We begin tonight with workers and their duties toward their employers. Malachi one says, “A son should honor his father, and a servant his master.” How do you honor your employers? By recognizing that they are set in place by God for a good purpose, and that God requires obedience toward them.
We are typically in an employment situation voluntarily. An employer makes a contract that we agree to, and we can decide to walk away from the job if we chose, assuming we do not violate our contract. Yet we are still under the authority of that employer, to whom we owe honor and obedience.
Loyalty then comes into play. You cannot honor someone and at the same time want to betray and dump them at the first opportunity. Some jobs make us feel that way, but that is not a godly attitude.
We should be faithful and loving toward our employers. But how often these days do people talk slanderously behind their boss’ back? How many workers cut corners and do half-hearted work as long as their boss is not watching? We should beware of such worldly attitudes and strive to do better.
But what if my boss is a bad man? Consider the little girl, not even named in Second Kings five, who was abducted and carried away to Syria. She was made a slave against her will. This little slave of a heathen could have said to herself, “My master is a bad, godless man. He holds me here far from the land and people I love. I guess I am forced to be his slave, but I don’t have to like it or respect him.” Instead she served with love and honor for her master, Naaman. When Naaman was afflicted with leprosy, this little girl told him that there was a prophet in Israel who could heal him of his leprosy. THAT is an example of love and honor we should have, especially since none of us are forcibly held in slavery.
Saint Peter requires that servants be submissive to their masters, with all fear, not only those who are gentle, but also those who are harsh.
There is a limit to this. When an employer gives an order that exceeds what is godly, decent, and proper. The wife of Joseph’s master tried to require him to lie with her, but he refused. On the other hand, the servants of King Herod should not have obeyed Herod when he commanded them to slaughter the little babies in Bethlehem.
But even without such immoral masters, we too often treat our bosses as adversaries. But in Scripture we have examples of gentile slaves calling their masters, “Dear father.” So we should, out of love, be obedient and hard working, not only when the boss is watching us. We should not complain, as the sinful flesh wants to do.
The usual attitude in America is that we get a job to make money, and that is our one aim and goal. But we have been commanded by our heavenly Master to think about our employers and the respect we owe them. Instead of thinking about money, we should think about the fact that when we serve our earthly masters, we are serving the Lord Christ. This should make our work lighter and more pleasant.
Think if Christ suddenly walked up to you in the flesh. He is standing right there! Would any one of us fail to do Him any favor or hard work for which He asked? He has redeemed us with His Blood and death from sin, death, the devil, hell, and eternal damnation! We would do anything for Him! So remember whom you are really serving when you obey your earthly employer.
The Lord has also promised that whatever good we do, He will reward us, both here in time and also in eternity. This is not to say that we earn salvation by our works, which Scripture plainly condemns. But Saint Paul writes in Colossians three that there is an eternal reward laid up in heaven so that we will receive the reward of the inheritance. Note carefully that Paul does not say, “You will earn a wage for your work.” No, he says, “You receive an inheritance.” An inheritance is freely given by the One who gives it. But He, the gracious Giver, chooses to reward works that He has created in us to magnify the glory of His craftsmanship in us, the saints. All glory goes to Christ, who alone has earned all things by becoming the Slave of all.
This same Lord will reward all of us whom He has chosen to call His fellow servants. No matter how small our service seems on earth, He will lift us all up to the highest place, even as He was lifted up from the lowest place to the highest.
Now let us turn to employers. Although God has honored them by placing them in a higher position of authority than others, they should not think that they may use this position to treat their employees any way they wish. Just because their workers are to honor them, the overseers must be careful not to abuse the honor with which they are entrusted.
Scripture gives us a number of instructions about how to treat workers.
First of all, an employer must not work his people too hard. We should not follow the example of Pharaoh, who mercilessly drove the Israelites. A good employer should allow workers to have reasonable time off, especially on the Lord’s Day. Because many bosses try to make Christians work on Sunday, this is a message that needs to be heard.
Also, an employer has a duty to set a good example in morality and hard work. Many eyes are on him, and an immoral or hypocritical boss can create much bitterness and lead many astray.
An employer must make sure that he pays his workers at the proper time and at the agreed upon wage. Nitpicking bosses who find excuses to shortchange wages should remember that God sees their actions. If a man fails to clothe and feed and shelter his own workers, he should remember that Christ says that he has failed to do so to Him. Because of faith in Christ, an employer should remember that he has the responsibility to care for those who labor for him.
Other instructions for masters includes avoiding being tyrannically cruel or too demanding. A boss should not too easily become angry, nor always be irritable. Instead, kindness and understanding can show that there is no feeling of superiority or contempt for workers.
Some masters are too quick to punish. Potiphar was told that Joseph had behaved indecently with his wife. Without investigation, examination, or evidence, Potiphar had Joseph thrown into prison.
Moderation is key – not too harsh, but also not too permissive. Workers should know that hard work is important, yet also should not feel beaten down by strictness. Disrespectful, lazy workers should be taught the right way, as gently as possible, or else should be shown the road. An employer’s kindness does not mean putting up with wicked servants. There is a proper way to be stern that requires fairness and consistency. Too much gentleness creates negligent workers.
In all things, employers should seek to do to others as they would have them do to them. If they were in the place of their workers, how would they like to be treated? Of course, this does not exclude fairness and moderation, as I have said. But employers have the duty to see that their workers are justly repaid and taken care of at the same time that they are expected to deliver an honest day’s work. Thus, everyone serves one another in the workplace, everyone has a chance to prosper according to God’s will, and we may live together in honesty and love.
God grant such harmony in our land. Amen.
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