July 23, 2023
Grace at Work
Pastor Philip De Courcy
Ephesians 6: 5 - 9

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This powerful series will challenge you to understand your role in the body of Christ. Through the book of Ephesians, Pastor Philip will remind us of the joy and blessings God intends for believers to experience in the church as they live as a united family in Christ.

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Let’s take our Bibles. Ephesians 6:5-9. Keep your Bible open. Ephesians 6, verse 5, “Bondservants, be obedient to those who are your masters according to the flesh, with fear and trembling and sincerity of heart as to Christ. Not with eye service as men-pleasers, but as bond servants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart, with goodwill, doing service as to the Lord and not to man, knowing that whatever good anyone does, he will receive the same from the Lord, whether he is a slave or free. And you masters, do the same things to them, giving up threatening, knowing that your own master also is in heaven and there is no partiality with him.” I want to speak this morning on grace at work, taking your Christian faith to your place of employment. Grace at work. Ephesians 6, verses 5-9.
When Senator Ted Kennedy was running for the Senate for the first time, he was mocked by one of his political challengers over the fact that he was a child of privilege. He was a candidate. He had been born with a silver spoon in his mouth. In fact, he had never ever held down a full-time job, so they mocked him about that. They tried to use that as political capital against him. The story goes that the next morning on a political stump on the political trail, Kennedy was at a factory, a steelworks, and he had a conversation with one of the workers. And the man said that later Senator Kennedy, “I heard what your opponent said last night, that you’ve never worked a day in your life. Well, let me tell you something, you haven’t missed much.” Well, that’s not true. To miss the importance of work is to miss something very important about you and God’s will for you. That’s not true. You haven’t missed a thing. You haven’t missed much. No, that’s not true. The importance of work is not something to overlook or undermine or not appreciate.
From a Christian perspective, from a biblical worldview, work, employment is a blessing, not a curse. It’s a gift, not a punishment. Work is a huge part of our life within the will of God. It is what God has designed us for and designed for us to do. It’s his will that we work. It’s his pleasure that we produce. It’s his command that we create. After creating man, God put Adam in the garden, and according to Genesis 2:15, he told him to work it and supervise it. Here was the first drafting of the first job description.
Now, let me stand back before we get into our text and just give you a broad theology of work. You need to have a theology of sex, friendship, money, marriage, parenting. You need a theology also of work. You will spend a third of your life and a half of your waking hours in some form of employment outside the home or working from within the home out. Here’s a little theology, we could do more than this, but number one, remember that when you and I work, we’re reflecting the image of God. And you go back to Genesis, man was made in God’s image, and we were made in the image of a working God. God was the first entrepreneur. God creates. God produces. What about Ephesians 1:11? “God is working all things after the counsel of his own will.” And then Romans 8:28, “God is working all things together for good.” Jesus said in John 9, “My father works and so do I, for the night comes when no man shall work.”
You could add to that Jesus’ model. Do you want to be Christlike? Do you want to be a good disciple of the Lord Jesus? Well certainly, win souls and study your Bible and pray and connect yourself to a local church and work out from the middle of that body of believers. But work. You know what it says in Mark 6 of Jesus? He was the carpenter. Sometimes we forget this, that for many of Jesus’ years he lived in obscurity. The Bible is pretty silent about it, but that tells us or seems to infer that for a good part of those years of obscurity, Jesus was a carpenter. He was the son of a carpenter. He was apprenticed alongside his father, which was the cultural norm back then.
And so you need to imagine Jesus not only standing on a hillside and giving the Sermon on the Mount, you need to imagine Jesus with the tool belt on making a coffee table. Wouldn’t you like to own a table that Jesus built with a trademark on it, Joseph and Sons? But you’ve got to understand that for almost 20 years of his life, Jesus worked as a carpenter. That’s amazing, given this is the one who made all things according to John 1:1. But now living in humility, having added flesh to his deity and humbling himself, he creates tables, he builds the frames of buildings.
Number three, our work makes for a better world. Adam was to tend the garden and serve in the garden, and he was told to exercise dominion over the world around him, manage the pinnacle of God’s creation. Man needs to both take care of the creation but also use its resources. They’re not sacred. The worship of God is sacred, and we create through taking the resources God has implanted around us and under us, and using our ingenuity, we make a better world. That’s a godly thing.
In fact, according to Isaiah 65 in the New Heaven and the New Earth, it says that cities will be built and farms will produce produce. Closely tied to that, it provides our necessities. The Bible’s clear. If a man doesn’t work, he shouldn’t eat bread. If a man doesn’t provide for his family, he’s worse than an infidel. And so work is a means by which God primarily, but not exclusively, through the husband, through the father in the home, provides for that family. I say not exclusively because Proverbs 31 has a very creative, ingenious woman working under her husband or alongside her husband to supplement the family.
