Section Three: The Lifestyle Characteristics of a Godly Life.
Our current theme: Characteristic Two: Serving Christ in the Workplace.
Our reading for today: Ephesians 6: 5-9 (MsgB)
Servants, respectfully obey your earthly masters but always with an eye to obeying the real master, Christ. Don’t just do what you have to do to get by, but work heartily, as Christ’s servants doing what God wants you to do. And work with a smile on your face, always keeping in mind that no matter who happens to be giving the orders, you’re really serving God. Good work will get you good pay from the Master, regardless of whether you are slave or free. Masters, it’s the same with you. No abuse, please, and no threats. You and your servants are both under the same Master in heaven. He makes no distinction between you and them.
Back in the day when Paul wrote these words, slavery was not only legal, but it was the norm! And the concepts of profit-sharing, employee benefits, matching-fund IRA’s, and a 40-hour work week were as a foreign to the workplace as night is to day! Yet, Paul, even in a work environment as cruel as it was in the first century, is encouraging his fellow believers to not get caught up in loud complaining, but rather, go about their labors as if they were actually employed by God!
Of course, the great equalizer here is that Paul is not just speaking to employees but he’s also addressing employers as well! You see, to Jesus, it doesn’t matter if you are an employee or an employer. Both are required by the Master to be otherly men and women, watching out for those around us, caring as much about the livelihood of our fellow workers as much as we’re caring for ourselves.
Yet, alas, in today’s dog-eat-dog world of business and commerce, there are not many places of employment where the Golden Rule is Job One.
So, what’s a Christ-follower to do?
As I see it, the best answer to living and working in this consumer-driven culture where the one with the most toys at the end of the day wins, is to live, as best we can, the counter-culture, Christ-centered life Paul suggests here to his friends in Ephesus. You see, if I can go to work today with the attitude and work-habits of Christ, serving others before they serve me first, caring more about the least of those around me than my own personal success; I’m actually living the world-changing life Jesus has empowered me to live. And through the mighty work of the Holy Spirit, my Christ-centered, Christ-honoring actions just might spark a flame of revival that might soon spread to others around me.
A good example that comes to mind is the story of John Newton. Let me share his story here, thanks to the website, The Abolition Project:
At just 11 years old, (John) Newton went to sea with his father. In 1743 he was on his way to a position as a slave master on a plantation in Jamaica, when he was pressed into naval service. He became a midshipman but after demotion for trying to desert, he requested an exchange to a slave ship bound for West Africa. Eventually he reached the coast of Sierra Leone where he became the servant of an abusive slave trader. In 1748, he was rescued by a sea captain and returned to England. During a storm, when it was thought the ship might sink, he prayed for deliverance. This experience began his conversion to evangelical Christianity. Later, whilst aboard a slave vessel bound for the West Indies, he became ill with a violent fever and asked for God’s mercy; an experience he claimed was the turning point in his life. Despite this, he continued to participate in the Slave Trade. In 1750, he made a further voyage as master of the slave ship ‘Duke of Argyle’ and two voyages on the ‘African’. He admitted that he was a ruthless businessman and an unfeeling observer of the Africans he traded. Slave revolts on board ship were frequent. Newton mounted guns and muskets on the desk aimed at the slaves’ quarters. Slaves were lashed and put in thumbscrews to keep them quiet. In 1754, after a serious illness, he gave up seafaring altogether. In 1757, he applied for the Anglican priesthood. It was seven years before he was accepted. On 17th June 1764, he finally became a priest at Olney in Buckinghamshire. He became well known for his pastoral care and respected by both Anglicans and nonconformists. He collaborated with William Cowper to produce a volume of hymns, including ‘Amazing Grace’. So popular was his preaching, that the church could not accommodate all those who flocked to hear him. Newton began to deeply regret his involvement in the Slave Trade. After he became Rector of St Mary Woolnoth, in London in 1779, his advice was sought by many influential figures in Georgian society, among them the young M.P., William Wilberforce. Wilberforce was contemplating leaving politics for the ministry. Newton encouraged him to stay in Parliament and “serve God where he was”. Wilberforce took his advice, and spent the rest of his life working towards the abolition of slavery. In 1787, Newton wrote a tract supporting the campaign, ‘Thoughts upon the African Slave Trade’, which was very influential. It graphically described the horrors of the Slave Trade and his role in it. He later joined William Wilberforce in the campaign for abolition of the Slave Trade. In February 1807, when the act to abolish the Slave Trade finally became law, John Newton, nearly blind and near death, “rejoiced to hear the wonderful news.”
You see, for John Newton, God’s amazing grace came flooding in on the hardened heart of a professional slave trader, making him see things he’d never seen before. A man who once was employed as a slave trader had now become an “employee” of the Master, working for change in a world that insisted that there was nothing wrong with slavery.
Hmm. I wonder what social injustices are being overlooked today in the work place? Injustices that Jesus is highly concerned about, but sadly, has no one listening because His servants are too consumed with climbing the corporate ladder for themselves?
Maybe, just maybe, you might be the next John Newton on Jesus’ work agenda? Or maybe the Holy Spirit might use your Christ-likeness at work to greatly impact the next John Newton? Who knows?
Are you ready for a taste of Amazing Grace at your workplace today?
My prayer: Father God, without a doubt, Paul’s words to the Ephesians are not easy to swallow…particularly in the highly-secularized culture we live in today. But Jesus, You too lived in a very godless culture where the rights of others were overlooked, slavery was the norm, and human injustice was the flavor of the day. Holy Spirit, indwell me and empower me to go to work this day with the heart of Jesus. May I glorify You with both my words and deeds. For Your name’s sake. Amen.
My questions to ponder: What realms of social injustice are surrounding me today and, like John Newton, where do I need to change my thinking and my activity so that I’m on the side of Christ?
So what is God speaking to you today as we attempt to live the Christ-centered life?
Over a thirty-six week period, you and I will take a deeper look into twelve key characteristics of a godly life. In other words, we’ll take A Journey into Christian Discipleship. In order to keep all the blog sessions organized, we suggest you bookmark our Journey home page for ease of use. ENJOY!
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