Slaves, obey your earthly masters in everything; and do it, not only when their eye is on you and to curry their favor, but with sincerity of heart and reverence for the Lord. Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving. Anyone who does wrong will be repaid for their wrongs, and there is no favoritism.
Masters, provide your slaves with what is right and fair, because you know that you also have a Master in heaven.
There are a handful of passages in scripture about slavery, and they make us uncomfortable. Rightly so. These words have been put to evil use to legitimize terrible things, and we should be ashamed of those in our nation’s history who have justified the horrors of slavery under the teaching of scripture. We need to read Paul’s words, however, in his historical context not ours. Slavery in the Roman world was not based on race or people stolen from their homelands to serve a more powerful nation. Instead, slavery was a financial transaction, often entered into as a way of repaying debt. That’s not to say that being a slave in Paul’s day was a nice situation or something we should embrace, and it’s also not true that scripture supports slavery as a moral good. Slavery was a harsh reality in the Roman world and has been practiced in various places throughout history. Paul’s words here are not meant to endorse slavery but to encourage those believers caught in a hard situation to follow Jesus and not use their hardships as an excuse to do wrong. In the same way, Paul tells masters to treat their slaves “right and fair,” remembering that they also serve “a Master in heaven.”
Setting aside the difficulties of slavery, the central truth of these verses should speak to all of us. Whatever you do, Paul says, you should work “with all your heart, as working for the Lord.” That applies to your job, and it applies to your involvement at church. It applies to how you care for your family, and it applies to volunteer work you do in the community. Followers of Jesus follow him all the time, everywhere. We honor God in everything we do. Our words, actions and attitudes should always reflect the goodness of Christ, especially in hard situations when we might otherwise be tempted to join with those who rebel or complain.
Your work, whether at home or on the job, matters to God. Even more, how you work and who you are while you work matter to God. Many people don’t like their jobs or have to deal with hard situations, but the Spirit calls us to persevere, to work hard, to remain faithful, to obey God’s word and to bring honor to the name of Jesus in all we do.Father, give me strength to serve You as I do my work in the world. Use me to accomplish good things for Your glory and to treat others with kindness. I give You my spiritual devotion and my physical strength to be used in the name of Jesus. Amen.
Pastor Mike Mirakian