It shapes our identity. Now we’re more than what we do. In fact, it’s an interesting American trait that June and I had to deal with. When you get to America, the first question someone will ask you as they engage you in conversation for the first time, “Now what do you do?” It’s not who are you and where are you from? It’s what do you do, because America is driven by a wonderful work ethic and a sense of, hey, it’s your opportunity to carve out your little world in the wilderness. I get that. But while we’re more than that, I certainly get the idea of being described by what you do, because our work defines us and shapes us. Lydia was called a seller of purple. Luke, the disciple, was called the beloved physician. So there was a recognition of who they were and what they did.
And then it allows us to be generous. It allows us to be generous. Because we not only work to provide for our family, but if you go to Ephesians 4, verse 28, “Let him who stole stay no longer but rather let him labor working with his hands what is good, that he may have something” to give to his family? No, “to give to him who is in need.” So the more God gives us, the more we ought to be giving away to bless the gospel, to bless those in need. That’s a little theology of work. It’s not exhaustive, but I hope it’s helpful. Because you see a third of our lives will be rooted in employment. A half of our waking hours will be spent, especially for guys in the modern world, outside the home. I need to know what does God think of that? Is that second best? Is that a bad use of my time? Should I not be on the mission field? Should I not be in a class at the Master’s seminary or Biola? No, absolutely no, because work is God’s will. He’s called us to create. His plan is that we produce.
I like what Dorothy Sayers, a British essayist and ethicist said, “And nothing has the church so lost her hold on reality as in her failure to understand and respect the secular vocation. She has allowed work and religion to be separated and is astonished to find that as a result, the secular work of the world has turned to a purely selfish and destructive end, and that the greater part of the world’s intelligent workers have become a irreligious or at least uninterested in religion. But that should not be astonishing. How can anyone remain interested in a religion which seems to have no concern with 9/10ths of their life?” She’s right, but that’s a misrepresentation of Christianity by the church. Because here we are in Ephesians chapter 4, and Paul is dealing with marriage. Paul’s dealing with husbands and wives and children and parenting, the bringing up of your family. Now he deals with work. He’s out on the street. He’s where life is and takes place.
So let’s look at this text for a few minutes. You know we like to put a text in its context. I won’t spend a lot of time here, but we are continuing this idea of putting off the old man and putting on the new. Remember, as my old pastor said in Northern Ireland, if there’s no change, there’s something strange. And when you and I come to know Jesus Christ, it will show up in our lives. We’ll be better husbands, better wives, better children to our parents, better workers, so on and so forth. And you go to chapter 4:28, I quoted it, “Don’t steal. Labor with your hands.” See, there would have been time apart from Jesus you would have done that stuff, but no more. You’re in Christ. You work with your hands. You don’t get busy in other people’s lives and you help people that are less fortunate.
We’re also redeeming the time. Chapter 5, verse 15, “Redeem the time. The days are evil. Know what the will of God is and do it.” I love the fact, given the fact that you and I will spend a third of our life in employment, a half of our waking ours on a job, I’m glad to know I can redeem that. I can actually dedicate that to Jesus Christ. It’s not going to be wasted. And then finally we’re picking up the thread of the filling of the Holy Spirit. Remember, one of the outcomes of the filling of the Holy Spirit, chapter five, verse 21, submitting to one another in the fear of God.
Then Paul gives us the arenas where you and I are to submit. Wives, submit to your husbands. Children, obey your parents. And now slaves or bond servants, you need to submit and obey your masters. Now three things, the ministry of the work, the manner of work and the motives of work. We’ll try and move through these. The ministry of work is a bigger idea. It’s almost just putting these verses in their wider context. We are in chapter 6, verses 5 through 9, but remember we turn to corner, the book seesawed in chapter 4 verse 1, where we read, “I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord Jesus, beseech you to walk worthy,” notice singular, “of the calling with which you were called.” From this point forward, Paul’s telling us how to walk worthy of the gospel. He’s telling us what it means to be a Christian.
Now remember we noticed in chapters 1, 2 and 3, we have what’s called gospel indicatives. The language and grammar of the first half of this book is indicative. It’s making statements of what is already true. We’re predestined. We’re [inaudible 00:12:45]. We’re redeemed. We’re sealed by the spirit. Here’s what we are in Jesus because of what God has done. That’s a reality. You and I are born again. We’re sealed. We’re saved. We’re capped by the power of God. God loves us, always has, always will. Fantastic, but now he moves. You’ve heard the indicatives, what God has done for you. Now we’re going to go to the imperatives, what God wants you to do in the light of who you are. We move from doctrine to duty. We move from credenda to agenda. We move from principle to practice. This is what our daily conduct looks like when you and I believe the gospel. We make the gospel believable as people look at our marriage, our children, and our work ethic.
I want you to notice that verse, “to walk worthy of the calling,” singular, not the callings, the calling. Write this down. I want you to think about it. We have one calling and many vocations or many callings under the calling. What’s the calling? Well, it’s to walk in a manner that glorifies the Lord Jesus. It’s to live the gospel wherever you are, housewife, father, doctor, bricklayer, teacher. We can go on. You get the point. So you are to live those many callings in the light of the one calling. You cannot divorce your Christianity from your occupation. You don’t get to do that. Neither should you do that, because your occupation is within the will of God as long as it’s not sinful. And you’re to take that part of your life and live out that calling under the calling. One calling, many vocations.
