“All who are under the yoke as slaves must regard their own masters to be worthy of all respect, so that God’s name and His teaching will not be blasphemed. And those who have believing masters should not be disrespectful to them because they are brothers, but should serve them better, since those who benefit from their service are believers and dearly loved.” (1 Timothy 6:1-2)
Slavery in the first century was as common as water. Probably one of out every three in the Roman Empire was a slave, which means that it was a primary institution of their society. Teachers of children were normally slaves. Money managers were often slaves. Of course, there were clearly the brutal aspects of slavery as well. These people were not free, and they did not have rights, particularly with regard to self-determination. They could be subjected to harsh treatment at a master’s whim.
When Paul addressed slaves in his letter to Timothy, he was not at all legitimizing the institution of slavery. Instead, he was attempting to help slaves who had become Christians understand how a Christian slave should behave toward their masters.
What we see in Paul’s statements provides us with some basic principles that can help all of us who work “under” someone else to know how to live in that atmosphere from a Christian perspective. Christians who work for someone else in the work world need to consider their bosses as worthy of all respect. To disrespect a boss or supervisor could potentially lead that person to conclude that God is not real and the gospel is irrelevant if it does not impact the way the employee lives out his or her life. Serving the Lord calls for us to respect everyone, and especially those we may work for.
If a boss or supervisor is in fact a Christian, then those who work for them should avoid taking advantage of that spiritual relationship for personal gain. The temptation might, in fact, be to disrespect a boss or supervisor who is a Christian. How so? It goes back to the old military adage: “Familiarity breeds contempt.” The temptation is to think that because the boss is a Christian, he or she has some relaxed expectations, and that could lead to some slack on the part of the Christian worker. The higher road is for the Christian work to consider that the boss or supervisor who is a Christian should be held in an even higher respect and should be served with excellence because he or she is a believer and a dearly loved brother or sister.
The point seems to be that whatever our station may be with regard to authorities and relationships in the work world, we all have a responsibility as Christians to live in ways that demonstrate the highest ideals of our Christian faith, so that God’s name may be praised and unbelievers brought to faith.
Lord, Help us to live this way today. Amen.