Ephesians 6:1-9: Monday to Saturday
June 12, 2023
TODAY'S BIBLE READING:
How are we who want to follow Jesus meant to do so at home and at work? These two critically important areas of the Christian’s life are often neglected, meaning that people either do not know how or are not motivated as to why they need to follow Christ in the domestic world and in the working world. What is the right way to follow Jesus at home and at work?
Paul begins with children. We might define “children” as those who are considered to be children by the society in which they live. Roughly speaking, children are no longer children once they can vote. But, at the same time, there is some responsibility that remains to follow the house rules of the parent when someone lives at home a year or two longer than that. But while we are always called to honor our parents, we are not always called to obey our parents. Paul here has in mind the child who is still under his or her parent’s authority.
What is the responsibility of that child? Paul summarizes it in one word: “obey” (6:1). Of course, there are “hard case” scenarios when a parent might ask a child to do something immoral or ungodly, and in that case Paul’s proviso here is truly important to notice. Children are to obey their parents “in the Lord” (6:1). That ultimate obedience to God is expressed in a filial obedience to parents.
Why are children to obey their parents? First because “it is right” (6:1). It is the right thing to do. There is a moral principle at stake. You are to obey your parents simply because it is right. But second this principle and commandment come with a promise: “so that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth” (6:3). All other things being equal, the single greatest predictor of success and happiness in life is a child’s obedience of their parents. Make sure then that you obey your parents, children!
But then Paul comes to fathers. Why does he not mention mothers? The Bible does address the role of mothers as well. For instance, Proverbs 1:8:
Hear, my son, your father’s instruction, and forsake not your mother’s teaching.
Why then here does Paul focus on fathers specifically? It may be that fathers are particularly tempted to give up on their role related to children. There is a more intimate biological bond between mothers and children because of the gestation and nursing natural connection in most cases. Fathers, naturally, can be tempted to be more distant—and focus on simply providing and protecting. But, according to Paul, fathers need to add to their role of providing and protecting that of “training” (6:4). How to do that? One of the key ingredients to that complicated puzzle of training your children is presence. Fathers often have highly busy and demanding lives; many cannot be at home as much as they would like. When you are at home then, fathers, do all you can to be fully present. Engaged. Put down the smart phone and listen to your children so that you can lovingly instruct and train them.
Paul then comes to the role of slaves and masters. Do not be mistaken into thinking that by Paul describing how slaves and masters should interact, he is condoning the institution of slavery. The Book of Philemon is written about a slave who found his freedom—physically and spiritually. And Paul in 1 Corinthians 7:20 tells slaves that if they can gain their freedom, they should do so. But what if you cannot? How then can you be a Christian even within the institution of slavery? Remember too that ancient Roman slavery was not the same as antebellum slavery. Many books and commentaries have been written about these matters and distinctions. Suffice it to say that Paul is not condoning slavery but teaching how best to manage that situation if you cannot get out of it. And for most people today, the application of this teaching is towards the world of employment, staff, and employers.
The key principle for an employee is to work “as if you were serving the Lord, not people” (6:7). At work, let this be your guide. Your work—whatever it is—is for God. If slavery can be done for God, then so can banking or lawyering or street sweeping. Work for God! Let him be your master and seek his pleasure in what you do.
The key principle for an employer is similarly to remember that you too have a Master. And just because you are specially privileged in this world by being an employer with resources and people who report to you, do not mistake this for meaning that God will give you special treatment. We are all equal before him. And therefore, work as an employer to please God, seeking to treat those who work for you with fairness and in the same way that you would want to be treated by our Master in heaven.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Josh Moody (Ph.D., University of Cambridge) is the senior pastor of College Church in Wheaton, IL., president and founder of God Centered Life Ministries, and author of several books including How the Bible Can Change Your Life and John 1-12 For You.
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