LivingTruth.cc — The Preaching and Teaching Ministry of Kevin A. Pierpont

Wisdom For Workers – 1 Timothy 6:1-2

Higgins Lake Baptist Church
Kevin A. Pierpont
1/4/04

Has anybody here ever wished they could have a job as an NFL football player? Don’t you think being an NFL football player would be a tough job? Think about the job of a lineman – those guys up front that give and take a beating on every play. You would think that it would be difficult to have a good attitude as a lineman in the NFL, what with all the pounding that they give and take during a normal game. But, former Buffalo Bills’ offensive lineman Glenn Parker speculated as to why NFL linemen are generally cheerful when he said: “There are not a lot of well-paying jobs for 300-pounders. We found one, and we’re happy about it.”

With the employer I worked for before we came here last year I was always amazed at how difficult it is for my boss to find good help. In the 6 years I worked Graphics 3, I saw a number of individuals accept an entry-level job and then a few days later call in sick for a couple of days. I've seen some that just plain didn’t show up at all one day. They may come back for a day or two and then a few days later never come back. And what was required of them wasn’t extremely difficult or physical work either.

We can all probably share stories like that about places we've worked or done business. Think about your work or places you’ve worked and often what you remember most of those people you work with is there attitude, be it good or bad.

We’re returning today to our study in 1 Timothy and we arrive at the portion of 1 Timothy that addresses how a follower of Christ ought to view their work. We are going to look at 1 Timothy 6:1-2 where Paul gives instructions for slaves and masters.

6:1  Let as many bondservants as are under the yoke count their own masters worthy of all honor, so that the name of God and His doctrine may not be blasphemed.
2  And those who have believing masters, let them not despise them because they are brethren, but rather serve them because those who are benefited are believers and beloved. Teach and exhort these things.

Historians report that half of the population of the Roman Empire were slaves. So when Paul was writing this epistle to Timothy, the topic of slaves and masters was a pertinent one for the time.

Slaves and masters were both coming to Christ and Paul addresses some concerns regarding the relationship between slaves and masters.

We may think, "well this doesn't really apply to us today. It's been a long time since slavery was abolished in our country." But as we will see today in our study we can and should make application from this passage to our relationships in the workplace.

Now before we move on to that, let's briefly consider the topic of slavery. Here Paul uses the terms slaves and masters. Does that mean the Bible condones the practice of slavery, as we know it?

Listen to Ray Stedman's remarks on this:

"Many people today are troubled by the fact the New Testament does not denounce slavery; in fact, it seems to accommodate to it. Passages like this sound as though slavery is accepted and acceptable in a Christian relationship. People ask, "How can a religion of freedom and liberty ignore conditions of slavery imposed upon a people against their will?" Many have felt that Scripture is not relevant to life because it seems to treat this question with such indifference.

But the truth is that, though Scripture does not denounce slavery, neither does it approve of it. There is no defense of slavery in Scripture; there is no attempt made to perpetuate it in any degree. In fact, although there were sixty million slaves in the Roman Empire at the time this letter was written, by the end of the second century slavery had widely disappeared, largely because of the impact of Christian teaching and influence of Christians throughout the Empire. So it is apparent that, though Scripture does not come out in strong language against the institution of slavery, nevertheless, Christianity is the major reason why slavery has disappeared around the world.

This is true in modern times as well. History will vindicate the fact that even those nations that practiced slavery in the last century — including our own — came to enlightenment and finally settled the issue (either with or without violence), on the basis of the teachings of Christ. Christianity has historically proven to be the major factor that sets men free. When Paul wrote to the Galatians, and said, "In Christ there is neither bond nor free" {Gal 3:28 KJV}, he laid the foundation for a reaction in the Christian churches that would ultimately deliver the world from the curse of slavery.

The process was never to be one of armed revolt, even of strikes or boycotts or riots. Rather, it was by obedience to words such as these in Paul's letter to Timothy, where it was laid upon both Christian slaves and Christian masters to look at each other in a different way and to treat each other with honor and respect even though the institution of slavery continued. Slaves were to look to God to change the practice.

