Turning Our Work into Worship
By Matthew Black, Pastor
Text: Ephesians 6:5-9
Date: Sunday, July 12, 2009, 11am
Tabernacle Baptist Church
7020 Barrington Road
Hanover Park, Illinois 60133
Introduction: Open your Bible to the book of Ephesians 6:5-9. It is estimated that a person will spend about 100,000 hours at employment in his life time, and that’s only a 43 hour work week. Most of us work plenty more than that. But just on a 43 hour work week, that would be like working without stopping for over 11 years! But brothers and sisters, this is not primarily a message about work, but about worship. It is a message about how our hearts are changed by the power of Christ, and we have a new master and a new mandate, and a new Motivation.
Work occupies a lot of our life. Some might make the great mistake of separating their work from their worship of God. The message today is about how everything we do, especially our work, is our worship to God. In other words, worship is not just on Sundays and Wednesdays, but it is us valuing and honoring and adoring God every minute of every day. We serve Jesus Christ at church, at home, at work, and at play. Everything we do is worship.
We come to a passage of Scripture that is quite amazing if we understand the time in which it was written.
A. The Population of slaves in the Roman Empire. Our passage this morning is addressed to slaves. There were millions of slaves in Romans society. In fact, many of the churches that Paul planted throughout the Roman empire were made up of slaves. Actually, out of the estimated 120 million people in the Roman empire in Paul’s day, 60 million were slaves. That means that one half of the entire society was enslaved to the other half! We look back at that and can see the depravity of man’s heart.
B. The Conditions of slavery in Rome. Slavery is an awful institution.
1. In the Roman empire a person might become a slave if he had a great amount debt, so he would sell himself into slavery to pay the debt.
2. Most slaves though came from the territories Rome conquered. A person might be a doctor, a teacher, or a merchant, and suddenly, if Rome conquered his land, he could be a slave.
3. When a person became a slave, he or she would lose all of his rights. He became a person that was treated as the lowest rung of society. Legally they had no standing. There were no consequences no matter how their owner treated them. Remember this is one half of the entire Roman society.
4. The word “slave” here can also mean a household hired servant who is paid wages.
C. There were various Distinctions in Roman society that segregated people. We’ll look into these more in depth later, but let me say there were differences between men and women. Women couldn’t own property or vote. There were differences between Jews and Gentiles. They hated each other. There were different classes of society, and that difference was no more apparent than between slaves and masters. Of course the Cross brings all groups to level ground. We are all equally deserving of hell, and all equally in desperate need for a Saviour. It is only Jesus Christ that can take these distinctions and erase them by the Cross. Slaves, which were despised in Roman society are now made equal to their masters. And masters are brought down to be slaves of Jesus Christ.
With all that in mind, please turn to our text in Ephesians 6:5-9, “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; 6 Not with eyeservice, as menpleasers; but as the servants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart; 7 With good will doing service, as to the Lord, and not to men: 8 Knowing that whatsoever good thing any man doeth, the same shall he receive of the Lord, whether he be bond or free. 9 And, ye masters, do the same things unto them, forbearing threatening: knowing that your Master also is in heaven; neither is there respect of persons with him.”
[Prayer for Guidance]
We see in this passage, when Paul wants to talk about working relationships, he takes the most undesirable relationship that could be thought of, and he tells these slaves, basically you can turn your WORK into WORSHIP. Paul’s theme in this passage is that no matter who you work for, you should work for them as if they are God the Son. They ought to think, “my employee must think I’m God” because of your hard work and faithfulness. In other words, your work is not just work; it is worship. Don’t let your work hours be fruitless, dry, and an endurance. Your work ought to demonstrate worship to God. `
How can we do that?
Remember you must have undergone a spiritual transformation. If you’ve been born again, everything about you changes, especially your work. Paul describes this transformation here. He says, if you are a Christian, then no matter who you work for you are not truly serving them, but Jesus Christ if you are a Christian. This transforms everything about us. It transforms our attitude.
