bondservants and masters, ephesians

[serialposts]God Rewards Humble, Unseen Work

I grew up needing to be noticed (and maybe I still feel that way, just not as much.) If I created something, I longed to show someone my masterpiece, practically swarming the person with my project, longing for sweet validation.

In adulthood I took a Strengths Finder test, and my number one strength confirmed this insatiable want: Achiever.

Consider this explanation from Gallup Business Journal:

Achiever describes a constant need for achievement. You feel as if every day starts at zero. By the end of the day you must achieve something tangible in order to feel good about yourself. And by “every day” you mean every single day — workdays, weekends, vacations. No matter how much you may feel you deserve a day of rest, if the day passes without some form of achievement, no matter how small, you will feel dissatisfied. You have an internal fire burning inside you. It pushes you to do more, to achieve more. After each accomplishment is reached, the fire dwindles for a moment, but very soon it rekindles itself, forcing you toward the next accomplishment. Your relentless need for achievement might not be logical. It might not even be focused. But it will always be with you.

Do you relate to this? With my background, you might see that I read through this paragraph and nod. And there was a time when I thought everyone was wired this way.

The problem is, when is it ever enough? With that as a backdrop, let’s look at Ephesians 6:5-9 (NLT)

Slaves, obey your earthly masters with deep respect and fear. Serve them sincerely as you would serve Christ. Try to please them all the time, not just when they are watching you. As slaves of Christ, do the will of God with all your heart. Work with enthusiasm, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people.  Masters, treat your slaves in the same way. Don’t threaten them; remember, you both have the same Master in heaven, and he has no favorites.

Although human slavery is in the news (as it should be), we do not live in a place where slavery infuses our everyday lives. In Paul’s time, 30% or more of the Ephesian population were slaves, which is why he added these verses immediately following family relationships. It was part of the patchwork of society.

Still, I think we can relate to these verses in terms of our work, our achievements. Before I draw conclusions, consider how similar this Ephesian passage is with Colossians 3:22-24:

Slaves, in all things obey those who are your masters on earth, not with external service, as those who merely please men, but with sincerity of heart, fearing the Lord.Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men,knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance. It is the Lord Christ whom you serve.

Almost identical in wording, but certainly identical in message. So what’s a worker like me (like you) to do with these verses? 6 Things:

  1. How you work shows how deeply you are committed to Jesus. So if you’re slipshod in the way you work, you’re conveying a lack of discipline and honor not just to your employer, but also to Jesus.
  2. All of life is about learning to humble ourselves before others, even those who mistreat us. And the more we’re able to love people who are hard to love and follow, the more we’ll need Jesus to help us. In this way, a difficult work situation might just be a blessing because it forces us to rely on Jesus and not ourselves.
  3. Even when no one is looking, God sees. This is both good and bad. Good in that God does reward humble, unseen work. He sees you when no one else does. Bad in that God sees it when you slack off or disrespect others. He takes note.
  4. We are God’s slaves. All of us. No one is higher. No one is lower. And as slaves, we are to obey our master at all costs. If He asks us to quietly work without recognition, we do it. If He asks us to tell the truth in a situation that might mess with our jobs, we obey Him. He trumps it all.
  5. Our energy toward work must be amazing because it reflects the vigor in which we serve Jesus. We must view our work not as something to have others praise, but as an offering to Jesus.
  6. Ultimately, our worth comes solely from Jesus, not from our achievement. This is the hardest for me to internalize, but when this Achiever does, I’m much more peace-filled and joyful.

Mind if I pray for you?

Jesus, I pray for the person reading this post who may struggle in work. Help him/her to see that You reward humble, unseen work, that You take note of labor in obscurity and faithfulness in small things. I pray for joy joy joy to come to his/her work today, that work would become a holy offering to You to make You smile. Settle our worth with that smile, Jesus. Amen.

ephesians 6:5-9: bondservants and masters

by Mary DeMuth time to read: 4 min