Labor Relations, Part 1

A Study of Colossians 3:22–25

Servants, obey in all things your masters according to the flesh; not with eyeservice, as menpleasers; but in singleness of heart, fearing God: 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. (Colossians 3:22–25)

We now have arrived in our study at the place of Christian work life.  To get to the very beginning, this is a part of what we discussed previously of reckoning the ourselves dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord (Romans 6:11).  The “professional life” of both employees and employers is spelled out simply, yet broadly enough to encompass all.

Now there are some things that we know in this world we live in.  All things being equal, all things are not equal.  Some have worked their way to “the top” and have become “masters according to the flesh”.  Some have through several good turns of events found themselves in the position of “masters”, and some have made it to this place by inheritance.  We also know it to be true, conversely, that some through the family or the conditions that they were born into became “servants”, or maybe even fell into servitude (forced, a.k.a. slavery, or indentured), or are simply as we now call “working class”.

The Bible, and especially Paul’s epistles to the body of Christ, are clear as to the way that servants are to regard those that they work for.  They also make clear the way that “masters” should regard their servants.  This truth is just as applicable to employees and employers.  It is even true for independent contractors, or freelancers, who are not on the official company employee roster.  When we are hired for a job, we take the place of the servant, and it becomes our responsibility to look and work for the good of our employer.

In the days of state sanctioned slavery, a slave had no personal rights.  They became the property of their owner, and in some cases did not even have right to life.  They were another class of person not counted among the citizenry.

But this class distinction is not carried over into the body of Christ.  Earlier in this chapter of Colossians, we are told that there is neither bond nor free.  Christians who are “under the yoke” have a place of equal standing to their “despots” who are also in Christ.  Christians who are under the yoke also have a standing in Christ without distinction to the standing of the “freeman”, or even the master.  And, we do not need a change in our earthly position for this freedom:

Art thou called being a servant? care not for it: but if thou mayest be made free, use it rather. 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. Ye are bought with a price; be not ye the servants of men. Brethren, let every man, wherein he is called, therein abide with God. (1 Corinthians 7:21-24)

Now, wouldn’t God want us all to be free from servitude to men so that we could be fully devoted to Him?  We can be fully devoted servants to the Lord Jesus Christ right in the place where we are.  Conditions do not need to change for us to be fully used by Him.

Let as many servants as are under the yoke count their own masters worthy of all honour, that the Name of God and His doctrine be not blasphemed. (1 Timothy 6:1)

That is a good reason, is it not?  We honor those that we work for by doing a good job, and this should be especially so for the worker who is saved.  Now this verse does not specify what type of master is being honored, but that is because this is a general call.  This is not a call that is dependent on the master but on the servant.  The servant is the one in control in this situation.  Here is another good reason for us, as servants, to be the best servants that we can possibly be.  Remember that I am not only speaking of servants and masters in the “classic” sense, but of employees and employers in general. Not only does God’s Name and doctrine not become subject to blasphemy, or evil speaking, but it is made to shine:

Exhort servants to be obedient unto their own masters, and to please them well in all things; not answering again; Not purloining, but shewing all good fidelity; that they may adorn the doctrine of God our Saviour in all things. (Titus 2:9–10)

The apostle then adds to this why we should do so:

For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men… (Titus 2:11)

What we make the salvation-bringing grace of God look like is what the unbelieving employer/master sees.  Think of men like Joseph and Daniel in the Old Testament books who were in the place of lowly servitude, lower than the low, but even in this stood head and shoulders above all of their peers, even to the place of being above all others around them, whether slave or free. These both obtained this place of honor because they were faithful to God and their place of service.  In this, it should go without saying that we do not do the wrong things that our “despots” require, but even in refusal, it should be respectful refusal, as Daniel refused to give up worshipping of the One True God because of the King’s decree.

In 1 Timothy 6, the apostle continues to instruct the servants as to how they should respect a master who is a believer:

And they that have believing masters, let them not despise them, because they are brethren; but rather do them service, because they are faithful and beloved, partakers of the benefit. These things teach and exhort. (1 Timothy 6:2)

Now, I am certain that some would object to this, but look at what Paul goes on to say here:

If any man teach otherwise, and consent not to wholesome words, even the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the doctrine which is according to godliness; he is proud, knowing nothing, but doting about questions and strifes of words, whereof cometh envy, strife, railings, evil surmisings, perverse disputings of men of corrupt minds, and destitute of the truth, supposing that gain is godliness: from such withdraw thyself. (1 Timothy 6:3–5)

Now some would rip that out of context and say it is speaking about making sure that we apply every word in the 4 Gospels to ourselves without first understanding the primary purpose of the Lord’s words recorded there.  The context, however, makes it clear that these are the words that were just spoken by the apostle concerning the servant’s obedience and attitude.  This is about the commands that Paul gave to Timothy to pass on to his flock, and that the servants that he is speaking to who argued against the command were not arguing with Timothy, or Paul, but with the Lord Himself.

Now that is only to good and fair employers or masters, right?  The Apostle Peter speaks in the same way to his flock on the same subject:

Servants, be subject to your masters with all fear; not only to the good and gentle, but also to the froward. For this is thankworthy, if a man for conscience toward God endure grief, suffering wrongfully. For what glory is it, if, when ye be buffeted for your faults, ye shall take it patiently? but if, when ye do well, and suffer for it, ye take it patiently, this is acceptable with God.  (1 Peter 2:18–21)

Why would God not want us to speak up often about mistreatment?

For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow His steps: Who did no sin, neither was guile found in His mouth: Who, when He was reviled, reviled not again; when He suffered, He threatened not; but committed Himself to Him that judgeth righteously… (1 Peter 2:22-23)

But I have to do so much, it is just not fair!

Who His own self bare our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by Whose stripes ye were healed. (1 Peter 2:24)

The Lord will use faithful service to earthly employers for His glory.  As a faithful employee, we have a good Lord in heaven Who will reward faithfully all service to Him in all things.  Our service on earth is to THE Lord, Christ.  We are reminded that there is no respect of persons with Him, which should make us rejoice as servants, but also sober us to remember WHO we work for and that there is no respect of persons in our favor either.  Earthly “masters” may reward their servants with respect of persons (nepotism, tec.) but not our Lord.  He rewards fairly.  He also rewards those in high earthly positions without respect of persons.  In the next study, we will look together at how a “master” who is in Christ should conduct himself, reckoning himself dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord.

To be in this place of service to Christ and to learn to be content in whatever position we may find ourselves in (Philippians 4:11–13), we must first be named and known by Him.  He has promised all that He will count them in the company of the elect if they will accept His offer of justification by grace.  It is available to all.  It is given to all that will place their faith in His death for them and believe on Him Who raised Him from the dead.

But now the righteousness of God without the law is manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets; Even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe: for there is no difference: For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God; Being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus: Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in His blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God; To declare, I say, at this time His righteousness: that He might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus. (Romans 3:21–26)

It really is that simple.  Because Christ died for our sins, we can all be made righteous by Him.  He is all that we need, but we do need Him!

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