So it is the job of a pastor to walk worthy of the Lord by equipping the saints through the preaching of the word. It is the job of the husband to walk worthy of the Lord by loving his wife like Christ loves the church. It’s the job of a father to walk worthy of the Lord by bringing up his children in the fear and admonition of the Lord. It’s the job of the employee or employer to walk worthy of the Lord by doing good work, either as a worker or as a manager. Now let me step back and thank God for the Protestant Reformation, because the Protestant Reformation brought us back to this great idea, the calling, the vocations. Whatever your vocation, you do it under the calling.
And so they’re reminding us that you and I are priests before God, every single one of us. We’re all priests. We’re not all pastors, we’re not all evangelists like the guys at Living Waters or whatever, but we’re all priests. We’re all dedicated to serving the Lord, and everything before us is like an altar. That sink is an altar. That operating table is an altar. That lave machine is an altar. That school book and that desk in that classroom is an altar. And as you live out your life wherever you are, you do it for God’s glory. You’re the best student you can be. You’re an ethical doctor. You’re a loving caregiver. You’re a good machinist. You build good furniture as a carpenter. I think you get the point.
1 Peter 1:9, Revelation 1:6, “We are a kingdom of priests.” And that was so radical. Both the reformers did that and then the Anabaptists did it. And they challenged the authority of the priesthood and the clergy of the day. Because, you see, the Roman Catholic Church and the medieval church had elevated the priest and the monk, the contemplative life. In fact, Eusebius, the bishop of Caesarea in the fourth century, he distinguished the perfect life from the permitted life. That’s language you and I don’t use, but it’s language the medieval church used. And the perfect life is the priest and the monk and the scholar. And then the permitted life, well, that’s the stone mason, that’s the iron worker, that’s the farmer. Not as good, not as holy, not as significant. And that’s not true.
1 Corinthians 10:31, you know the verse. “Whether you eat or drink,” and then notice this phrase, “whatever you do,” that’s everything that’s certainly godly and permissible, “you do it for the glory of God.” So when you go to work tomorrow, you need to go consciously saying, “I’m going in there today for the glory of God.” That’s how radical this is, and we’ve got to love it. There’s no sacred and secular. Romans 12, verses 1 to 2, “Present your body a living sacrifice that you may prove what is that good and acceptable will of God, which is your reasonable service.” That word service is actually a Greek word that speaks of liturgy or worship or service. You and I, our whole life is liturgy. Our whole life is a worship service because whatever we do, we do to the glory of God.
Now, I’m going to make an application here. It’s not to tell you I’m a good guy or to boast, but take it for what it’s worth. I’ve got several achievements across the years, and I have several certificates that I’ve framed and hung around the house. Nothing wrong with that, to just take pride in what you’ve achieved through God’s kindness and goodness. But here’s what I want you to know. When I worked in an aerospace company, in my fourth year of apprenticeship, we did four years apprenticeship, I was the apprentice of the year on my third year in a company of 6,000 employees and several hundred apprentices. My master of divinity degree from the master seminary gives me no more pride than that award does, because I I think it’s all worship. I’m glad I’ve been a good engineer and hopefully a good expositor. Those two things are not in conflict. They’re just different seasons in my life.
I have in my home framed my Queen’s Medal of Service in Northern Ireland from my six years in the police opposing the IRA and the terrorism that wrecked our country. I’m just as proud of that medal as I am of my diploma in pastoral theology from the Irish Baptist College, which followed my police career. Because you see, I bring a Protestant theology and I bring a biblical worldview, whether I’m an engineer, a police officer or a biblical scholar and a preacher of the word, it’s all worship. Amen? It’s all worship. The medieval church elevated priests and Christian leaders. The Bible doesn’t. We’re all priests. That’s just the first thought, that the idea that whatever we do, we can dedicate to God, it’s all ministry.
Let’s look at the manner of work, the manner of work. This is now getting into the text. In addressing both slaves and masters, Paul sets before us a series of traits that will mark the child of God, whether they’re serving or supervising. Now the focus seems to be on bondservants or slaves, but you’ll notice it’s wider than that. In verse 8, he talks about whether you’re a slave or free. I would love to spend time dealing with the issue of slavery from a biblical point of view, and I’m going to squeeze this in. I didn’t do it in first service. I’ll give you some things to think about, because Paul’s addressing Christian slaves, and he’s addressing Christian masters of Christian slaves. And given where we’re at in our society today, this is a very controversial subject, and some will use this text to attack Christianity as if Christianity is endorsing slavery or accepting slavery.
