2008-06-22 (am) Ephesians 6:5-9 Godly Workers
What is your attitude as an employee? What is your attitude as an employer? How do you react to situations you are in? How do you handle deficient employees? How do you work under tough bosses?
The Apostle Paul gives tough instruction here. He does not campaign for worker freedom. Nor does he advocate employee abuse. He doesn’t lift one over the other, as we might be inclined to do.
He is simply gives the proper context on the relationship between an employer and an employee.
The context is this, whether you’re the employer or the employee, render your work as to the Lord.
It isn’t about the paycheque. It isn’t about the next crop, the next harvest, the next sale, the next job. It isn’t about meeting your needs, your goals, your dreams, and your expectations. Your job isn’t merely a stepping stone onto bigger and better things.
It is about the Lord. We render our work, as to the Lord. That is our focus. That’s our attitude. That will get us through the day, any day, if that is our focus.
But it is hard. It is very hard.
Not every job is fun, not every job is exciting. Sometimes you get to be in a job that gives you tremendous satisfaction, like me. I love my job. But it took a while to get here. In the meantime, the other jobs did not give me the same satisfaction, and perhaps the same is true for some of you. Nevertheless, we are commanded to render our service as to the Lord.
Some bosses are good, some are bad. Some employees are good, some are bad.
This is not very easy at all.
To encourage us this morning, and we all need encouragement, to give us some perspective, let’s consider Joseph.
Joseph had it all. He was a favoured son, from his Dad’s favourite wife. He walked with God. God revealed His plan to Joseph in a dream. It was all laid out. One day God would place him in a position of authority over all the family. Everyone would pay homage to him. That’s what the dream said. All he had to do was wait and make it happen.
So, there he is, on this track, the favoured kid. He’s even got a special coat. But there’s one wrinkle. His brothers hate him. For some reason, his brothers took offense to his dreams. They perceived Joseph’s dreams as not reflecting so well on them. So, they decided to take matters into their own hands. They decided to put an end to Joseph and his dreams.
They plotted to kill him. But one of the brothers wasn’t totally comfortable with the idea, so he came up with a better solution. Let’s sell Joseph into slavery, and make some money while we’re at it! There’s a double bonus. They get money for the guy they hate and they don’t have to live with his blood on their hands. It’s a win-win situation for all but Joseph.
In spite of his dreams, in spite of his lack of tact around his brothers, Joseph really did have good character. He was optimistic. Well, perhaps more people would prefer being sold as a slave than being dead. On the other hand, under some slave masters, death would’ve been preferable.
Joseph worked hard as a slave. He didn’t whine and complain. He didn’t try to convince his master, Potiphar of who he really was. He didn’t go around saying, “In a dream God revealed that he’s going to save lots of people through me.” He worked hard and honestly. He earned his boss’ respect. He moved up the ladder. Before long, he was running everything in Potiphar’s house. He maintained utmost integrity. He didn’t abuse his position at all, though he had every opportunity to do so.
Joseph rendered his work as to the Lord. He was full of integrity. He did not consider his position as something to be grasped. He did not consider his position as something to be robbed. He avoided pride, he avoided selfishness, and he avoided entitlement. In this, he found true joy and satisfaction. He wasn’t working for himself. He was working for the Lord.
Maybe the time he spent at the bottom of the pit, before he was sold into slavery, left for dead, maybe that gave him perspective. Maybe every day, he realised that he could have been dead. Therefore, he honoured God in everything he did. He worked hard.
That is until Potiphar’s wife decided she was bored with her husband. She set her sights on the handsome Hebrew in her house. But Joseph would have nothing to do with her. He maintained his integrity. After one of her advances, he fled and she accused him of rape. He was innocent. And yet he lost everything. It did not appear that God was rewarding him for his integrity. Potiphar put him in prison. Again, it appeared that God’s revelation was false.
And yet Joseph kept faith. Even in prison, he made the most of his situation. He again gained honour and respect, even from the guards. Being in jail was no picnic. He cried out to the Lord to save him. But God left him there for a while, for those of us familiar with the story, God had great plans for him, and prison was part of that plan.
So, though Joseph had to deal with injustice, being wrongfully accused, wrongfully imprisoned, after all, he was nothing less than the very best employee that a guy could ever want. Even though he suffered evil again, and again, he remained faithful to God. He did not blame God. He cried out for justice, but responded to his situation with patience.
And God looked after him. God provided a means for his release from prison and this time he became pharaoh’s servant. He rose through the ranks again. Before long, he was the de facto ruler of all Egypt. Pharaoh left him in charge of everything, he trusted Joseph implicitly.
God revealed to Pharaoh through Joseph that seven great years of harvest would be followed by seven years of severe famine. Joseph told Pharaoh to build up massive storehouses for all the grain they would need during the famine. Pharaoh left him in charge of everything. Clearly, God was with Joseph.
This famine was of God. God, to draw Joseph’s family back to Joseph, orchestrated it all. So that Joseph would be reunited with his brothers. The dream came true. His brothers and his father became subject to him. He had the position of power. He could have paid them back for their evil.