I. Worshipping while we work is made possible by a focus on our NEW MASTER while we work. Jesus Christ is now LORD. I am not my own master. I can’t just do what I want any more. I have to listen to what Christ says. And basically he says how you treat your boss is reveals what you think of Me! Therefore, worshipping Christ begins with your attitude at work. It is now one of sincere submission to the will of God. We should submit to the authority of our employer as if they were Christ. Christ has put us where we are, and we ought to fulfill His will right where we are. Paul says servants should “be obedient to them that are your masters according to the flesh, with fear and trembling, in singleness of your heart, as unto Christ” (verse 5).
Explanation: Obviously there is something greater going on here than just work. You are a light in a dark city. You are reflecting Jesus Christ in you while you work. This is about glorifying Christ and evangelizing your work place by demonstrating how a Spirit-filled person works. In other words, where you work and what you do for work is not nearly as important as HOW you work. So how do we turn our workplace into a worship time for Christ? Paul tells us very clearly: “be obedient to them that are your masters according to the flesh, with fear and trembling, in singleness of your heart, as unto Christ” (verse 5).
A. Worship Christ while you work through Conformity to your boss’s wishes—“be obedient to them that are your masters according to the flesh” (verse 5). As long as your employer is not telling you to do something that is sinful, you ought to consider it to be the will of God for your life and obey it. Paul starts with the same word that he uses for children to parents: “obey!” Carry out your boss’s wishes as if he were Christ. That means you have a “CAN DO” attitude. That means no griping and complaining. If your boss has a certain goal for the day, obey what he says—your boss’s goal is God’s will for you. Don’t do something else and make an excuse why it’s not done. It is because of this fact that Christians ought to be the best workers in the world!
B. Worship Christ while you work through Carefulness to your boss’s wishes. Respect your boss as if he were Christ—“with fear and trembling”. A born again person is gripped by the fear of the Lord, the very presence of God, and it affects his work ethic. There is a carefulness about a Christian’s work. If Christ is present with you while you are working, watching over you, you will have a deep carefulness about your work. You will care about what you are doing. It’s important because it is for Christ!
Application: Do you have a carefulness about your work, or do you rush through it just to get it done?
C. Worship Christ while you work through Concentration on your boss’s wishes—“in singleness of your heart”. At work your loyalties ought not to be divided. You ought to have your heart’s focus set on doing what your boss says as if it were Christ giving you orders. There ought to be a sincere zeal about what you are doing because you are doing it for Christ. Whether you manufacture widgets, sweep floors, or manage a team of people—the joy is not in making money or in simply getting the job done, but in serving Christ! Paul says—take is so seriously, that you are totally focused on doing it. Keep your mind on it. Keep focused!
II. Second, worshipping while we work is made possible by a focus a NEW MANDATE. No longer is our mandate to please ourselves or to please the boss or to bring home a check. Our mandate is to do the will of God. We no longer do our best work just when the boss is looking. Our mandate is to do the will of God all the time. You are to PLEASE GOD. That’s what ought to motivate you while you work. If you are born again, no longer is your motive money when you go to work. It’s not a paycheck. Look at verse 6: “Not with eyeservice, as menpleasers; but as the servants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart”. Remember Proverbs 15:3, “The eyes of the LORD are in every place, beholding the evil and the good.”
Application: Do you work harder when the boss is watching? Then you are working for the wrong boss. King Jesus is always watching. He never leaves us or forsakes us. You are not at work to please yourself, but to please God and to do His will! We ought to work with the awareness of our Master’s presence always.
III. Third, worshipping while we work is made possible by a focus on NEW MOTIVATION LOOKING FOR THE MOMENT of Christ’s return. We are slaves of Christ. In the Roman empire whether a Christian was free or a slave, they had one MASTER.
