God @ Work: Working …… Wholeheartedly

Ephesians 5:21; 6:5-9

Working …. Wholeheartedly:
An act of worship and witness

  • Work is our side of the universal covenant between God and his creation (Gen 2).
  • Work is the place where worship and witness meet – as priests and ministers of God’s new kingdom (Rms 15:16; 1 Peter 2:5-9; 1 Cor 12:5-7)
  • Work is the context where we give an account for our lives(1 Peter 4:5)

Working …. Wholeheartedly:
The responsibilities of a worker

Jesus became a slave in order to bring about our salvation (Mark 10:45), and thus also became an example of submission for slaves (1 Peter 2:18-25). Paul often referred to himself as Christ’s slave (Romans 1:1; 1 Corinthians 9:19). Every Christian has been delivered from slavery to sin, and has become a slave of Jesus Christ (Romans 6:16-20; 14:4; 1 Corinthians 7:22). And so the instructions which Paul gives to “slaves” applies to all Christians, as Christ’s slaves.

  • To be Christ centred (Eph 6:5)
  • To be single-heartedly focussed on serving Christ

Energetic (Proverbs 20:13, 26.14 -15)
Integrity (Proverbs 20:10, 23)
Effective (Proverbs 20.4, 12.27, 19.24)
Motivated (Proverbs 20.27)
Rested (Gen 2.2-3, Heb 4.6-11)

  • To be responsible to God for the quality of the task done (Eph 6:6; Col 3.22)

Working …. Wholeheartedly:
The responsibilities of an employer

  • To reciprocate the attitudes (Eph 6:9)

Responsible (Proverbs 20.11)
Insightfulness (Proverbs 20.5)
Careful speech (Proverbs 20:19)
Blamelessness (Proverbs 20:7)

  • To build relationships based on respect
  • To recognise that Christ is the master of all (Col 4.1).

The responsibilities of everyone:

  • To treat each other with equality, justice and ‘brotherhood’ (Eph 6:9; Phm 16; Gal 3:26-38; Col 3:11)

A Note on Slavery

The slavery of Paul’s day was fraught with abuse. William Barclay writes of the evils of slavery in the Roman empire during the time Paul wrote this epistle to the Ephesians. This helps us to understand the term ‘slave’ when used in the NT.

“It has been computed that in the Roman Empire there were 60,000,000 slaves. In Paul’s day a kind of terrible idleness had fallen on the citizens of Rome. Rome was the mistress of the world, and therefore it was beneath the dignity of a Roman citizen to work. Practically all work was done by slaves. Even doctors and teachers, even the closest friends of the Emperors, their secretaries who dealt with letters and appeals and finance, were slaves.

Often there were bonds of the deepest loyalty and affection between master and slave … But basically the life of the slave was grim and terrible. In law he was not a person but a thing. Aristotle lays it down that there can never be friendship between master and slave, for they have nothing in common; ‘for a slave is a living tool, just as a tool is an inanimate slave.’

Varro, writing on agriculture, divides agricultural instruments into three classes—the articulate, the inarticulate, and the mute. The articulate comprises the slaves; the inarticulate the cattle; and the mute the vehicles. The slave is no better than a beast who happens to be able to talk. Cato gives advice to a man taking over a farm. He must go over it and throw out everything that is past its work; and old slaves too must be thrown out on the scrap heap to starve. When a slave is ill it is sheer extravagance to issue him with normal rations.

The law was quite clear. Gaius, the Roman lawyer, in the Institutes lays it down: ‘We may note that it is universally accepted that the master possesses the power of life and death over the slave.’ If the slave ran away, at best he was branded on the forehead with the letter F for fugitivus, which means runaway, at worst he was killed.

The terror of the slave was that he was absolutely at the caprice of his master. Augustus crucified a slave because he killed a pet quail. Vedius Pollio flung a slave still living to the savage lampreys in his fish pond because he dropped and broke a crystal goblet. Juvenal tells of a Roman matron who ordered a slave to be killed for no other reason than that she lost her temper with him. When her husband protested, she said: ‘You call a slave a man, do you? He has done no wrong, you say? Be it so; it is my will and my command; let my will be the voucher for the deed.’

The slaves who were maids to their mistresses often had their hair torn out and their cheeks torn with their mistresses’ nails. Juvenal tells of the master ‘who delights in the sound of a cruel flogging thinking it sweeter than any siren’s song,’ or ‘who revels in clanking chains,’ or, ‘who summons a torturer and brands the slave because a couple of towels are lost.’ A Roman writer lays it down: ‘Whatever a master does to a slave, undeservedly, in anger, willingly, unwillingly, in forgetfulness, after careful thought, knowingly, unknowingly, is judgment, justice and law.’”

Cell Outline

1. Construct a sentence beginning, “My job makes earth more like heaven because …”

2. … and another beginning, “In my job I seek first the kingdom of God by ….”

3. Why do you go to work?

4. By what, specifically, should we be able to spot a Christian at work?

5. How far is ‘Christian service’ equated with ‘church activity’ and what are the elements of truth and the dangers in this equation?

6. How far do you feel that your work skills and experiences remain unappreciated / unused in your prayer life / family life / church life and so on? Which work learnings could you apply almost immediately?

Going Deeper

Is drivenness a Christian characteristic? Compare ‘drivenness’ and ‘calling’ – which is ‘push’ and which is ‘pull’ and does this matter?

What practical effect, if any, does belief in the ‘sufficiency of Scripture to equip us for every good work’ have upon the way you think about and do your work?


What specifically could you do to help you to keep your mission in mind and to enjoy and practise the presence of Christ at work?

“Being boring is a bad witness.” True or false?

How does your workspace (desk, pod, office) reflect your character, mission and motivation?

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