Prepared by Dr. John E. Marshall
Eph. 6:9a “And, ye masters,. . .”
“Masters” refers to bosses, teachers, and all others who, holding supervisory positions, have people under their authority. Being fair and consistent, Paul required duties not only of people in submission, but also commanded reciprocal responsibilities from those in authority. In interpersonal Christian relationships, cooperation, submission, and duty always travel a two-way street.
Husbands, as well as wives, have assigned duties to perform. Parents, as well as children, are to act in certain prescribed ways. Paul will now tell us that masters, as well as servants, have behavioral obligations to fulfill.
The principles Paul taught here are now, in varying forms, a common part of modern leadership seminars and books. Enlightened management took only about 2000 years to catch up with the Bible, God’s perfect, holy book.
Eph. 6:9b “. . .do the same things unto them,. . .”
The regulations the Apostle prescribed for servants (6:5-8) recoil, where applicable, back on masters. At least four of the principles Paul found pertinent for employees and students can apply directly to employers and teachers.
First, employers and teachers must supervise “with fear and trembling” (6:5d). They must fear God, show concentrated spiritual zeal, and be anxious of falling short, of disappointing the Lord. Any supervisor who forces people to work in unhealthy, dangerous, or nerve-racking conditions, should worry primarily about God, not OSHA. He jots everything down in His record book.
Second, employers and teachers must supervise “as unto Christ” (6:5f). Supervisors, act as if each laborer or student were Jesus Himself. Look over their shoulders and see the image of Christ. Treat them as we would treat Jesus. Let our handling of others be lifted up as an offering pleasing to God.
Third, employers and teachers must supervise, “doing the will of God” (6:6c). Never do, or ask a laborer or student to do, anything contrary to the plain teachings of Scripture. A servant is regulated by “the will of God” in service rendered, a master is ruled by the same standard in service required.
Fourth, employers and teachers must supervise “with good will” (6:7a), a disposition which wishes others well, and truly seeks to promote their best and highest good. Encourage and uplift your laborers and learners. Make them comfortable in their work and study environments. Give them adequate tools, state-of-the-art equipment, and ample supplies to do their assigned tasks.
Always be counterbalancing concerns about the welfare of your business with concerns for the well-being of your workers. Juggle the two. Keep them in equilibrium. Striving for increased profits is okay if we at the same time continue to seek what is best for those under our charge. No Christian has a right to build a business on the broken spirits and shattered dreams of laborers. Workers are “the image of God,” not tools to be manipulated for our profit.
Christian supervisors, we do not own our supervisees. Each person working for us is a spiritual being with a divine purpose to fulfill, and a life of their own to lead before God. We buy their work-time, not their essence.
Remember, Paul’s words here about the work-place are in the context of the family. To be a supervisor is an awesome responsibility, for he or she often determines the climate which prevails in the homes of those who work under him or her. Bosses and teachers can make the home life of workers and students miserable. May this awful thing never be said of a Christian supervisor.
Bosses and teachers, show concern for your workers and students. They are your company or school’s most valuable asset. Do a “well-being inventory” of your people. Know their physical health, the state of their marriages, their family members’ names, their dreams for the future. Strive to make the ugly things often connected with work and school rare under your leadership–ulcers, accidents, shouting matches, exhaustion, nervousness, tension, daily humiliations, anxiety. Do not have on your hands your workers’ divorces, their non-attendance at church, their mental and emotional breakdowns.
Let me be an advocate for a moment to insert here a kind word for single adult parents. Supervisors, be part of an informal support group for these dear people. Surely corporate America will not collapse by giving a worker a little extra time some morning to make child-care provisions for a sick little one.
Christian employers and teachers, ponder the significant role you play in your people’s home lives? They depend on you for their livelihood, for their self-esteem, for many of the things which make life worth living. Realize the gravity of your position. If workers and students are to do service unto you “as to the Lord” (6:7b), then you are to respond to them as if you were the Lord. You stand, as it were, in the very stead of God. You are His representative, and your life should be an accurate reflection of His true nature.
What a great privilege and opportunity this affords employers and teachers. When laborers and students see Jesus in their supervisors, Christianity is highly commended to unbelievers. History verifies this conclusion. In the second century, as Christianity was taking the Roman world, Justin Martyr said the lost were being won for Christ “from having watched the constancy of their Christian neighbors. . . .or from doing business with Christians.”
The battle for a nation’s soul is ultimately won or lost out in the neighborhood, not inside church buildings. We Christians are extremely careful about being on our best behavior when attending public worship, but the way we act at work or school determines how much impact the Church will have on society. We have far too long divorced our spiritual lives from our secular spheres. This is wrong, wrong, wrong. Our spiritual life is to overshadow and, from that preeminent and predominant position, to saturate our everyday lives.
Christians, run your businesses and classrooms as Jesus would if He were present in the flesh. Our Master set the example, and clearly stated the standard, for all persons in authority to follow, “Ye call me Master and Lord: and ye say well; for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Master, have washed your feet; ye also ought to wash one another’s feet” (JN 13:13-14). Our Lord expects supervisors to act like Him, to cultivate a servant’s heart, one like His.
Do the people who watch us up close every day see Jesus in us? When your workers say, “I work for a Christian boss,” do they say it with a smile or with a sneer? When your students say, “My teacher is a Christian,” do they say it with pride or with a snarl?
It is time for Christians to put the teachings of Jesus into practice in the marketplace. “We have had too much talking of high truth coupled with low living” (Ironside). Our head knowledge often has not affected our feet. The Psalmist prayed, “Order my steps in thy word” (PS 119:133). Christians, we need to “talk the talk, and walk the walk” at work and school, where the real battle is being fought.