World English Bible translation
3:22Servants, obey in all things those who are your masters according to the flesh, not just when they are looking, as men-pleasers, but in singleness of heart, fearing God. 3:23 And whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord, and not for men, 3:24 knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance; for you serve the Lord, Christ. 3:25 For he who does wrong will receive again for the wrong that he has done, and there is no partiality.
4:1Masters, give to your servants that which is just and equal, knowing that you also have a Master in heaven.
Today's Scriptures conclude the section of this letter that we have called the household codes. This is part of a general pattern of summary that Paul used in his letters. Yesterday's Scriptures concerned the relationship between family members. He instructed wives to be subject to husbands and for husbands to love their wives. He also instructed children to obey their parents and for fathers to not provoke their children. Today's Scriptures concern the relationship that existed in the households of the ancient world between a slave and his master.
Many people do not understand that Paul and other New Testament writers do not take opportunities like this to advocate the abolition of slavery. Even in the Old Testament, slavery was not eliminated. It was, however, highly regulated in comparison to the other cultures that surrounded Israel. All throughout the ancient world, slavery was common. One might become a slave either through war, debt or being born into slavery. The fact that Paul includes slaves in the household code is unusual. In the ancient world, slaves were considered property. They were not generally given moral teaching because they were not considered to have moral freedom. By requiring slaves to act in moral ways, Paul and other New Testament writers elevate slaves to the status of persons.
Paul instructs believers who are servants to obey their masters in all things. He tells them to work for their masters as though the work that they did was done for God. He tells them not to just work when they are being watched, but to be conscientious and faithful to their masters. The reward that they will receive will be from the Lord.
Many people see the instructions that are given here to servants as being applicable to modern workers in an industrial society. Certainly the two situations have some similarities, but there are also vast differences. Nonetheless, the instructions that Paul gives to servants here are just the sort of things that workers should do for the bosses and the companies for which they work. We should do our work in a conscientious manner and in so doing please the Lord. We should work as though the reward we were seeking was from the Lord, not just our bosses. We should be honest and hard working. Christians should be the best workers in a company.
Paul also instructs masters to be fair and just with their servants. He tells them that they should always treat their servants with the realization that we have a Master in heaven. When we put on Christ, we become servants and slaves of God. God has bought us at a high price. Having accepted the gift of salvation, we are not free to follow our own course. We are obligated by the ties of love to live lives that are worthy of our calling.
Paul's instructions to masters are indicative of the New Testament view of personal power. Christ taught that the strong must care for the weak and that the greatest must be the servant to the least. Christian service does not flow from a position of weakness, but from a position of strength. If a man would be great in Christ, he must learn to serve others. In so doing, he becomes more and more like Christ. Even though Christ was equal to God, He put aside His glory and prerogatives and made Himself as a servant to all.
Do you work in all things as though you were working to the Lord? When you are in a position of authority, do you use that position to promote fairness and justice?
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