Message

2022.5.15

Life of Faith #18

Serving the Lord in the Workplace We are Called to

Ephesians 6:5 - 9

Good morning, everyone.  How are you all doing?  Those of you who are worshipping through the Internet and CDs also, how are you?

Today is the eighteenth in our series on the Life of Faith.  Today, I would like to study with you by the title of, “Serving the Lord in the Workplace We are Called to”. 

Last time in our series on the Life of Faith, we studied from Ephesians chapter 6 by the title of, “Relationship Between Parents and Children Who Love One Another”.  Today, l would like to study with you focusing on Relationships in the workplace.

Paul said in 5:21, “Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ,” and followed it up by teaching three relationships about how specifically to submit.  5:22 to 33 is about the relationship between a husband and wife, 6:1 to 4 is about parents and children.  And verses 5 to 9 that we will be looking at today teaches about the relationship between slaves and their master, or a master-servant relationship. 

Slaves and their masters were a very common thing in the times when the Epistle to the Ephesians was written.  Because there were many slaves in the society then.  There were many Christians who were in the position of slaves as well as masters.  Paul taught Christians in both positions about submitting to each other here.

In the present-day Japan, there are no slaves in the literal sense, but I think we can apply what Paul taught in the modern workplace relations.  That is, I think it can be applied to the relationship between superiors and their subordinates. 

Because the Christian population is small in the modern-day Japan, I think it is not uncommon for a person to be the “only Christian” in the workplace.  So, today, I would like to study with you by the viewpoint of how to serve God and people in our respective positions in the workplaces we have been called to.  Now, let’s get started. 

Paul first teaches the slaves.  I will read 6:5 to 7.

5 Slaves, obey your earthly masters with respect and fear, and with sincerity of heart, just as you would obey Christ. 6 Obey them not only to win their favor when their eye is on you, but as slaves of Christ, doing the will of God from your heart. 7 Serve wholeheartedly, as if you were serving the Lord, not people,

Paul teaches the slaves to obey their masters like they were obeying Christ rather than people.  What does it mean to obey our masters like obeying Christ? 

It is the attitude of doing our best regardless of the character of our master.  Whether the master is kind to the slaves or not, friendly or not, have the attitude of doing our best to carry out the job.  I think this teaching can be applied to our workplace as well.  It can be applied to the relationship between superiors and subordinates, and also with the customers, too. 

Last month, a funeral service was held at our church.  Usually, when we have a funeral, and the family contacts us, we call a funeral company to make arrangements for the funeral.  Currently, our church works mainly with two funeral companies. 

In dealing with the people of the funeral companies, I always feel a lot of respect for them.  It is because the people of the funeral company work attentively caring for the family members of the deceased day after day.  If you say, “That is the job of a funeral company,” that would be that, but I don’t think it is an easy thing to work being closely attentive to the emotions of the grieving families every day. 

There is no telling when a call asking for a funeral to be conducted to come into a funeral company.  The work of a funeral company is totally unpredictable.  It is necessary to be prepared to respond to whoever and whenever a call comes in.  No matter what kind of person contacts you, it is necessary for you to care for the grief of the family members with all your heart. 

Sometimes, there may be consecutive funerals, and you may have to have meetings for the funeral even though you are tired.  At such times too, you would have to conduct the meeting taking care to put the wishes of the families first, without ever offending them. 

Thinking in that way, I feel that it is a job that calls for a tremendous sense of mission.  I think the attitude toward the work of the people at funeral companies that prepare funerals every day relate to the attitude of serving people as if serving Christ. 

The attitude of obeying the master just as one would obey Christ is taught to be obeying not only to win the masters’ favor when their eyes are on you in verse 6 that comes next.  What does it mean to “obey only to win their favor when their eye is on you”?  It is a way of serving that is working eagerly as long as the master is watching, but slacking off when the master is not around.  Doing things only to earn good evaluation from the master, but being lazy about things don’t get you points with the master.

Such attitude is of course not good, but is it not an attitude we tend to fall into?  I, too, am basically the type of person who can’t work hard unless I’m seen by other people.  Ever since I was young, studying for entrance exams, I was not good at studying alone in my room.  Studying alone, I would soon get distracted or lazy.  So, when I was studying for entrance exams, I would almost always go to the library to study.  Even at this age, I am not good at concentrating alone.  There are times I prepare my sermons at home, but I always do so at a table in the living room.  Not having many rooms is one reason, but I think working in the living room where my family can see, prevents me from slacking off. 

Even with the work I do at church, I try to be open about what I’m doing in pastoral meetings so as to let the other pastors see them.  I feel it’s hard to discipline myself alone. 

Following the teaching to the slaves, teaching towards the masters is written in verse 9.  I will read verse 9.

