After giving specific examples of how to live out a Jesus-focused life among our immediate families, Paul turned his readers’ attention to the next most common area of their lives – where they do their daily work.
Paul specifically addresses these next directions to slaves; however, the Greek word he used could also be translated as servant, attendant, or bondsman. Roman slavery had many more similarities to an indentured servant system than to the version of slavery in America’s past or in other parts of the world.
Regardless of his readers’ circumstances, Paul’s application of God’s truth for their lives is clear. Additionally, his reasoning is something that we can also apply in any area we are working:
Slaves, obey your human masters in everything: don’t work only while being watched, in order to please men, but work wholeheartedly, fearing the Lord.
The first observation here is that Paul’s direction is proof that laziness at work isn’t a new concept. It wasn’t introduced into our economic system by Gen-X, Gen-Y, or everyone’s current favorite target, the Millennials. Working only when being watched is an expression of selfishness and self-centeredness…conditions that have plagued all of humanity since The Fall.
Looking back at the creation account, we find that God gave Adam work to do – long before sin entered the world. He and Eve were to partner together with God and work in the Garden of Eden. Paul wants his readers to see their daily work as Adam and Eve saw their work, as an occupation entrusted to them by God and they were to work for Him.
Whatever you do, do it enthusiastically, as something done for the Lord and not for men, knowing that you will receive the reward of an inheritance from the Lord – you serve the Lord Christ.
Remember, Paul is writing to believers here…so the reward of an inheritance isn’t eternal salvation from the penalty of sin, because that is a free gift. Based on the context, the reward in these verses is something that can be earned through working wholeheartedly and enthusiastically.
Given these observations, several application questions come to mind:
How do we approach the workday?
When do we work hard?
If our attitudes are the measuring stick, whom are we working for?
Paul says there is a reward for good work, so what is it?
When we view our work properly – as someone who working for God – our perspective immediately changes. We see the successes, failures, and difficulties in completely different light and are able to trust God in all areas of our work.