Prepared by Dr. John E. Marshall
Eph. 6:9c “. . .forbearing threatening:. . .”
Paul singles out one negative command for masters. There is one thing bosses and teachers must never do. Supervisors, quit using threats.
“Forbearing” refers to giving up something. In other words, “threatening” was an ongoing practice. Paul wanted it stopped. “Threatening,” verbal intimidation, was the prevailing public vice among Roman slaveowners. They were not known for being careful or courteous in the exercise of their authority. Slaves, considered little more than beasts, were treated as barely human, and were terrorized into subjection by regular threats of physical punishment.
By attacking this prevalent cruelty, Paul wielded his axe at the root of all harshness from supervisors. Christian bosses and teachers have the right to require responsibility with accountability, but should also foster cordial environments of freedom saturated with love. Boaz is a good role model. He was the acknowledged master of his laborers, but when he came to the fields, he greeted his employees heartily, “The Lord be with you,” and they responded, “The Lord bless thee” (RT 2:4). He was their master, yet warm and affable.
A person in authority is confronted with many temptations, including the lure to become a bully, to lord over others. A Christian supervisor must never yield to the lust of acting from a premise of tyranny. Let your initial approach to a problem be positive, not negative. When dealing with a difficult situation, courageously use your authority rather than cowardly hiding behind your anger. Be straightforward, take care of business, but forego displays of temper. We show our right to be a master by governing our own soul. If at work you yell, or show other outbursts of temper, get right with God, and attend a good leadership seminar. Rule others only after you have ruled yourself.
Remove “threatening” from the supervisor/supervisee setting. Threats destroy personal relationships, and cause people to don masks of insecurity, distrust, and fear. Threats depersonalize. Better things are expected of Christian supervisors. Our task is to encourage personal dignity. Masters, find ways to be submissive to servants (EP 5:21). Express submission by never violating the latter’s dignity. Avoid being abusive or inconsiderate. Do not scorn your workers and students. Never take advantage of your supervisory position by using it to crush the spirit of one who works for you.
Eph. 6:9d “. . .knowing that your Master also is in heaven;. . .”
Bosses and teachers attain to a certain level of position and power. These trappings of this world can cause one to forget about the other world, about what “is in heaven.” Above all earthly masters is a heavenly Master into whose ears come the cries of the oppressed (EX 22:21-24; DT 24:15; JM 5:4).
When dealing with supervisees, we supervisors must remember, we are their master, God is ours. As we deal with them, so shall God deal with us.
Supervisors often act as if they have no one above them to be accountable to. They assume God does not strictly scrutinize their dealings with supervisees. Be not deceived. No position of earth, including king, is so absolute that it contains no obligations to perform kindnesses toward subjects. When bosses or teachers behave in an unchristian way, God sees and punishes.
Bosses and teachers are entrusted by God with means and opportunities which He intends to be administered for the advantage of others. We will someday answer to God for our stewardship, and give an account of how well we dispensed to others these benefits He entrusted to our watch-care.
Eph. 6:9e “. . .neither is there respect of persons with him.”
The Lord shows no partiality. He has no favorites. “In God’s sight each man counts for one, and no one counts for more than one” (Gore). All people hold equal worth and dignity before their Maker.
Our text struck a blow at the caste system of Paul’s day. The Biblical teaching that all are equal before God has been the driving force behind western culture’s efforts to make all equal before law. Breakthroughs have come far too slowly, but there has been, and continues to be, progress nonetheless.
A higher earthly station will procure no one any special indulgence or consideration on Judgment Day. God will not warp justice due to one’s social standing. All class distinctions will last only through this present age. They will be obliterated with other time-distinctions. The authority of bosses and teachers is God-given, but only “functional and temporary” (MacArthur). In time our stations differ, but in the timeless realm we are equals before God.
Families which traveled west in Conestoga wagons had many details to handle along the journey. They expressed their oneness and equality by beginning and ending each day together in one place, but for efficiency’s sake, they scattered during the day, finding it practical to divide among themselves various chores. One family member determined the best route to take each day. Another drove the wagon while a third travelled ahead to secure the night’s lodging place. A fourth handled the finances. A fifth packed and unpacked baggage each day to ensure that at least one person knew where everything was. A sixth hunted food, a seventh prepared it. The family members began each day as equals together, divided as equals during the day to accomplish assigned tasks, and returned to each other at night as equals. In a similar way, all human beings are born equals, created in God’s image. At the final day we shall be equals. In between we are still equals, just accomplishing along the daily journey of life different tasks as assigned us by God.
Bosses and teachers, avoid disdain. We are sadly mistaken if we think our workers and students are of little value to God. Our Master consecrated and ennobled service–not only the performance of service ourselves, but also the way we view others who render service. In God’s eyes, you bosses and teachers are not superior to any of your workers or students. They are servants; you are, too. They have a master over them; you do, too.
Bosses and teachers, the Golden Rule applies to you as well as to your workers and students. Put yourself in their place. Have compassion. Act toward them as you would want to be treated. You want respect, give respect. You want commitment to your company, be committed to your employees’ families. You expect loyalty, be loyal. You desire pleasantness, be pleasant.
Always show Christian courtesy. Most people are not as worried about their position or station in life as they are about being treated with dignity, as being regarded as having real worth. Act as if all your laborers and students are created in God’s image, for they are. Convey the message to all under your influence, “You are somebody. You are created in God’s image. You have ultimate value not because of what you do, but simply due to the fact you exist.”