9 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.

In fact, the teaching toward the masters written here is the same as those to the slaves.  It says, “treat your slaves in the same way.”  That means, the masters should treat the slaves as serving Christ, too.  It is to have the heart to serve the slaves thinking of how they could work best. 

This was a teaching difficult to be accepted in the society with slavery in those days.  Normally, slaves had no rights.  That is, they were treated like objects, not humans, in those days.  For masters to serve such slaves same as obeying Christ was an unthinkable teaching. 

In the latter part of verse 9 it says, “there is no favoritism with him,” and for the same thing to be taught to the masters and slaves can be said to be a very unique aspect of the Bible. 

Jesus, too, said to his twelve disciples the following in the Gospel of Matthew 20:25 to 28.

25 Jesus called them together and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. 26 Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, 27 and whoever wants to be first must be your slave— 28 just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

Jesus came to this earth not to be served by people, but to serve.  He is teaching, in the same way, you be ones to serve, too.  And Paul is teaching the masters the same thing Jesus had taught. 

Also, Paul teaches the masters to stop threatening their slaves.  In those days, it was standard tactic for masters to threaten slaves to make them work.  Telling the masters to stop threatening their slaves was a command to fundamentally change their way of behavior.  He was asking them to create an environment that would make it easier for slaves to work in. 

Even in Japan today, cases of power harassment have continued to increase.  It is said that more than 80,000 complaints are received by the prefectural labor departments every year.  Power harassment prevention laws were implemented in regard to large companies in June of 2020.  Since April 2022, it was implemented in small and medium-sized companies, too. 

According to a survey conducted last year, more than 90 percent of the harassment cases were “feeling mental attacks and intimidation.”  Even without using violence, attacking and hurting others with words is occurring on a daily bases in the Japanese workplace at present.  Even with the times changing, I think the fact that great suffering accompanying working has stayed unchanged. 

The New Testament Bible was written 2000 years ago, but it commands, “Do not threaten.”  A slave or a master, both were created by God the Creator of the Bible in the same way.  And the person in the position of the slave, and the person in the position of the master, are equally precious that Jesus went on the cross for the forgiveness of their sins.  That is why the Bible commands to the masters, “Do not threaten.” 

Up to here, we have looked at what is commanded to the slaves and their masters.  We in the modern age can apply it to our workplace relationships, but what is the basis for us to serve in our workplace?  Just as husbands and wives submit to one another, and parents and children love one another, the basis for us serving the people in our workplace, too, I think is in the Scripture words of 5:21.  I will read 5:21.

21 Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.

The basis for us serving people in our workplace is “reverence for Christ.”  For us to serve people in our workplace, reverence for Christ always precedes it.  Without reverence for Christ, the heart to serve others would never be born.  Because it says, “Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.” 

As I mentioned in my previous sermon, “reverence for Christ” is not being afraid of Christ.  Not so, but it is to have a sense of awe for Christ’s love.  The more we experience and get to know the love and grace of Christ, the more we quiet ourselves before the Lord and have gratitude thinking of who Christ is, and why he is so good to us. 

The foundation on which we serve people in our workplace is in revering Christ.  Reverence for Christ, admiration for Christ nurtures our heart for serving others. 

 

The other basis for which we serve the people in our workplace is help by the Holy Spirit.  It says in 5:18, “Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit”.  In the original language, “submitting to one another” is written as the present participle modifying the command to “be filled with the Spirit”.  That means, revering Christ and submitting to one another are only possible by being filled with the Holy Spirit and by being helped by the Holy Spirit.  And when we wish for it, the Holy Spirit will definitely help us. 

Now with these two things as the basis, how can we specifically serve the people in our workplace?  Especially when we have trouble with relationships in our workplace, how should we deal with them?  What basic attitude should we take with superiors who are inconsiderate or subordinates who are disobedient?  Let’s consider that next.

The first of our basic attitude should be to try and serve regardless of the attitude of the other person.  It says as follows in 1 Peter 2:18 to 20.

18 Slaves, in reverent fear of God submit yourselves to your masters, not only to those who are good and considerate, but also to those who are harsh. 19 For it is commendable if someone bears up under the pain of unjust suffering because they are conscious of God. 20 But how is it to your credit if you receive a beating for doing wrong and endure it? But if you suffer for doing good and you endure it, this is commendable before God.

We may be able to submit to good and considerate superiors.  However, we are encouraged to submit to harsh superiors, too.  Even in receiving unjust suffering, if we persevere and keep on serving, it is commendable before God, it says. 

In spite of suffering unjustly, persevering and keep on serving is not something we can do on our own.  It is not easy for us even to keep submitting to good and considerate superiors.  Because serving is not in our nature.  Human nature breeds conflict, anger, division, and envy. 

