Do Your Work Respectfully
I like the phrase “earthly masters.” The guy who is your direct report is just the guy you answer to. He’s middle management in the grand scheme of things. You have a “heavenly master” who sees everything you do. He knows what your paycheck looks like and what you have to deal with and put up with. You work for him, and he will reward your work. (More on this on Friday.) But still, that middle management guy (or lady) is to be obeyed. And not just when it’s convenient. Paul is pretty clear in the text: “obey your earthly masters in everything.” That’s huge! It means we shouldn’t argue, talk back, make a scene, or gripe in the break room.
I know this question is coming so let me answer it right off. Yes, some of us will be asked to sin in the course of our work, and it takes some clever thinking to do our work well, be respectful to the boss, and keep our commitment to the Lord all at the same time. I’ve been in that situation myself (but not as a pastor!!). Being obedient to a boss in everything in a sinful world means that sometimes we have to be as clever as serpents and as harmless as doves (Matt. 10:16). Obeying in everything does NOT mean compromising our convictions; it does mean we work respectfully.
My dad used to say something that really helped me: “If you can’t respect the person, respect the position.” I worked on the spray-out unit for new homes years ago under a boss I really didn’t like. My dad’s words reminded me that I had a responsibility to be respectful in every interaction with him and to do my work well. There is another bit of wisdom related to bosses over in Ecclesiastes 8:
“Since a king's word is supreme, who can say to him, ‘What are you doing?’ Whoever obeys his command will come to no harm, and the wise heart will know the proper time and procedure. For there is a proper time and procedure for every matter, though a man's misery weighs heavily upon him.”
- Ecclesiastes 8:4-6
The person in charge is the person in charge. If you spend all of your time questioning the boss, you are only making things worse for yourself. Obey and no harm will come to you. Yes, your misery may weigh heavy on you, but the wise employee knows there is a time and a procedure for a matter. He or she figures out when and how to say what needs said. The people who never get this have it so hard! You know someone like this—someone who hops from situation to situation because he can’t be under anyone’s authority. Don’t be that person. Be the one who wise heart who obeys even when it’s hard.