A. We do not work primarily for a reward on earth. Our reward is that Christ will be pleased with us at His coming. That ought to motivate and drive everything that we do. Look at verse 8, “Knowing that whatsoever good thing any man doeth, the same shall he receive of the Lord, whether he be bond or free”.
B. Secondly, at the moment of Christ’s return there will no longer be any earthly positions in the Body of Christ. The cultural divisions that carry such weight on earth will be done away with forever.
1. In Christ there is a unity and an equality. Roman masters if they were believers, were to treat slaves as people, not as property. If they were both saved, they were brothers. If they were not, they were to be evangelized. Probably many Christians who owned slaves set them free. Regardless, there was an equality that comes forth loud and clear in this verse that is revolutionary. Paul says in verse 9, “And, ye masters, do the same things unto them”.
The ESV has the verse even clearer, “Masters, do the same to them, and stop your threatening, knowing that he who is both their Master and yours is in heaven, and that there is no partiality with him.”.
At Christ’s coming, all the earthly distinctions that we’ve held to will be done away with. There were great class distinctions in society. Paul in our passage in Ephesians levels all class distinctions and brings everyone level before the cross.
1. We all know about Jews and Gentiles. They hated each other when they were lost, but when they were saved, God united them in one Body. All distinctions were gone. Even though we weight for the Kingdom to come, the Kingdom has already begun in a very real sense. We are one in Christ our King. Ethnic distinctions are done away with in Christ. Our ethnic distinctions become a picture of the beauty of our Creator God who brings a unity to our diversity. We all have different family and ethnic backgrounds. We have cultural differences. And that is a beautiful thing. God makes each of us unique to display His glory. But He brings our diversity together into one Body to glorify Him in unity!
So Paul can say in 1 Corinthians 12:13, “…by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit.”
2. There were the male and female roles in Roman society. Women had almost no rights in Roman society. She could not own property. She could not vote or go into politics. But those distinctions and privileges are done away with in Christ. Men are no greater than women in God’s universe. We may have different roles, but are all equally worthy of hell, and we should all be equally amazed that God could save a wretch like you or I.
3. And of course, there were the divisions of slaves and free people in the culture. In normal society all these distinctions divided people.
But as Christianity swept through the Roman empire, these divisions were erased in the church. The distinctions remained in society, but under the cross, those who were not esteemed were now esteemed. Christianity had the effect of bringing dignity and worth to every individual, and making the ground level at the cross.
Paul says in Galatians 3:26-29 that we are all brothers and sisters in Christ if we have been born again. Listen to these astounding words and remember the day in which they were written: “For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus. 27 For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ. 28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus. 29 And if ye be Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise”.
Conclusion: Let’s close by looking at one final passage. It is 1 Corinthians 7:20-24. What we find here is that whatever position we find ourselves in, we are all slaves of Christ so we ought not ultimately get caught up in the goals of men. We carry out the will of our bosses, yes. But they have different goals from us. Their goal is to make money. Our goal is to please God. So Paul says something shocking in this passage. He says don’t be a slave of men. Yes, in a sense, you are a servant if you work. You rent yourself to someone for 40 or 50 hours a week. But don’t be a servant of men. Don’t get caught up in earthly treasure and fame and pleasing men. We are here to please God. We are here to be slaves of Christ.
Look at 1 Corinthians 7:20-24, “Let every man abide in the same calling wherein he was called. 21 Art thou called being a servant? care not for it: but if thou mayest be made free, use it rather. 22 For he that is called in the Lord, being a servant, is the Lord’s freeman: likewise also he that is called, being free, is Christ’s servant. 23 Ye are bought with a price; be not ye the servants of men. 24 Brethren, let every man, wherein he is called, therein abide with God.”
May God make us all servants of Christ, turning our work into worship of Christ. Focus on your MASTER, Jesus Christ. Focus on His MANDATE: do the will of God, please Him, not men. And finally, focus on the MOMENT of His coming. He could come at any moment. Are you serving Him faithfully at every moment? I trust you are!