & master.
- But, what does the slave/master relationship have to do with us?
Well… to understand that, you need to understand what slavery was like back in Paul’s day.
- Because, while it may be natural for us to read our understanding of slavery into this text,
- the reality is that slavery in the 1st century Roman world had very little in common with the kind of slavery that was common in America.
For one, the kind of slavery perpetrated during that period of our history was entirely race-based… defining one race as far inferior than the other.
- The effects of this race-based slavery devastated its victims physically, economically, psychologically and socially.
- The horrific impact of slavery in America was so profound that, nearly 150 years after end of the Civil War,
- the issue of race is still one of the central issues facing our country.
Roman slavery, on the other hand, was not race-based at all. If you went to the public square or to the market,
- you probably couldn’t tell whether someone was a slave or free… you’d see Greeks who were free… and Greeks who were slaves.
- You’d see white slaves and black Roman officers. In fact, a North African ruled England for Rome from 193-211 AD.
And while American slavery was a permanent condition… affecting not only you, but your family, children, and grandchildren,
- Roman slavery lasted around 20 years at most. Very few ever reached old age as slaves.
- In fact, writings from the time indicate that nearly 50% of slaves were freed before the age of 30.
While slaves in America would never be allowed to function in important roles, in ancient Rome, slaves could be physician, philosophers, educators… whatever… from a janitor to a CEO.
- Slaves could become rich… even wealthier than free people… and live apart from the masters.
- Historians of the time tell us that nearly 1/3 of the people living in the Roman Empire, some 60 million people, were slaves.
Now, the reason I share this is not to condone in any way the holding of another human being as “property.”
- I share this because I want you to see that the parallels between the slave/master relationship…
- and the employer/employee relationship are, oddly enough, closer than you might have thought.
What Paul has been saying over the past few chapters is that when Christ comes into a person’s life, He changes everything…
- From our marriage & parent-child relationships to our employee/employer relationships.
- Paul is just driving home the point that Jesus isn’t just concerned about the religious arena of our lives… but every part of our lives as Spirit-filled believers.
Now, I know we would never say these words, per se, but it can be easy to think,
- “Well, I can be loving at church… but, at work, I need to be tough… focused only on the bottom-line.”
- But Paul isn’t letting us separate our lives in compartments. He says in 4:29, for example,
- “Don’t use hurtful language. Let everything you say be good and helpful, so that your words will be an encouragement to those who hear them.”
This attempt to compartmentalize Christianity to certain areas of our lives will never lead to the kind of fruitful, abundant life Jesus called us to.
- In fact, it will steal the life right out from under us.
- In fact, Chuck Colson, general council to Nixon during Watergate years said that when the Soviets took power in 1917 they didn’t outlaw Christianity… they only restricted it.
What they said was that you can practice your religion… though you can no longer run hospitals, schools, shelters… and you couldn’t share your faith, and so on.
- In other words, they slowly clipped Christianity down so that it began relegated to only part of our lives…
- so that by the time the Iron Curtain fell, registered churches were each filled with only a handful of older women.
Why? Because Christianity had been relegated solely to a private, spiritual compartment in their lives.
- That’s what the secularist culture is after today… “Sure, go to church and do your ‘religious’ thing at church.
- But you better not bring any part of it… be it a prayer or songto any commencement ceremony…
- Better not share your faith in classroom… better not talk about your faith at work… better not have things like the Ten Commandments written in your courtrooms.
BUT, that is not Christianity. You can’t tie Christianity up so that it is relegated to just part of your life.
- Paul is saying that as we walk in the fullness of the Spirit, the impact ought to permeate every part of our lives.
- You see, the Spirit-filled life shifts the center of gravity… it changes everything…
- So that when you are “walking in the Spirit” according to verses 5-8, your attitude, even at work, will begin to change.
In fact, Paul lays out four areas that should be addressed as we walk out our Christian lives at work.
1. Believers are to be Respectful workers (vs. 5a)
In the first part of verse 5, Paul tells us that we should obey our “earthly masters with deep respect and fear.”