In fact, I was re-watching a YouTube detail on Bill Maher of Politically Incorrect, Maher, or whatever it is, and he was actually very good on a thing called the danger of Presentism, that he warns our society, especially those who are woke, that you can’t judge the present moment by 100 years ago or 1,000 years ago. That’s not fair any more than you want to judge who you are today compared to what you were when you were 12 years old. And he then goes on about slavery, that it’s not a uniquely American thing. It was worldwide. It has been worldwide. It’s white on black. It’s black on black. It’s Arab on Arab. It’s always been there. It’s always been a blight. And he just get into that, and it was helpful.
And then he did this, which is typical of him. As smart as he is, and he’s smart, his biblical knowledge is teeny-weeny and typically twisted. Because in that little YouTube video is watching on the danger of Presentism and woke ideology, speaking about slavery says, “And that would remind us, and the Holy Bible is practically an owner’s manual on slavery.” And as I watched that, I go, “Now you just lost me. I was enjoying this up until you said that. Not so fast. That’s not true. Not even close to being true that the Bible is basically practically an owner’s manual on slavery.”
So this could be a sermon in itself, it can’t be, but I’m going to give you seven things, I’m going to go through them very fast, for you to think about and challenge that kind of thinking, which is popular today, that Christianity promoted slavery, that the Bible is practically an owner’s manual on slavery. No.
Number one, the Bible clearly condemns the act of kidnapping and enslaving people. Exodus 21, verse 16, “He who kidnaps a man, whether he sells him or he is found in his possession, shall surely be put to death.” Well, Bill, how do you square your statement that the Bible is practically an owner’s manual in slavery when the Bible clearly says that anybody that’s involved in that deserves to be put to death? 1 Timothy 1, verse 10 talks about that, the evil of kidnapping. On both sides of the Bible, Old and New Testament, slave trading is an abomination. By the way, that’s different from people in the Roman Empire who actually voluntarily went into servitude or slavery. You realize there were tutors and doctors and people with high abilities that actually indentured themselves for several years because there was benefits to that in the Roman Empire?
Number two, submission does not communicate that the authority being submitted to is morally approved. Just because the Bible tells a slave to submit to his master or her master, that’s not an endorsement of slavery, and it’s not saying that the person they are submitting to is a good person, any more than I’m told in 1 Peter to submit to a pagan government that many times persecutes Christians. Or in 1 Peter 3, where a Christian wife is told to submit to a husband who doesn’t obey the word.
Number three, the New Testament forbids a Christian from voluntarily entering slavery. So while that happened in the Roman Empire, 1 Corinthians 7:23-24 tells a Christian not to do that. Plain as the nose on your head, you don’t need an [inaudible 00:24:33]. The Bible wants man free to remain free and not go into bondage to man or Satan, to live as slaves to Christ.
Number four, conversely, the Bible encourages slaves to get out of slavery if providence permits it. 1 Corinthians 7:21, it says, “If you have the opportunity to get out, get out, escape, flee. Seek your freedom. Rejoice in your spiritual freedom until the providence of God allows you to enjoy physical freedom.”
Number five, Christian ethical behavior immediately and inherently began to undermine slavery. Now, Christianity didn’t call for the immediate overturning of slavery. It was so much a part of the Roman Empire that would have been impossible. And given the power at that moment of the Roman Empire and its army, any rebellion would have been put down cruelly and swiftly. But Christianity lit the fuse on a bomb that over time imploded that institution.
Denny Burk from the Southern Baptist Seminary says this, “The Bible completely undermines all of the defining features of slavery, kidnapping, coercive violence and the treatment of people as property rather as brothers.” You see here, even when Paul’s addressing masters, they’re not to threaten, they’re not to use violence. They’re to treat their servant as a brother. You go to Philemon, and Philemon is told to release and let Onesimus be free. The New Testament is beginning to undermine this institution, and Christianity is with the forefront of that. Christianity was the only part of society where the master and the slave were seen as equals and treatment was encouraged to be fair and equitable. So understand that.
Number six, the Bible censors racism. Acts 17:26 to 28, “We are all one blood, and the church is one through the unity of the spirit.” Although slavery in the New Testament was not race-based, slavery for the most part in America was, and the Bible condemns it and censors it.
And finally, for those that want to make much of Paul’s seeming silence or Jesus’ inactivity towards this and regarding Paul, the issue was pragmatic and theological. One, pragmatically, there was no groundswell within the culture for abolition. The cruelty of slavery was not uniform, and any uprising stood no chance. It would have been eliminated cruelly and immediately. Nothing would have been achieved. And then theologically, the church was about spiritual redemption, not social revolution. The kingdom of God will come not through Christians being involved in politics. The kingdom of God will come when the king returns at the second coming pre-millennial. The church exerted social change best through changed lives. That’s what we were talking about a minute ago. That’s how they undermined that institution. “You’re a Christian master now? You act differently. You’re a Christian slave? Act differently.” That’s modeled before the world what the world has simply forgotten.