Then how can we aim to serve regardless of the attitude of the other party?  That is the second attitude we should have.   It is to pray for the help of the Holly Spirit. 

Most of the time, we do not know how we should deal with unsympathetic superiors and disobedient subordinates.  There are times we don’t even know how we should pray to God about them.  However, the Holy Spirit will help us.  The Holy Spirit will guide our prayers in how to pray to God.  It says as follows in Romans 8:26 and 27.

26 In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. 27 And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God.

Workplace relationship troubles are the most difficult problems for us to solve.  That is because we are not the ones who choose our workplace relations but they are brought about by company placement.  Sometimes such relationships distress us very much.  There are many things we cannot solve ourselves.  But the Holy Spirit knows well what goes on in our hearts.  And upon knowing, the Holy Spirit intercedes for us in accordance with the will of God.  When we seek the guidance of the Holy Spirit in our distress, the Holy Spirit will intercede for us our wordless thoughts to God the Father. 

The Holy Spirit may give us good wisdom in how to deal with people we have trouble with in our workplace.  Or, we may be led to seek the advice of people around us, go to the consultation service of the company, or outside the company.  Depending on the situation, we might be led to ask to be moved to a different department in the workplace.  In some cases, you may be led to change jobs. 

In any case, the Holy Spirit will never forsake us.  When we ask, the Holy Spirit will always help us. 

The third fundamental attitude we should have is to keep in mind that God will always reward us for our good that we do.  I will read 6:8.

8 because you know that the Lord will reward each one for whatever good they do, whether they are slave or free.

No matter the position we have in our workplace, God will reward us for the good we do without discrimination.  Because God never forgets the good that we do.  I will read Hebrews 6:10. 

10 God is not unjust; he will not forget your work and the love you have shown him as you have helped his people and continue to help them.

God will not forget when we treat the person we have trouble with in our workplace with patience.  Of course, even if we deal with them prayerfully, the reaction of that person might not change.  There may not be any immediate change seen in them.  However, God will never just leave us disappointed.  Through such actions of love, we can be witnesses for Jesus.  We can testify the love of Jesus who went on the cross for us humans.  God will never forget such good deeds.  God will certainly reward us.  It might not be in the form of how we imagine it to be.  However, in our eternal walk as Christians, God will surely reward us.  We will be praised and rewarded being told before the Heavenly God, “Well done, good and faithful servant!”

Relationships in the workplace are one of the most difficult human relationships we deal with in our lives.  In such relationships, God wishes to use us to be witnesses for Jesus.  Let’s pray for the help of the Holy Spirit and serve God and people in the workplaces we are each called to. 

Let’s pray.

There may be people here who are facing difficult workplace relations right now.  Let’s pray for help from the Holy Spirit.  Let’s have the Holy Spirit guide our prayer.  And may we be given the wisdom to deal with that relationship.  May we be given the strength.  Let’s pray individually in our hearts. 

(individual prayer)

Let’s pray that we may remember that God will always reward us for the good we do in difficult workplace relations.  Let’s each pray in thanksgiving that God will never forget the deeds of love on our part, and for us to be able to trust in God. 

(individual prayer)

There may be people here who listened to this kind of talk from the Bible for the first time today. 

The God in the Bible created each and every one of us.  He preciously loves each and every one of us. 

However, humans forgot that love of God and went their own selfish ways.  We came to have the selfish idea that we could do without God.  The Bible calls that sin.  With sin entering the human world, humans came to have hatred, envy, and ill will in our hearts. 

God cannot overlook sinful humans.  God is just without a single sin.  God must punish those with sins.  After death, as punishment for our own sins, humans have to go into hell where God’s love will never reach. 

However, God loves us humans deeply.  He did not think it okay for humans to go to hell.  In order for us not to have to go to hell, He sent a Savior to this earth to receive the punishment for sins in our place.  That is Jesus Christ.  Because Jesus received the punishment for sins on the cross on our behalf, God forgave the sins of us humans. 

If anyone believes that Jesus’s cross was for one’s forgiveness of sins, they can be forgiven of their sins by God. And live the rest of their lives with God. 

Now, I would like to pray a prayer saying, “Jesus is my personal savior.”  I will lead the prayer.  You need not pray out loud, but if you will, please pray with me in your hearts.   Let’s pray.

“God in heaven, before you I, too, have sins.  The reason Christ died on the cross was in my place to forgive me of my sins, I thank you.  I now believe Jesus to be my Savior.  Amen.”

Those of you who prayed with me now have received forgiveness of sins from God.  You have become Christians.  Let’s continue to worship God together.  And learn from the Bible and experience together how great God’s love is.