- Now, of course, that doesn’t mean that you should grovel at the feet of your boss begging for their approval.
- Rather, Paul is simply calling us as believers to respect our boss’s position and authority.
I know that right now, about 10 of you are murmuring to yourself, “This guy does not know my boss! If he knew him, he wouldn’t be able to respect him either!”
- And yet, the Scripture doesn’t say respect him if he or she is respectable.
- No doubt, some of the slaves Paul is writing to had a master who was, in fact, abusive.
- No one should condone something like that… but youcan’t allow someone else’s actions to change who’re you’re meant to be as a Jesus-follower.
- In calling us to be “Respectful Workers,” Paul isn’t giving any room for insubordination or even concealed contempt for an employer or boss.
Notice that Paul calls them their “earthly masters”. That’s an important distinction…
- because spiritually, emotionally, intellectually, your employer has no ultimate authority over you.
- It simply relates to Jesus’ response to the religious leader about whether Jews should pay taxes to Rome.
- “Render to Caesar,” Jesus said, “the things that are Caesars.”
- Your responsibility before the Lord is to respect your boss and to render to him or her what you owe… and that’s a productive and thoughtful day’s work.
2. Believers are to be Sincere workers (5b).
At the end of verse 5, Paul says we are to work “in sincerity of heart, as to Christ.” Or, as the NLT puts it, “Serve them sincerely as you would serve Christ.”
- The word “sincerity” here means that we are to serve without hypocrisy… without being self-seeking.
- I’ve shared before how our word “sincere” comes from the Latin term, sinecere, meaning “without wax”.
Years ago, a potter would often put his seal or stamp on the bottom of a completed vessel.
- And by doing that, he was verifying that there were no flaws in his work.
- If a potter did find a crack in a vessel, he could carefully patch that flawed vase or bowl by filling in the crack with wax. Then he would glaze over it.
- But it didn’t merit the stamp, sine cere, “without wax”, because it was not a flawless piece of pottery.
And so, again, we see that believers are to give their employers sincere and honest service.
- This means that we are not to simply appear respectful on the surface, and then curse them under our breath.
- We’re to display, instead, a “sincerity of heart”.
- And why? Because when we are serving our employers or our company, we are really serving Christ.
That is why Paul says that we are to do our work “as to Christ”. How can we work “as to Christ?”
- If you are a cook, cook like Jesus will eat your food.
- If you clean, clean like Jesus will stay there.
- If you administrate, treat it like it is Jesus’ business.
- If you sell, sell like you are selling to Jesus.
- If you serve customers, serve them as you would serve Jesus.
- If you teach, teach as though Jesus were in the front row of your class.
- If your dad asks you to cut the lawn, cut it as though it was Jesus’ lawn.
In Colossians 3:23 Paul says, “And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men.”
- That we are serving Christ as we serve those over us, is to be the transforming realization & motivation behind our work.
- “For what you do to others… you do unto Me.”
3. Believers are to be Conscientious workers (6)
Paul goes on in verse 6 saying, “Work hard, but not just to please your masters when they are watching. As slaves of Christ, do the will of God with all your heart.”
- We’ve all done this… we’ve all “turned it on” when the boss is watching.
- We learned this back in elementary school when the gym teacher told us to do twenty push-ups.
When he was watching… we did great. The second he turned his eyes from us, we laid there like a beached whale.
- We need to be conscientious in our work. There is no such thing as a faithful-lazy servant!
- Even if you have what you consider to be a “dead-end” job, then do that job with all your heart as unto the Lord.
Just six months before his death in 1967, Martin Luther King Jr. shared these words to a group of Jr. High School students in Philadelphia. He said,
- “If it falls your lot to be a street sweeper, sweep streets like Michelangelo painted pictures; sweep streets like Beethoven composed music; sweep streets like Shakespeare wrote poetry; Sweep streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth will have to pause and say: Here lived a great street sweeper who swept his job well.”
A husband and his wife woke up one Sunday morning and the wife dressed for church.
- It was just about time for the service when she noticed her husband hadn’t moved a finger toward getting dressed.