I’ve been able to squeeze that in. Now we’re going to have to manage our time really good here. But we’ve looked at the ministry of work. Now we’ll quickly look at the manner of work. What kind of way ought you and I to work? Well, number one, work submissively. Slightly touched on it, but look at verse 5, “Bondservants, be obedient to those who are your masters according to the flesh.” You get that also in Colossians 3, verse 22 and 1 Timothy 6:1-2. This speaks of a continuous submission to one’s earthly master or boss, whether slave or free until they ask you to violate a command.
It’s a bit like Acts 4 and Acts 5. We submit to the government until the government commands us to do what God forbids or forbids us to do what God commands. And eventually that played out in COVID and our response to COVID, where it came a point, where all things considered, that we decided as an eldership that Newsom and the California state legislature were asking us to do something that had no political or medical justification, and nigh we are denying our ability to freely worship, which is God’s command, once we got through the medical emergency. You get the point.
See, I’m going to work. I’m going to obey my boss until he forbids me to do what God commands me or commands me to do what god forbids me. So if you’re a doctor, you’re not going to do gender reassignment surgery. You’re not going to get involved in that evil. We could go on multiplying the examples of what we can do. If your boss tells you to doctor your tax return and you’re an accountant, don’t do it. So the submission has its limits, but here we’re being called, slave or free, to submit. And as we mentioned a few moments ago, because we’re told to submit is not a justification of the moral fitness of the person we’re submitting to necessarily pagan government, unbelieving husband, but we’re to submit because their submission is to the Lord, not to them. That’s secondary. His call on our lives is primary, and we’re told by him to obey.
So here’s the point. We’re going to go broad now. The working environment of the New Testament slave was not good, for the most part. Not bad for all, but they were to submit nonetheless. They were to work hard nonetheless. They were to express goodwill. That’s an interesting statement. Verse 7, “To someone who’s under bondage, you work with goodwill.” This may not be your choice. Circumstances may have forced you into slavery, but now out of goodwill toward God, submit to your master. I’ve got a question this morning. Are you working in a rotten environment? Do you like your boss? Have your coworkers turned backstabbing into a sport? We could go on. But God is inviting you to turn up every day with a good attitude to do what you are called to do for as long as he wills you to do it with a good attitude. Obey from the heart with goodwill.
Debra Searle, who is a remarkable woman, she’s a motivational speaker of high quality because she wrote a bestselling book called The Journey, and it she tells this unbelievable story. Initially with her husband, they set out to row across the Atlantic Ocean. Then her husband fell sick. I believe he was airlifted, or for a time she had the row with him sick on the vessel. And over three months she rowed 3,000 grueling miles for 12 hours a day until she hit land and achieved her goal. Hats off to her. What a woman. Strong, courageous. But she tells us in her book The Journey that what helped her was every single day she sat on the bench and started pulling on those oars. 12 hours a day, over 3,000 miles.
She had a little poster right in front of her that she just made sure she saw and saw every morning. And there were three words on the poster. Would you like to know what was on the poster? All right. Choose your attitude. Choose your attitude. She could have got up and go, “I’m done. The plan was both of us. Now it’s down to me. I’m 1,500 miles in, another 1,500 to go.” And on and on, she could have multiplied all the excuses and all the things, depressed herself, turned it into a self-pity, but no, she chose a different attitude, one marked by commitment and courage and doggedness and determination. I love that. I don’t know. Make your own version of that. Stick it on the back of your front door, the one you go out every day. Choose your attitude. Put it on the ceiling of your kid’s bedroom. Choose your attitude. That’s a great point. It’s a good point. Work submissively.
Number two, work seriously. By the way I should say this, unlike the slave who had no freedom, you can go sidewards in your employment. Whatever you sense is God’s will for you, given your giftedness and the opportunities that you have, you know what? You don’t need to stay in that office. You don’t need to stay in that factory. You can move, but while you’re there and until you move, choose a good attitude and obey your boss. Even if he’s morally unfit, even if he’s pagan, that’s what they’re being told to do. And little footnote, this is just common sense. Don’t leave your job until you have a job. Work seriously, fearing and trembling. Look at verse 5, fear and trembling.
Paul uses this phrase elsewhere in his writings, Philippians 2:13, “Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who does his work in you.” You get it also in 1 Corinthians 2, verse 3. So what does it mean? It means reverence, due regard, respect. It’s approaching something with a sense of gravitas, a sense of weightiness, understanding that no good comes from failure, and the results are bad. And for the slave in the worst of circumstances, which wasn’t always true, they’re not doing their job, it could spell death. So there was a sense, just in what they do, they ought to do it with some fear and trembling. But I think it’s much broader than that. Generally, it’s a healthy nervousness about not letting others down. Is that the way you feel about your job?
Hey, I have a responsibility to this company. It’s bottom line, it’s customers, my fellow workers. It speaks of taking your responsibilities seriously along with your commitments. It means you are committed to excellence. It means you’re giving your best. You’re meeting standards. That at the end of the day or at the end of the week, you’re not embarrassed by your effort or your product. That’s what it means. Happy is the boss or the company that has a good Christian on the payroll, because this is what they get, a right attitude and a commitment to, maybe would call it diligence out of the book of Proverbs. Fear and trembling, a sense of weightiness, I’m going to take this seriously.