The great principle, of course, is the belief that God is in charge of life. If slaves did not believe that God determines the affairs of men they had no hope. He lifts the load of bondage and frees people; or, in other ways and at other times, allows a once free people to go into bondage. God does that on the basis of the reaction of human beings to the Word of truth which he has caused to be spread among us. Christian slaves in the 1st century church were expected to treat their masters with respect and honor. They believed that God would then work to change the situation (when and where it could be changed), and finally to bring about freedom without violence.

God, after all, has announced himself in Scripture as committed to human freedom. He does not like slavery; he speaks against it both in the Old and the New Testaments. He declares himself on the side of those who are oppressed, those who are in captivity. But God also has his timing and his way of bringing about change. These words in the Scriptures reflect the fact that God moves in different ways than we think. When Christians obey what he says, then God acts — more slowly, perhaps, than we think he ought to."  1

Scripture does not promote slavery. Our freedom in Christ is what causes us to be concerned about others who are in bondage. As believers follow Christ they will impact the world around them. Let's look again at verse 1…

6:1  Let as many bondservants as are under the yoke count their own masters worthy of all honor, so that the name of God and His doctrine may not be blasphemed.

Paul addresses slaves and says to them that they should consider their masters worthy of all honor, give them your full respect.

This applies to our view of our bosses, or even those we employ or manage. How do we view those God has placed in authority over our work or those He’s placed under our authority? Are we respectful? Or do we look down on others? Do we join in the office gossip? Do we join in when other in the workplace criticize and badmouth the boss? Do we speak poorly and degrade those under our authority? Or do we try to build others up? Do we respect others?

We live in a society that isn't very respectful of those whom God has placed in authority. This has made it easy for us to make wise cracks about the boss or to complain to a co-worker about the one in charge.

I was reminded of this a few days ago when I came across a television program that was recounting how popular a certain country song that spoke poorly of employers from the 70’s became during the unrest of those days when workers were striking and fighting for fair treatment.

But as believers we have an obligation to respect our boss. Why? Is it because the boss is such a great person they deserve our respect? Any of us who have spent time in the workplace have all probably had some good bosses that are easy to respect and some that can be extremely difficult to respect. Do we respect the boss because he or she deserves it? Look at the reason Paul gives us for considering our bosses as worthy of full respect. It’s in verse 1,

… so that the name of God and His doctrine may not be blasphemed.

Even if our boss is the hardest person in the world to show respect to, we have an obligation as believers to be respectful so that God's name and the teaching of God's word is not slandered. People will take notice when we don't go along with what everyone else is doing. In many work environments, a respectful employee is going to stand out – others will notice.

But if we join in with others and complain about the boss, people may think our Christianity doesn't amount to much. God's name and the Word of God are slandered when our attitudes are not in line with Scripture. When we fail to honor those in authority we slander God's name and His word. People are looking at our faith to see if it is genuine. If our faith is genuine we will stand out in sharp contrast to the lifestyles of those who do not follow Christ.

Not all of us are in the workplace, but we are all instructed from this passage. It isn't just bosses that God has placed in authority in our lives – it's law enforcement and government leaders and church leaders and parents and anyone else God has placed in a position of authority in our lives.

So do we contribute to a respectful atmosphere of those in charge or are we guilty of slandering God's name and His word by our disrespect? Do we sit around and listen to friends and family members disparage their bosses? Or do we challenge them to have respectful attitudes toward those is authority?

There’s a benefit for us also when we give proper respect to those in authority. If we respect those in authority the way we should it will affect the way we view our work. Have you ever struggled with the idea that you aren’t serving the Lord full-time if you have secular employment?

In the book Going Public With Your Faith by Walt Larimore and William Carr Peel, Dr. Walt Larimore illustrates this difficulty faced by many believers. This was published in an article in Focus on the Family Magazine this month. You may have seen it. He share the story,

As a young man, Tom started a business that grew into a successful enterprise. Tom's competence and char­acter meshed, resulting in an outstand­ing reputation in his community. Over several years, he saw employees and customers begin a personal relationship with God and grow in their faith.