- Perplexed, she asked, “Why aren’t you getting dressed for church?”
- He said, “Cause I don’t want to go.”She asked,“Do you have any reasons?”
He said, “Yes, I have three good reasons. First, the congregation is so cold toward me.Second, no one likes me. And third, I just don’t want to go.”
- The wife replied, “Well honey, I have three reasons why you should go. First, the congregation is warm. Second, there are a few people there who like you. And third, you’re the pastor! So get dressed!”
- Even pastors need to do it unto the Lord!
Look at how Paul ends verse 6: “As slaves of Christ, do the will of God with all your heart.”
- It is easy to fall into the trap of working half-heartedly.
- But a believer, walking in the Spirit, should always put his heart into his/her work. Why?
- Again, because you ultimately work for Jesus!
- So, whatever the job, those who are walking with Jesus should stand out.
Employers should recognize them not only for their honesty & integrity, but for the effort they put in… for their hard work.
- I’ve said before that each morning you get up and head off for work, you are serving as an extension… as a hand of this church… representing Jesus there at your job.
4. Believers are to be Enthusiastic Workers (vs 7-8).
In verses 7-8, Paul writes, “Work (whole-heartedly) with enthusiasm, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people. Remember that the Lord will reward each one of us for the good we do, whether we are slaves or free.”
What Paul is saying is that if we just do enough to get by; If we have to be poked & prodded to get our work done;
- If we show up for work grouchy & irritable; If we are moody & unreliable…
- If we regularly exhibit a “poor me” mentality… then we are living far from God’s best for our lives.
Maybe you didn’t get that raise; Maybe the promotion passed you by… Maybe yourboss is mean & unfair.
- Obviously, there are some things you are not in control of. But you are in control of yourself.
- And when you maintain that “attitude of Christ” that Paul speaks about in Philippians,
- than know that you will receive your reward from the only One that really counts… from the Lord.
But before Paul ends this section (and before I end this sermon), there are just a few things he wants to say to the masters… or, in this case, the employers.
- In verse 9 he writes, “And in the same way, you masters must treat your slaves right. Don’t threaten them; remember, you both have the same Master in heaven and he has no favorites.”
- So, as I wrap up, let me share just two things I think we’re meant to take away from this.
1. Christian employers are to be fair in their actions (9a)
At first it seems as if this is a bit one-sided… with Paul devoting four verses to slaves/employees and only one to masters/employers.
- But the reason is pretty clear. Paul is simply telling the employers to follow the same principles he’s already outlined for their employees.
- In other words, if you’re a boss… whether it’s over one or one hundred employees…
- you need to treat those under you with respect & sincerity.
Ultimately, Paul is calling employers to live out the Golden Rule in their lives…
- to “do unto others as you would have them do unto you”remembering that your employee is your equal before God… no better or worse than you.
- As employers, you’re being called to treat others the way you would treat Jesus.
- I mean… if Jesus came up with a great idea… would you take credit for it?!
2. Christian Employers are to be fair in their attitudes (9b)
Paul then adds that masters are to give up threatening or lording over their employees.
- In our context, he’s calling you as employers… not to use your authority to bully & intimidate your employees….
- To be fair, honest, and above all, honoring & kind to them.
- If they aren’t doing the job, then speak frankly & honestly & directly with them. And, if they don’t improve, then let them go.
Folks, at the end of the day, what Paul is exhorting us to, is to live out our lives at work remembering that, in a very real way, all we are doing should be done to Jesus.
- As employees… when you wake up to go to work this week, rubbing the sleep out of your eyes,
- Remind yourself, that as you purpose to live a Spirit-filled life…
- That all you do each day should be done for His glory alone.
“Lord, help me think your thoughts at work today… give me right attitudes… help me see that I’m working for you.”
- If you lived with this reality, how would your life change?
- Each Monday morning on the way to work, go ahead and preach to yourself!
- “I’m a new creation b/c Jesus is in my life… I’m a child of God… and so I’m going to work today as unto Him… for His glory… and so, I serve You today, Jesus, with all I am.”