The Book of Proverbs in chapter 22, I believe, let me check, in 22:29, it says this, “The skilled man in his work will serve before kings,” or “The diligent will serve before kings.” Who’s the diligent? The Hebrew word that means sharp. Somebody that’s sharp, on their game. It’s someone who moves beyond that’s good enough. Don’t settle for good enough. Be sharp. Be diligent. Be the best you can be. Do what’s right. Give a high quality work, and doors of opportunity will open on those hinges. Proverbs 21:5, “Diligent carries the idea of careful planning.” Proverbs 12:24, “The hands of the diligent will rule.” Unless it’s a bad working environment, unless there’s limited opportunities, unless your boss is blind, if you’re that kind of person, you’re going to get promoted. What company doesn’t want somebody that can be relied on with a good attitude, giving their best and taking their work seriously? I’ve talked to businessmen. I’ve talked to managers. They are dying to find workers like that, given the attitude of many today.
1 Thessalonians 4:10-12 talks about excelling more and more and then goes on to talk about working with your hands. Look, when I worked in aerospace, I worked with an old man called Billy Morris. He built airplanes like Picasso painted. He was punctual. He would go the second mile. Whenever he had a job to do, because he had been on the job, he knew what tools he needed in what order, and he often put out this white cotton towel. And his tools were so shiny and clean. He put his spanners and his wrenches all in a row in descending order. This guy acted like he was a surgeon. “Hey, Bill, it’s not brain surgery, we’re building airplanes.” But that’s the way he treated it. He built aircraft like Picasso painted. And as a young apprentice, that impressed me, it rubbed off on me. I want to be like Billy Morris. He’s a great man. He never hardly was off sick. He didn’t spend any time small talking, and he got no snag sheets.
You know what a snag sheet is? When you do your job, an inspector comes, and he looks at your job, and if there’s things that aren’t up the scratch, he gives a snag that you’ve got to fix before he can write the job off, and then the airplane keeps moving forward. Billy Morris never got snag sheets. Why? Because he did his job so well. Here’s a little point too. This touches on laziness. The man that’s working or the woman that’s working with fear and trembling in a sense of gravitas, committed to doing what is right, the opposite of that is the sluggard in the Book of Proverbs. Go and study the sluggard. It doesn’t make for very encouraging reading, but the sluggard is just lazy. Turns over in his bed, talks about imaginary lions out on the street, and that’s why he can’t go out. On and on it goes. The Bible condemns it.
Proverbs 6:9-11, “You sluggard, go and look at the little ant. He works you under the table. He doesn’t have to be told when to work, and he gathers in before the winter comes. Go look at the ant.” I hope you’re not lazy. Shame on you if you’re a lazy man or a lazy woman. Don’t be a sluggard. America is suffering because of a sluggard spirit. I want more for less. Give me what’s due me. I’m 22, I haven’t achieved anything, but I’m worth this. Give me a break. Get out of here. We celebrate every milestone. You get the point.
One employer attached a note to the paycheck of his employee, which said, “Your salary will become effective as soon as you do.” Let’s get back to those days. Amen? On a bulletin board at work, the sign appeared, “In case of a fire, flee the building the way you do about five to 5:00 in the afternoon.” Or there was another one on a billboard, “If you don’t believe in the resurrection from the dead, you should be here for quitting time.” That was funny, guys. Come on. What? No, let’s work seriously.
Martin Luther King, Jr., civil rights leader, captured this biblical idea here of working submissively and seriously. He said, “If a man is called to be a street sweeper,” that’s not a very sought after job, but “If a man is called to be a street sweeper,” and maybe he’s addressing his people whose opportunities were suppressed. This is maybe where his audience was for a lot of their life, menial jobs. You know what Martin Luther King said to them? “If a man is called to be a street sweeper, he should sweep streets as Michelangelo painted, as Beethoven composed music, as Shakespeare wrote poetry. He should sweep streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth will pause to say, ‘Here lived and worked a great street sweeper.'” That’s the attitude.
Not only work submissively, work seriously, work sincerely. It’s tied into what we have said, but I think it’s worth noting again. This is verse 5, “In sincerity of heart,” sincerity of heart from the heart. You get that idea down in verse 7 with goodwill. It’s not drawn out of you or beat out of you or argued it out of you. It comes out of you like water out of a tap. It’s who you are. You’re a worker, and you want to get at your job and do the best you can. That’s the word here. It’s a single-mindedness of purpose. It’s being wholehearted, self-generated, self-generated.
At our factory, the horn would blow, but hopefully as a Christian worker, I was ready to get going. The horn’s just the legal part of it. I can’t start my job till the horn blows and the shift changes, but I don’t need any horn blowing in my ears to get me working. There’s something going on in my heart, that I have gainful employment, I’m skilled in this area, and I’m going to do it for God’s glory from the heart. This is whistling while you work, and the opposite is being present but absent, of being there in body but not in spirit, of grumbling, mumbling and fumbling at your job. Paul forbids that. Going through the motions, putting in your time. I hear it all the time. “Yeah, I’m putting in my time.” That’s sad.
