Chapter 21: Ethics In Our Work-A-Day World

Ethics In Our Work-A-Day World
Reading Ephesians Ch. 6v5-9.

Kenneth Humphries


Work! How does that word make you feel? What images does that word produce in your mind? Do you view work as good or bad? What do you think of work?

Many view work as a burden. For them, work is something to be avoided. Rather than something, which gives them dignity, work is viewed as demeaning. Why is this? Why do many view work as a burden? Whatever happened to the idea of the dignity of work? Whatever happened to taking pride in work well done? Have we, as a society, become lazy?

I heard of a man applying for a job. The manager reviewing the application said, “I'm sorry I can't hire you, there isn't enough work to keep you busy.” The applicant replied, “You'd be surprised how little it takes.”

Of course, it is not true that our society can be categorically labelled as lazy. On the other hand, we might ask ourselves whether we sufficiently promote the value of hard work. To the extent we do not, is a major problem and where should we lay the blame for such a problem?

I heard of a farmer who had several boys. He worked those boys extremely hard around the farm. One day one of the neighbours pointed out that it wasn't necessary to work the boys that hard in order to raise a crop. The farmer, quietly but firmly responded, “I'm not just raising a crop; I’m also raising boys who hopefully will become men.”

Perhaps the real education concerning the value of our work ought to be held in the classroom of the home.

We must teach our children the wisdom of the ages. What is that?

Zig Ziglar tells the story of how the wisdom of the ages was discovered. Many years ago, a wise old king called his wise men together and gave them a commission. “I want you to compile for me the wisdom of the ages. Put it in book form so we might leave it to posterity.” The wise men left the king and worked for a long period of time. They finally returned with twelve volumes and proudly proclaimed that this truly was “the wisdom of the ages.” The king looked at the twelve volumes and said, “Gentlemen, I'm certain this is the wisdom of the ages and that it contains the knowledge we should leave to mankind. However, it is too long and I fear that people will not read it. Condense it!” Again the wise men worked long and hard before they returned with only one volume. The king however knew that it was still too lengthy so he commanded them to further condense their work. The wise men reduced the volume to a chapter, then to a page, then to a paragraph, and finally to a sentence. When the wise old king saw the sentence he was absolutely elated. “Gentlemen,” he said, “this is truly the wisdom of the ages, and as soon as all men everywhere will learn this truth, then most of our problems will be solved.” The sentence simply said, “There's no such thing as a free meal.”

Well, that may indeed have been the wisdom of the ages, but it certainly does not work today as intended. Many, today treat work as a nightmare situation, they hate the thought of Monday morning.

1. How Employees Should Respond To Their Employers! v5-8.

Servants, be obedient to them that are your masters according to the flesh, with fear and trembling, in singleness of your heart, as unto Christ; not with eye service, as men pleasers; but as the servants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart; with good will doing service, as to the Lord, and not to men: knowing that whatsoever good thing any man doeth, the same shall he receive of the Lord, whether he be bond or free”.

Now, there is some wisdom in that statement, "There is no such thing as a free meal." The Bible, however, gives the real wisdom of the ages. God's Word speaks directly to the issue of work. It dignifies work, and the worker. In fact, as we will see in our text, it gives us a formula for how to win at work in other words to use work as an opportunity and be grateful.

This passage addresses the responsibilities and duties of slaves and masters. At first glance, you may be tempted to conclude that this passage has no relevance for today. This would be a mistake! As we will see, there is a direct application, which can be made to employee/employer relationships.

The Roman Empire is estimated to have had as many as 60,000,000 slaves. It is also estimated that from one-third to one-half of the populations of large cities like Ephesus and Rome were slaves. Just as Philemon in the Colossian church was a master, so some in the Ephesian church were also masters.

It is true that many slaves were horribly mistreated. They were considered as property. Aristotle, in his Nicomachian Ethics refers to a slave as “a living tool.” Gaius, the Roman lawyer, confirmed the right under Roman law that a slave could be bought and sold and was not a legal person. In the Institutes he says, “We may note that it is universally accepted that the master possesses the power of life and death over the slave.”

Despite the fact that many slaves were mistreated, there is evidence that, by the time of the Christian era, many sweeping changes had been introduced. In the First Century, under Roman law, many slaves were being set free. In fact, Augustus Caesar introduced legal restrictions to curb the trend. Slaves, even while they remained the possession of their masters, could own property --- including other slaves. Slaves were used in all kinds of jobs. The Romans delegated almost all work to them. A slave could be a teacher, doctor, or administrator. From custodian to the meanest task slaves were the backbone of society.

