Part 1 of Honoring God by Action – Ephesians 6

(Reading List Theme 2.7)

My last post was about Honoring God by Purity – which is about my heart, and how my heart impacts my attitude and my words. This one is more about honoring God by how we act – especially how we act towards our leaders, and how we face evil in this world.

The Bible was not written in English, so there are several different English translations. My current go-to versions of scripture are the English Standard Version (ESV) and the New Living Translation (NLT), and most of the Bible quotes in my blog are from one of those. The ESV is more literal, while the NLT tries to put it in modern, easy-to-read language. So the ESV is a little better for study, and the NLT is a little better for preaching. But every once in awhile I like to check out The Message. Eugene Peterson was a pastor for many years, and he started The Message as a way to really drive home the meaning of the Bible to his church members. It is much more of an interpretation than a literal translation, and sometimes I think it is really great at capturing the heart.

In Ephesians 6, the author, Paul, puts out a brief theology of work for the church he writes to in Ephesus. The Message says it this way:

“Respectfully obey your earthly masters but always with an eye to obeying the real master, Christ. Don’t just do what you have to do to get by, but work heartily, as Christ’s servants doing what God wants you to do. And work with a smile on your face (enthusiasm, NLT), always keeping in mind that no matter who happens to be giving the orders, you’re really serving God. Good work will get you good pay from the Master, regardless of whether you are slave or free.” (6:5-8)

This theology of work is one I learned early in life, and really took to heart. Obey my parents as unto the Lord. Do my schoolwork as unto the Lord (which means no cheating, work hard, and pray God would help me study the right things, and remember it well). Do my job as unto the Lord… no grumbling, respectful, no cutting corners or trying to cheat the company. And now that I am at home with my kids much of the time, without really having to think about it, I realized that work ethic has transferred… clean the toilet, wipe up spills, bathe the kids, and vacuum the floor as if doing it for God… or at least as if he was there in the room with me. Because he IS always there in the room with me.

I certainly am not a perfect housekeeper, and I don’t always have a great attitude, but I also realize that this is okay. God doesn’t mind if my house is a little messy, as long as I am loving my family and taking care of their true needs. God understands that I am a work in progress, and my attitude will improve when I grow in spiritual maturity and health.

When I have guests, that is when I am most motivated to set the house in order (and stash the clutter out of sight), but I realize that God cares more about me talking to him than keeping up appearances for him. The same is true of guests… they come for genuine conversation more than to sit in a perfect place. When people come over, I am usually still finishing the food when they arrive and there are usually a few dishes in the sink. My home is kid-friendly and not fancy. But when people come over we have very often received comments on what a welcoming and nice place we have, even if there are toys left out and maybe we forgot to clean the bathroom mirror, and despite the bit of mess or clutter that remains. Part of how I can show love is by cleaning and putting away the junk so I can focus on my guests without distraction, and so they can be comfortable in my home – but that’s not what hospitality is really about. It’s about the love, not the outward perfection.

How does this relate to what Paul is saying about working unto the Lord? I have never really thought about it this way before, but if God values love more than strictly following orders, then doesn’t this apply to the work place as well? If a boss does not honor the Lord, he or she may be a difficult person to work for. It may not be easy to be motivated to work hard for them to help their company succeed. But if that is the job God has provided for you, then I think your assignment there is not just to fulfill your job description, but also to find a way to show his love. Working for God really is about showing love; the way we obey God best is by loving people (James 2:8). So if in our jobs we should have “an eye to obeying the real master, Christ” then we are there not just to work, but to show God’s love.

So, as you care for your family this week, as you go to work, as you do schoolwork, or interact with your landlord or homeowners association or police – whoever you answer to, or whoever is your “master” in this life, remember that we will honor them best not just by doing our duty, but by finding ways to love. How can you love your master this week?