You’re meant to be redeeming the time, not putting in your time. You don’t do it as eye service. Did you notice that? Verse 6, “not with eye service, as man-pleasers.” You say, “What does that mean?” You know what it means. It’s the miracle that takes place when the word starts to come rolling down the hills on the factory floor. “The manager’s on the floor,” and guys rise from the dead, and we all stop betting on horses and all that goes on in a factory, and you pretend you’re working harder than you are. Shame on you and me if that’s us as Christians. Our work is not an act, it’s not a performance, it’s a calling.
I like the story of the little fella who went into the pharmacist in the older days when the phone was on the wall, the paid phone. And he puts his money in, and it just happens that the pharmacist isn’t far away. And so not eavesdropping, but he hears the little fella and on the phone, here’s how the conversation goes. “Hello, sir. I was calling to see if you needed a lawn boy. Oh, you have one? Can I ask, is he doing an adequate job? Oh, he is. Well, I’m glad for you. Thank you. I was just checking.” He comes off the phone. The pharmacist who happened to hear it, turns the little fella and he says, “Hey son, I’m really sorry you didn’t get the job. Good try,” to which the wee fellow said, “Oh, I’ve got a job. That was my job. I was just checking up on myself.” What about that? You want to call your boss tonight and pretend it’s not you and ask him about you? Would you like what you hear? Paul says, “Can you do a heart check on yourself as a worker?” Let’s move on.
Finally, the motive. The motive of work. He’s going to give us two motives. He’s already told us what work is. It’s all ministry. He’s already told us how we’re to work, submissively, seriously, sincerely. Now he’s going to tell us why we’re to work. This is what one writer calls the work under the work or the work behind the work, the thing that is working on you that makes you work. That’s his point. I love that. See, Paul tells us for the Christian, there’s something working on us that makes us work, the work behind the work, and it’s Jesus and the thought of eternal life in heaven. That’s the work behind the work. Reverence and reward. If you want an outline, two things quickly, reverence and reward. Reverence for Christ, that’s why you work. In a real sense, Jesus is your true employer and your real boss. Now, if you really take that to heart, that’ll revolutionize how you work and the attitude you bring.
Do you notice verse 5, “as to Christ”? Verse 6, “as born servants of Christ.” Verse 6, “doing the will of God from the heart.” Verse 7, “to the Lord. Verse 8, “Receive the same from the Lord.” Verse 9, “your own master in heaven.” You’d have to be dumb as a brick to miss that point. Jesus is who you work for, because remember we’re back at Ephesians 4 verse 1, the one calling, the many vocations. You’re walking worthy of the Lord, and he’s your real boss. You think about him and his lordship and his mastery over your life. Jesus’ lordship was the governing force in their life. They worked in the fear of Christ.
I love the story of Daniel. You’re in chapter 6, lions’ den. God puts the lions to sleep, or we assume that, and Daniel fluffs up their hairy mane and puts his head on it as a pillow and sleeps all night. And then he wakes up the next morning, and the stone’s rolled away, and the emperor goes, “Hey, are you still alive?” And then he is. But notice what the emperor says. Daniel 6:20, “Daniel, servant of the living God, has your God whom you serve continually been able to deliver you?” I just want you to notice those words. This is a pagan emperor describing Daniel. And you know what? As long as Daniel has lived in Babylon, he’s not ate the king’s meat. He has lived the life of integrity. He has remained committed to his Jewish faith and the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. That king recognizes that servant of the living God whom you serve continually in my administration. That couldn’t have been easy any more than Joseph in Egypt or Nehemiah in Babylon. But Jesus’ lordship should be the thing that governs your attitude and your actions and everything about you.
Howard Hendricks tells this story in a book called Man of Integrity, an old Promise Keepers book, I think. It talks about being on a flight that got delayed. It had a mechanical problem and so it was stuck for a little while. And as we’ve seen in the news recently, the heat was building up. People were getting a little fussed. And so he watched this air hostess do a brilliant job offering drinks, snacks, free of charge, all of this, and really calming people down, even people with bad behaviors. And he looked at her, he thought to themselves, the poor girl. After they got going up in the air and things had quietened down and as the air hostess is often do sit at the back, he went back and just said, “You know what? I want to thank you. I watched that. I teach leadership at a theological school, and I just want you to know I’m impressed by that, and I intend to write to American Airlines and just tell them of you and what you have done.”
He said this, “Could I have your name? Because I want to write to the company and tell them how much I appreciate you.” And she said, “Oh, I’m not going to give you my name. You need to know I don’t work for American Airlines.” “What do you mean you don’t work for American Airlines? We’re in an American airline airline and you’re in a uniform.” And she went on to say, “No, I work for Jesus Christ. I don’t need that praise. I don’t need that accolation. I find enough joy in living for him.”