In the Hebrew society, slaves had even more rights, including the right to be set free in the seventh year. In many respects, the position of bondservant could be compared with that of employee today. There are some significant differences, but there are some important similarities. The position of master could also be compared with that of employers. The servant is to be grateful he, she, is able to work and have an opportunity to be diligent in that work. They are to be grateful for their employment in other words.

Colossians Ch.3vv23-25:
And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men; Knowing that of the Lord ye shall receive the reward of the inheritance: for ye serve the Lord Christ. But he that doeth wrong shall receive for the wrong, which he hath done: and there is no respect of persons”.

Believer, your work, your job, is nothing to treat lightly. Why? Because you work, not simply for your wages but you work for the Lord Jesus Christ, knowing that of the Lord you shall receive the reward of inheritance. But knowing also that he that doeth wrong shall receive for the wrong! Hey listen folks, this is God's Word not mine. You need to treat your work and the opportunity of work in a correct manner and be mighty thankful. You see the big picture here is that you will answer to the Lord how you treated your work and your opportunity.

2. How Employees Should Respond To Their Employers! Jer. Ch. 29vv4-7.

(This from an Old Testament point of view which is most interesting)

Listen to what God said through Jeremiah to the slaves of his day:

Thus saith the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel, unto all that are carried away captives, whom I have caused to be carried away from Jerusalem unto Babylon; Build ye houses, and dwell in them; and plant gardens, and eat the fruit of them; Take ye wives, and beget sons and daughters; and take wives for your sons, and give your daughters to husbands, that they may bear sons and daughters; that ye may be increased there, and not diminished. And seek the peace of the city whither I have caused you to be carried away captives, and pray unto the LORD for it: for in the peace thereof shall ye have peace” (Jeremiah Ch. 29vv4-7).

This is the advice given to employees. Actually, it is a formula for how to win at work. It centres on a simple command. It is the same command we have heard given to wives and children. It underscores the importance of both authority and submission in God's plan. The instruction to employees is simple: be obedient.

But the command to be obedient is not issued in isolation. There are a number of important qualifiers. This obedience does not exist in a vacuum. It is not only important that we obey, but it is actually more important how we obey. It is how we obey that will enable to us to win at work.

We are to obey respectfully. In other words, we are to obey with a right attitude. As employees, we are to be obedient to those who are . . . masters according to the flesh, our employers, with fear and trembling. This is speaking of respect. Showing respect for a person in a position of authority is both right and wise. It is right because God commands it, because it preserves order in society, and because it respects authority. It is wise because it hurts us to do otherwise. In fact, we not only become known as insubordinate, disrespectful employees, but we bring the name of Christ into reproach.

1 Timothy Ch.6v1 says, “All who are under the yoke of slavery should consider their masters worthy of full respect, so that God's name and our teaching may not be slandered” (NIV). If you want to win at work show respect to your boss!

We should obey honestly. In other words, we should have a right conscience. Your obedience should be in the sincerity of your heart, as to Christ; not by way of eye service, as men-pleasers, but as slaves of Christ. Our work should be done in integrity. It is dishonest, and shows a lack of integrity, when we only appear to be working hard every time our boss comes around. But we are not to be like that. We are to work honestly, and in integrity. Only as we do so can we receive our pay with a right conscience. If you want to win at work, then work honestly.

We are to obey whole-heartedly. In other words, we must have a right perspective. Obedience should be in the sincerity of your heart, as to Christ . . . doing the will of God from the heart. Our work should be done whole-heartedly because we understand that we are working for the Lord.

1 Corinthians 10:31 says, “Whether, then, you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” Sometimes the task we are assigned to perform is an unwelcome one. We can only do our job whole-heartedly if we view what we are doing as unto the Lord. We must see our work as serving God. Is it possible for a housewife to cook a meal as if Jesus were going to eat it? It is possible for doctors or nurses to care for patients as if they were serving Jesus Christ? Is it possible for lawyers to help clients, or accountants to audit books, or secretaries to type letters, or salesmen to market products as if in every situation they were serving our Lord? It is! It is, if we have the right perspective.

There's a story about Sir Christopher Wren, one of England's greatest architects. Approximately three centuries ago, when he was building St. Paul's Cathedral, he was said to have taken a walk among the workers, most of whom did not know him. To one he asked, “What are you doing?” The man replied, “Anyone can see I'm cutting stone.” He put the same question to another and was told, “I'm earning five shilling two-pence a day.” He moved on and asked a third, who replied, “Why, I'm helping Sir Christopher Wren build a great cathedral to the glory of God.” Which man do you suppose had a right perspective?

If you have that kind of perspective, you can work whole-heartedly because your work will be to the glory of God. If you want to win at work, work whole-heartedly.