One morning Tom's pastor inquired, "Tom, have you ever considered really giving your life to God—working full time for the Lord?"

Tom felt confused. "Pastor," he explained, "I feel that what I'm doing now is a form of full-time work for the Lord."

The pastor smiled. "Tom, there's no doubt that God has used you in amazing ways; but the work you're in is secular. I think God is call­ing you to consider becom­ing involved in something higher."

Eventually, Tom sold his business and accepted an administrative role in a mis­sion organization. He was in that role for two years when he became my patient and was displaying an array of physical problems. As I got to know Tom and studied the results of his medical tests, I became convinced that he was suffering from anxiety and depression.

One day I asked, "Tom, do you think you're doing what God wants you to do?"

His eyes teared up. "Walt, I think God had me right where he wanted me— in my business in California." He paused and continued, "Do you think there's a dif­ference between sacred work and secular work?"

Dr. Larimore goes on to say,

The mistaken concept that some people do sacred work for God while the rest of humanity settles by doing secular work is an ancient one. In Western thought, this idea developed from Greek philosophy, which taught that any kind of menial work with physical materials was beneath the gods or men who had the means to choose how they spent their time. Slaves did the menial work, while those with means spent time in pursuits of the mind: religion or phi­losophy.

Confucius, the father of much of Eastern philosophy, taught virtually the same thing. This mistaken notion has plagued the church with the conclusion that "worldly activities" are viewed as a major distraction to a per­son's spiritual development.

Accepting the secular-sacred split invariably leads Christians in the workplace to feel caught between the demands of two worlds. On the one hand, you sense the need to be engaged in your work. On the other, a world-view tells you that you're wasting your time and should be pursuing God. It is difficult to live successfully if you allow these forces to tug at your heart.

Plus, how can we be serious about God if we devote the largest measure of our time, talent, treasure and energy to a part of life we think God has no interest in? Dorothy Sayers asked the question this way: "How can anyone remain interested in religion which seems to have no concern with nine-tenths of his life?"

The biblical worldview leaves no room for secular-sacred, dualistic thinking. Unlike the aloof gods of ancient thought, the God of the Bible is actively involved in His world. He engaged in creation. Note that the biblical words used to describe God's work of creation are physical and earthy: "When the lord God made the earth and the heavens . . . the lord God formed man and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being. Now the lord God had planted a garden in the east, in Eden; and there he put the man he had formed" (Genesis 2:4, 7,8 emphasis added).

The apostle Paul reiter­ates God's claim over the workplace. In Paul's day, slaves comprised the bulk of the workforce. Rather than using the terms employee and employer, as we use today, he addressed slaves and masters.

"Slaves, obey your earthly masters in every­thing; and do it, not only when their eye is on you and to win their favor, but with sincerity of heart and rever­ence for the Lord. Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving" (Colossians 3:22-24).

If you are living with a divided secular-sacred world-view, then you'll tend to make one of two choices: You will separate yourself as much as possible from "worldly" things; or you will forget God and devote yourself to the pursuit of success as the world defines it. Trying to live in both worlds can be crippling. No matter what your job may be, God can and will use you when you do it with honor and integrity.2

This is so critical to the spiritual life of every believer. It’s critical to success of this church to reach into this community for Christ. As long as we view secular and sacred work as opposites we will be ineffective for Christ.

But when we get our thinking straight and see the work God has given us in the secular world the ministry He’s preparing us for we will be liberated to do all our wok for God’s glory. We will want to please those in authority because that’s what honors God. All followers of Christ are involved in the Lord's work where he has placed you. Are you doing the work the Lord has given to you to bring glory to Him?

Whether you are working for an employer, working in the home or working in the church, you should do it with all of your heart. As Christians, our ultimate master is the Lord. Are we doing our work to please Him? If we approach our work with this attitude, then our earthly masters – our bosses – are going to be pleased by our work. We will give them the honor and respect the Lord requires of us by being good workers. Martin Luther wrote this about work:

  “The maid who sweeps her kitchen is doing the will of God just as much as the monk who prays—not because she may sing a Christian hymn as she sweeps but because God loves clean floors. The Christian shoemaker does his Christian duty not by putting little crosses on the shoes, but by making good shoes, because God is interested in good craftsmanship.”