But you know Joseph’s reaction. He wept! He had to leave the room because his love for his brothers was so great! They didn’t yet recognise them, but he knew them. Joseph was kind and gracious. This is what he said to his brothers, “As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today. So do not fear; I will provide for you and your little ones” (Gen. 50:20-21a).
If we were to leave it there, with Joseph, then we’d fall into moralism. We need to look at another person this morning. He was in a situation similar to Joseph’s in many ways.
His name also starts with a J. It is Jesus. Let’s look at some of the parallels.
Jesus is like us in every way, but sin. Imagine being Jesus’ brother. “Oh, yeah, Jesus, the perfect one!”
Jesus was faithful to his master, God the Father. He completely humbled himself. He always did his Father’s will. He worked hard. He knew when to rest. He communicated with his Father all the time.
He was abused, beaten, wrongfully accused, wrongfully sentenced. But fully in control. He served his Father perfectly faithfully.
Jesus died on the cross. The people who convicted him, beat him, and crucified him intended it for evil, but like Joseph, Jesus says, “As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today. So do not fear; I will provide for you and your little ones” (Ibid).
And this is how these two figure into our text this morning.
In Joseph, we see a man of character. In Joseph we see someone who was pointing toward someone else. Joseph was pointing to Jesus.
In Jesus, we have the perfect example of the perfect employee and employer. He rendered everything, everything that he did unto His Father. His entire focus was on God the Father, doing the Father’s will, day in and day out.
Now, this is the context for us. Christ did all these things. Christ is perfect.
And Christ looks down from the right hand of God, and, like a perfect employer, a perfect Lord, he expects perfect submission from us.
But, we can’t perfectly submit. We can’t even come close. Indeed, if we’re honest, when we look at our passage this morning, we realise that we can’t even do the simple things listed there. If we’re perfectly honest, we realise that we can’t live up to Christ’s standards.
And yet Jesus looks down from on high, he looks at us and he demands perfection. And he gets it.
How? How is this possible? It is through Christ himself! He knows how weak we are! He knows our struggles. He knows our selfishness. He knows what Satan does to attack us. He’s been here, done that! He really truly knows!
So, he graciously gives us the Holy Spirit. In order that we would be able to live up to his expectations!
We can serve Him! When we are at work, whether we’re an employee or an employer, whether we love our job or hate it, whether we’re good at our job or poor at it, whatever the situation we happen to be in, we can do our very best because we are not only rendering our work to the Lord, the Lord Jesus Christ, through the Holy Spirit in us, is enabling us to render our work to the Lord!
Do you see Christ’s amazing love and power? Have you seen him? Do you know how awesome and mind-blowing this is? As to our sinful nature, everything we do shows hatred toward God and neighbour.
But Christ, in his great mercy, takes our hatred, our evil, the very things we intended to do against him, the wrongs we’ve committed the sin’s we’ve done, the efforts our sinfulness has worked to derail his plan, and he turns them to his good.
Christ has already given us everything we need in order to be faithful workers. We have every spiritual blessing in Christ. We have Christ! The Holy Spirit in us! God in us, God with us!
It is totally amazing!
So, this week, next week, the weeks, months, years to come, start operating from a position of knowledge.
Know who you are in Christ! Redeemed, Forgiven, righteous according to Christ’s righteousness, made forever right with God, God’s children, God’s temple.
Experience that reality in the work you do. Fear, respect and honour your boss. Realise the power they have over you as your employer. Serve them with all sincerity, the sincerity placed in you by Jesus Christ. Do God’s will, from your heart. Show your integrity in every situation. Be like Jesus, be like Joseph. Though both those guys had opportunities to abuse their situations, they did not. Joseph could have slept with Potiphar’s wife and possibly got away with it. But Joseph’s integrity stopped him. He valued his relationship with God more than a quick tempting tumble with a woman who was not his wife.
Hopefully you won’t be in that exact situation, but there will be temptations along the way. Have integrity. Don’t steal. Don’t cheat on your time card. Don’t lie, don’t give false information. Simply let your yes be yes and your no, no.
Know this now. You can do what the Lord requires, because the Lord has already made you, recreated you in his image, to do the work. Know this also, no matter what evil happens, what wrongdoing you do, Christ can and will use it for His glory. You cannot derail His plans.
Employers, you must exercise integrity. Speak kindly and clearly to your employees. Don’t use and abuse them. Treat them with honour and respect, also as to the Lord, who watches over you.
Have integrity in your business. Don’t over charge. Don’t rip people off. Take a hit if you have to, if the choice means having integrity as a Christian or being dishonest in order to gain a slight or even a vast advantage.
I’ve heard the complaints that people have concerning Christian businesspeople. Your witness to Christ is reflected in your business. Be very careful. People hate hypocrisy. That means if you’ve been dishonest in the past, maybe you need to make restitution. Zacchaeus did so, because he realised that financial treasure was nothing compared to the treasure he hosted in his home, the very Son of God.
Jesus tells us to store up treasures in heaven. Our greatest treasure is in heaven, it is God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit, who is within us. We already have the greatest treasure the world has ever seen. He is in our hearts. He is who we for for!
We’ve heard God’s Word. Now, let’s do it. Amen.