Scripture Reading: Ephesians 6:5-9
When Paul encouraged the Ephesians to “submit to one another out of reverence for Christ” (Ephesians 5:21), he gave them three practical examples for how to do this: one for husbands and wives, one for parent and children, and one for masters and slaves.
While the terms “masters” and “slaves” may not apply to many people today, the terms “employers” and “employees” certainly do. And Paul’s words to the Ephesians are just as fitting for these types of working relationships, too. Listen to Paul’s words, and see how they might apply to you today:
“Slaves, obey your earthly masters with respect and fear, and with sincerity of heart, just as you would obey Christ. Obey them not only to win their favor when their eye is on you, but like slaves of Christ, doing the will of God from your heart. Serve wholeheartedly, as if you were serving the Lord, not men, because you know that the Lord will reward everyone for whatever good he does, whether he is slave or free.
“And masters, treat your slaves in the same way. Do not threaten them, since you know that He who is both their Master and yours is in heaven, and there is no favoritism with Him” (Ephesians 6:5-9).
I don’t know about you, but I’ve had a fair share of bosses in my lifetime. Some of which I had great respect for, and others of which I had very little respect for. But as I look at Paul’s words, he never said anything about whether or not a master was worthy of respect, but that we were to treat them with respect, obeying them just as we would obey Christ.
I know from experience just how hard that can be. But I also know from experience just how beneficial that can be, often doing more for my working relationships than I could have imagined.
In one instance, I had a boss who didn’t like me from day one―and he let me know it. He had heard I was some kind of go-getter and he wasn’t about to let me go anywhere. Things went from bad to worse.
One day he asked me to do yet one more thing that I felt was about to push me over the edge. It wasn’t immoral or unethical―he simply asked me to fill out a survey that the company had distributed, asking employees to fill it out voluntarily and anonymously. But since I was out of town when the survey was distributed, he sent me a copy and told me I had to fill mine out and fax it back to him by the following day.
I took issue with his request, since it was supposed to be voluntary and anonymous. By mandating that I fill it out, and then fax it back with my phone number right there on the fax, it would violate both of those conditions.
But after making my case, he still held onto his position, and I held onto mine. Late that night, Paul’s words to the Ephesians came back to me, to “obey your earthly masters with respect and fear…just as you would obey Christ.” Even though I disagreed with his approach, I filled out the survey and faxed it back to him so it would be on his desk in the morning.
Our whole relationship turned around that day. My boss became my biggest champion from that day forward and for the rest of my career at that company. It was a lesson that proved once more than God’s words spoken through Paul were true, that God really will “reward everyone for whatever good he does.” And it was a lesson that helped me when I later became an employer myself―and a husband and a father.
Submitting to one another really does work! It demonstrates a graciousness on your part, and can make your relationships flow better all around―whether they’re between husbands and wives, parents and children, or “masters and slaves.” Don’t miss out on the reward God has for you! Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ!
Prayer: Father, thanks for the reminder to submit to to those with whom I work, whether I work for them or they work for me. Help me to be gracious in my relationships with each person in the workplace, so that Your blessings would flow to us and through us. Help me in all my relationships to submit to one another out of reverence to Christ. In Jesus’ name, Amen.