We must also obey pleasantly. In other words, we must maintain a right spirit. We are told that our obedience must be with good will as we render service, as to the Lord, and not to men. We must choose to maintain a right spirit, a spirit of good will, as we perform our work. We must avoid being cynical, sour, negative, and especially belligerent. The very tone of our voice can make a big difference. It is really true that you feel better when you smile. Life is easier when you choose to be happy. Yes, I do believe that happiness is a choice. If you dwell on the negative, the problems, the hang-ups, you will quickly begin to see only those things. Most teenagers have skin problems. I know I did. I also remember having one of those mirrors, which had two sides. On one side was a normal mirror and on the other was a magnification mirror. What an awful instrument to place in the in the hands of a zit ridden teenager. Too often we magnify the problems all out of perspective. We need to remember that we're serving our Lord Jesus Christ. Remember the exhortation found in Philippians 4 to think on the good things, as we do, we will maintain a right spirit. If you want to win at work, work pleasantly.

Finally, we must work trustfully. In other words, we must develop a right hope. Our work must be done knowing that whatever good thing each one does, this he will receive back from the Lord, whether slave or free. A right hope trusts in the Lord to reward us. Although I would earnestly contend that if we follow the Lord's advice as employees we would find many rewards from our employers, we must remember that our ultimate reward comes from God. We are serving Him, and He will reward us. Our hope is in Him. Our trust should be in Him. However, I believe that God will see to it that we are blessed in our labour here on earth. We may not get every promotion we want, or every salary increase we think we deserve, but we will be blessed. And if we truly trust Jesus, then we will be able to leave it in His hands. If you want to win at work, work trustfully.

We who sit in history's bleachers are inclined to confuse fame with greatness. We seem willing to let the press, television, and radio determine whom we shall call great. Prominence, however, is a poor yardstick with which to measure greatness. If one would know the truth, he must pull the pedestal out from under the man and see what is left. Many of the men we place on pedestals would stand tall without the pedestal. And many whom we never think of in terms of pedestals deserve the accolade of greatness. It has been said that that nation is proudest and noblest and most exalted which has the greatest number of really great men and women--not just those whom it honours, but also the "anonymous" great, the citizens who, in their little bailiwicks, live exemplary lives--the kind it would be wonderful if all of us lived. These are the persons James Russell Lowell had in mind when he wrote:

The wisest man could ask no more of Fate
Than to be simple, modest, manly, true,
Safe from the Many, honoured by the Few:
To count as naught in World, or Church, or State:
But inwardly, in secret to be great.
James S. Hewett, Illustrations Unlimited (Wheaton: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc, 1988), p. 466.

3. How Employers Should React To Employees! Eph.6v9.

And, masters, do the same things to them, and give up threatening, knowing that both their Master and yours is in heaven, and there is no partiality with Him

Now he moves from the employee to the employer.

As in the relationship between husbands and wives, and parents and children, so in the relationship between employers and employees there is a command for both. The command to employers concerning employees is to do the same things to them.

Here is the Golden Rule in action. Employers are to treat their employees, as they would want their employees to treat them. If employers want respect, they must show respect. If they want honesty, they must be honest. If they want integrity, they must show integrity. If they want pleasantness, they must be pleasant. There is a responsibility of employers to model the kind of behaviour they want their employees to exhibit.

Employers are further exhorted to give up threatening. The authority an employer has is not to be used in an arbitrary manner. There is a good reason for this. Employers ought to treat their employees in a considerate manner knowing that both their Master and yours is in heaven, and there is no partiality with Him.

Employers must understand that all people are equal in the sight of God. The employer/employee relationship is a social one, not an absolute one. One day all of us will stand before the Eternal God. We will there give an account of how we treated one another. Employers are not intrinsically better than their employees. There will be a day of judgement. Employers who bully and abuse their employees will be called to account.

The Lord's words make sense in a very practical way as well. People work better and produce more in an environment of trust and security than they do in an environment of threats and hostility. Our Lord's management strategy is a very sound one. Contemporary studies of management styles in the best corporations in America and Japan prove this fact. Corporations who are person-oriented and not just profit-oriented are becoming the most successful business enterprises.

The Bible is filled with practical advice about how to win. Here we have some down-to-earth teaching on how to win at work. Really, these principals can be applied to a variety of interpersonal relationships with great success. If we faithfully apply them in our lives, then we will not only discover how to win at work, we will also discover how to win at life.

Watch where Jesus went! The one dominant note in his life was to do his Father's will. His is not the way of wisdom or of success, but the way of faithfulness. Oswald Chambers.

When God calls a man, he does not repent of it. God does not, as many friends do, love one day, and hate another; or as princes, who make there subjects favourites, and afterwards throws them into prison. This is the blessedness of a saint; his condition admits of no alternation. God's call is founded upon his decree and his decree is immutable. Acts of grace cannot be reversed.

God blots out his people's sins, but not their names. Thomas Watson.

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