Most Christians work a secular job to make a living. While this text is about slaves and masters, what if we view the principles between employees and employers? Can this text help us understand vocational ministry?
A. How many of you are required by your job to work tomorrow? How many of you who work for someone get tomorrow off? How many of you who get a pay check are thankful for that paycheck?
B. Many surveys say that people are not satisfied in their current job and are looking for ways to change. People do that for many reasons, income and benefits top the list. But other aspects like respect, or lack of it, are also listed in those surveys.
C. Tennessee Ernie Ford sang a song that went, “You load 16 tons and what do you get? Another day older and deeper in debt. Saint Peter don’t call me because I can’t go. I owe my soul to the company store.”
D. One of our problems in life is that we divide everything into secular and sacred categories. We say that over here is the secular and over there is the sacred. And we spend the best hours of every day in the secular world. We say, “We’d really like to serve God, but we have to spend so much time on our secular job.”
E. You can see that sacred and secular pattern in the O.T., but not in the N.T. The O.T. says, “Over here is the sacred with its temple and priests, but everything else is secular.” But the N.T. teaches that we’re all priests, and our body is a temple, and God’s Holy Spirit lives in us, and every day is holy. That is a very different mindset than secular or sacred. Hold this idea and let’s look at slavery.
A. The idea of slavery is abhorrent to us. Our nation once used people in such a manner, but we believe as a society and individuals in the greatness of freedom. Personal liberty is at the heart of what our country stands for. So when the Bible talks about slavery it doesn’t really sit within our understanding. But let’s walk through this text.
B. The idea of being in bondage to someone, either willingly or forced, goes against so much of what we have been trained to think as Americans. Yet, as we read our Bible slavery, even among the Jews, existed. In the Roman world, conquered people would become slaves and as much as 20 to 25% of the population of the Roman empire were slaves.
C. Some Christians in the NT either owned slaves or were slaves. So it was necessary to address the idea. God speaks through Paul about how to be a slave or owner.
D. Our text speaks to the slave and the main point is found in Eph. 6:5-7. Work is not evil. In fact, work appears to have a very good connotation throughout the Bible. So God says to the slaves, work. But let your work be from a heart that is a slave to Christ first.
E. Do you really have a concept of what it means to be a slave to Christ? To be a slave is to let go of personal freedoms and serve another. To be a slave to God is to let go of your personal desires and serve God. The Greeks could not understand that concept. No one would willingly let go of their own freedom.
F. Now take the idea of service to another and try to translate that into your life. The only way it works for me is that of being employed by another person. I work (serve) so that I can be rewarded (receive a paycheck). At any point in time the employer can find a way to get rid of me and I don’t want to lose my income so I seek to please him. God comes along and says, “I want you to serve him, not to please HIM, but to please ME (God).” Run with this thought.
II. Vocational Ministry
A. Paul, Aquila and Pricilla were not tentmakers. Luke was not a doctor. Jesus was not a carpenter. They were not defined by their employment.
B. Mark 1:16-18. My life, every day, is my ministry. Sometimes it might be in an office, sometimes it might be visiting someone, sometimes it might be at school, playing, or vacationing. When I work, I can’t separate being a Christian from being a … (your job).
C. Isn’t’ that exactly what Paul means in Rom. 12:1? I can and must serve God every day in every place with every aspect of who I am. No so that you like me, but because I want to please my Father in heaven.
D. You might be thinking, “You don’t know the kind of people I have to work with.” You’re right, I don’t. but God does. But if I can substitute the word “worker” for “slave” in Eph. 6, then I need to live those words no matter where I am.
A. I cannot separate my secular life from my spiritual life. I am a Christian no matter where I am. Daniel was a slave. He might have been placed in a good position, but he was a slave. When he was thrown into the lion’s den, King Darius was in anguish. So the next day the king goes out to the pit and listen to this (Dan. 6:20). Daniel worked in a pagan country for a pagan king and one thing that pagan king knew about Daniel is that Daniel served God continually.
B. Do your fellow workers know that about you? Does your boss know that about you? Is your work life so worthy of examination that what they see is you first serve God and therefore work hard to serve your company?
C. God’s teaching is what we call “vocational ministry.” Your life is lived so that people want to know about you. You don’t have to brag or be self-righteous, you simply live to please God and do his will. Are you living to please God, please man, or please self? That’s the question.