And then the second thought reward, look at verse 8, “Knowing that whatever good anyone does, he will receive the same from the Lord, whether he’s a slave or free.” And in verse 9, the master is reminded that his master is in heaven. He’s given an eternal perspective on his day-to-day job. Listen to Colossians 3:23 and 24, “And whatever you do, do it heartily as to the Lord,” there’s the first reason, “and not to man, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of your inheritance for your service.” There’s the second reason.
So as we close, we’re motivated by our heavenly reward, the life to come. When I worked at Short’s in aerospace, and you’d get this too, I assume. I’ve been out of the workforce for a while, but when we worked on Friday nights maybe or a Saturday or an odd Sunday afternoon, we got double time, double the wages because you were being taken out of your normal work schedule, and the company appreciated it. We loved it. Time and a half, double time. You were going on vacation, you were trying to get double time to give yourself some spending money. But as Christians, as we close, we’re on double time, brothers and sister, double time all the time. Because you’re not only getting your wage from your earthly master, you’re accruing another wage, another payment in heaven and in the life to come. How glorious is that?
And Jesus often told parables, didn’t he, of the homeowner that goes away or the landowner that goes away, leaves their servant or their steward to work, then they come back and they get a reward. And that’s like Jesus. He’s gone away. He’s given us a job to do. And when he comes back, we’re going to give an account for that, and he will reward us and compensate us respectively. That will happen at the judgment seat of Christ when our lives are looked at, 2 Corinthians 5:9-10. So what are those rewards? May include the master’s praise as a good and faithful servant. That just may be enough. Given what he did for us and whatever we do for him, it will never equal what he’s done for us, I would just like him to tell me, “Philip, you did a good job, son.” That might just be enough.
But on top of that, either in the millennial kingdom at the end of history, 1,000-year reign and then after that a new heaven and a new earth, we’ll rule with him. We’ll be given responsibilities in the life to come. We will continue to work. His servants will serve him, Revelation 22:3. We’ll be given crowns and privileges and ability, perhaps even in our glorified body, to manifest his glory. We could go on. The work we do today will determine the life we live tomorrow, eternity. So again, that’s a perspective that will help in a rotten environment. That’s a perspective that will give your work ethic some jet fuel. That’s a perspective that will remind you to work through the mundane, because the results are glorious. We have all of eternity to celebrate our victories, only a short hour to enjoy them.
Let’s finish with this as the team comes up. Victor Hugo, the author of masterpieces such as Les Miserables and The Hunchback of Notre Dame, he anticipated an eternal perspective to work. His servants will serve him, says Revelation 22. Could I assume that we assume that we might serve him in the areas where serving him in now, if that’s permissible in the life to come? I’m looking down and I know some of you as are doctors, and I see you, so you’ve got to get another job because there’ll be no sickness and no all of that. But some of us might be able to carry on what we’re doing, and then you’ll join us in some other area.
In fact, it says in Revelation that our works will follow us. I think that’s Revelation 14. The Greek there means with. The idea could be just the work we do here will not be forgotten and God will reward us. Or could it be that the works we do, the gifts that God has given us will follow us into the next life, and we’ll continue to do some aspect of that? Maybe. But speaking about the eternal nature of work, this is a quote when we finish.
Here’s what Victor Hugo says. This is worth thinking about. “I feel within me the future life. I shall not most certainly rise towards the heavens. The nearer my approach to the end, the plainer is the sound of immortal symphonies of worlds which invite me. For half a century, I have been writing my thoughts and prose, verse, history, philosophy, drama, romance, satire, and song. All of these I have tried, but I feel that I haven’t given utterance to a thousandth part of what lies within me. (As much as I have achieved, there’s so much more I want to achieve.)” Isn’t that a human spirit?
He goes on. “When I go to the grave, I can say as others have ‘I have finished my day’s work,’ but I cannot say I have finished my life’s work. My day’s work will begin again the next morning. The tomb is not a blind alley, it is a thoroughfare. It closes on the twilight, but opens on the dawn.” The first creation involved work. The new creation will involve work. And when you and I die, our day’s work is done, but our true life’s work is only beginning. Amen? Let’s get to work for Jesus.
Father, thank you for our time in the word. Thank you for these good folks that have come to hear it. May they not just hear it but do it. And Lord, the week is about to start, the factory horn will blow, the office doors will be open, and the emails will come rolling in. Help us as tomorrow unfolds, or even later on today as work begins, to bring this theology of work to bear upon our lives. Help us to understand the glory of work, the eternality of work, that we love and follow a working God whose Son did the greatest work for us. Lord, help us to work sincerely and seriously and submissively. Help us to work with a good attitude that’s underwritten by the idea that Jesus is our real boss. And anything we do, even if underappreciated by our boss on earth, will not be underappreciated by our boss in heaven. Thank you we’re working double time today. Help us to finish our day’s work in this life and then pick it up and begin a everlasting life’s work in the next. For Jesus’ sake. Amen.