Prepared by Dr. John E. Marshall
Eph. 6:5d “. . .with fear and trembling,. . .”
Paul is not saying servants should cringe in terror before their masters. “Fear and trembling” was a proverbial phrase he used to denote concentrated zeal, being focused on the discharge of duty, and anxious not to come short. He said the Corinthians received Titus “with fear and trembling” (2 C 7:15). Paul urged us to work out our salvation “with fear and trembling” (PH 2:12).
Christians should be anxious to do well at work, realizing that what we do there is extremely important. Our “fear and trembling” is not a terror of our employer, but a fear of God. We cannot be careless or lackadaisical on the job, for we dread disappointing the Lord. There must be an element of concern in all relationships “when their essential sacredness is realized” (Murray).
Doing our best on the job requires a sense of “fear and trembling,” an inner zeal which keeps us troubled about not having done enough. We need to be earnest and conscientious, concerned about failing to fulfill our obligations. When the “butterflies in our stomach” flit in every direction due to terror we are crippled and weakened, but when they are marshalled in battle array, we do our best work. A valid spiritual anxiety, true “fear and trembling,” helps us prepare, focus, do our homework, and avoid laziness.
Eph. 6:5e “. . .in singleness of your heart,. . .”
We can do our very best at work only when our hearts are committed to it. A Christian laborer must have “singleness” of heart. Work without duplicity. Be neither two-faced nor hypocritical. Do not pretend to like your job, while actually disliking it in “your heart.” Ask God to help you love your job.
Slaves had to work under the worst conditions imaginable, yet Paul told them to be inwardly content with their jobs. If Paul believed slaves could be content at work, surely you and I can be. In the context of contentment, Paul said, “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me” (PH 4:13).
“Christianity does not offer us escape from circumstances; it offers us conquest of circumstances” (Barclay). Whatever our outward situation, the Christian is to enjoy inward victory. The hurricane may rage outside, but inside, the believer rests safe and contented in the eye of the storm.
Success in any enterprise requires an inner calm which produces an undivided loyalty of heart for the task. When a sophomore in high school, I had to come to grips with my distaste for school. To do what I wanted to do as a preacher, I knew I had many years of school ahead of me. I asked God to help me like school. He did. I went to school year-round–Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter–seven years in a row. This outward result never could have happened had there not been a change on the inside of my life. To be your very best at school or work, petition God to give you “singleness of your heart.”
Eph. 6:5f “. . .as unto Christ;”
God watches our job performance. He is our Inspector. A Christian knows, “every single piece of work he produces must be good enough to show to God” (Barclay). No one mindful of the august Presence can do sloppy work.
Christianity lifts everyday details to a higher context. There is no disgrace in work. A laborer has nothing to be ashamed of. Christ dignified labor. He was a worker, a carpenter. He was also a servant, one willing to wash feet.
As we realize we work “as unto Christ,” for God’s sake, drudgery becomes divine, the mundane becomes stately. “As unto Christ” ennobles every station. It can make the laundry room a suburb of heaven; wash and iron at your best and then whisper, “For you, sweet Jesus.” Cook as if Jesus will eat the meal. Clean house as if Jesus is coming. Build houses as if Jesus will live in them. Type letters as if Jesus will read them. Do term papers and take tests as if Jesus will grade them. Handle accounts as if Jesus will do the audit.
Three workmen were once helping construct a cathedral. Asked what they were doing, one replied, “Chipping stones.” Another said, “Making a living.” The third said, “Building a great cathedral.” Look up, Christian laborer, “as unto Christ,” you are involved in a great work, a wonderful enterprise.
Nowhere does Paul ever hint that one needs to quit their occupation in order to serve Christ and promote His cause. If God calls you into full-time Christian service, surrender. If He does not, your present occupation is your full-time Christian service. Our place of employment is our mission field.
When William Carey applied for foreign missions, someone asked, “What is your business?” He replied, “My business is serving the Lord. I make shoes to pay expenses.” Every Christian engaged in any occupation–whether working in a factory, behind a desk, on a tractor, etc.–should be able to say, “My business is serving the Lord, my vocation pays expenses.”
Wherever you work, whatever you do, give your best. You are doing God’s work. The very fact Paul said we are to do our work “with fear and trembling” shows he meant for us to approach our jobs with the same zeal and intensity with which he preached the Gospel. Speaking of himself, the Apostle said his ministry at Corinth began “in fear, and in much trembling” (1 C 2:3).
Many of your co-laborers on the job rarely frequent church and come under the preaching of God’s Word. I wish I could preach to your co-workers, but they do not attend church. Each Sunday morning I have the privilege of preaching to about 800 people. If each of you affects and influences five people for Jesus, then my sermon’s influence extends to 4000, some five percent of our city’s population. If the preaching, though, does not affect your work, and is stifled by your silence or sloppy performance on the job, then our church walls truly are prison bars, incarcerating and smothering the preached message.
Where you work or attend school–that is where East Side’s true mission lies. On Sunday morning, God’s people known as East Side gather as a family in one place for worship. On Monday morning, we are still God’s people, we are still the East Side family, but we scatter to many places on mission. We never cease being God’s people, being a family, and being on mission.
Labor “as unto Christ.” Preach through your deeds, evangelize through your job performance, verbally witness when given opportunity. Go where I cannot go, preach where I cannot preach, impress for Jesus where I cannot.
Don’t let Jesus down on your mission field. Labor “with a finesse, and with a glamour and a glory that the world can never produce” (Lloyd-Jones). Do all “as unto Christ.” Make all of life, including your job, a sacrament.