God is interested in the way we treat our bosses and the way we do our work. 1 Corinthians 10:31 reminds us to do everything for the Glory of God beginning with the most basic things of life like eating and drinking.

Are we bringing glory to God in our work? Is He glorified by the way we treat our bosses? Or are we slandering God's name and His Word?

Another area Paul addresses in the work environment is found in verse 2…

2  And those who have believing masters, let them not despise them because they are brethren, but rather serve them because those who are benefited are believers and beloved…

Ray Stedman has an important observation…

"I am always amazed at the attitudes some Christians have when they do business with other Christians. They seem to feel that the fact that they are buying something from a Christian businessman means that he ought to give them a discount or favor, or treat them in a different way than he would any other customer. Some men have told me that they hate to see a Christian come into their stores because they know they are going to be asked for some special favor. I do not know what it is about some Christians that makes them think that way, but it reveals that they are using Christianity to their own advantage." 3

Paul says just the opposite. We shouldn't take advantage of a Christian boss. Instead we are to serve him even better.

Paul gives a couple of reasons for this. The first is because he is a brother. As believers we should not take advantage of other believers.

Secondly we should serve even better a believing boss because of love. If we love someone, we have his or her best interests at heart and are going to give them our best effort. When we are working for a Christian boss, we are working for a fellow member of the body of Christ.

1 Corinthians 12:25-27 (NASB) clarifies this for us when it says,

25  that there should be no division in the body, but that the members should have the same care for one another.
26  And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it.
27  Now you are Christ's body, and individually members of it..

If we serve a Christian boss well, we are benefiting the body of Christ. Warren Wiersbe relates the following,

"I recall counseling a young lady who resigned from a secular job to go to work in a Christian organization. She had been there about a month and was completely disillusioned. 'I thought it was going to be heaven on earth,' she complained. 'Instead, there are nothing but problems.'

'Are you working just as hard for your Christian boss as you did for your other boss?' I asked. The look on her face gave me the answer. 'Try working harder', I advised, and show him real respect. Just because all of you in the office are saved doesn't mean you can do less than your best.' She took my advice and her problems cleared up."

The truth is that when we live our whole lives to please God, it clears up a lot of trouble for us. So many of our difficulties and discouragements in life can be attributed to our lack of contentment and lack of obedience to God’s Word in these areas.

It is critical that we understand and apply God’s Word to our lives and become obedient to His ways for our lives. Paul emphasizes this in the last part of verse 2 when he says teach and exhort these things.

Paul's instruction was critical for the life of the church so we see he encouraged Timothy to teach and urge his congregation to follow these instructions. It was critical that slaves knew how to relate to their masters and it is important for us today to know how God wants us as employees to relate to those in authority.

Are we respectful of our bosses and others in authority over us? Do we work hard? What is our attitude toward fellow believers? Do we feel like we can take advantage of them? Or do we serve them even better as the Word of God instructs us? Do we see our secular work as the ministry it is?

The story is told of two brothers that had operated their butcher shop very successfully in their home town for many years. Then one of the men was invited to become a Christian, and after accepting Christ he became an enthusiastic Christian. He urged his brother to go the same route but the brother resisted. "Look," he said, "if I get religion too, who will weigh the meat?" 4

Our relationship to Christ should improve our performance on the job not hinder it. People are watching those who say they follow Christ to see if it’s really true. God is concerned with the way we conduct ourselves in the workplace.

So are we attracting others to Christ because of our reputations of respect to our bosses and our willingness to work hard? Are we doing the right thing like the new Christian in the butcher shop even if it isn't the accepted practice? Let's all determine to do our work to the glory of God — whatever the work He has placed us in that His name and His Word are not slandered and that His name will be glorified in the sight of those who need Him. 


1 SOUND WORDS FOR SLAVES by Ray C. Stedman – http://www.pbc.org/dp/stedman/timothy/3779.html

2 Employed by God By Dr. Walt Larimore, Focus on the Family Magazine, January 2004

3 SOUND WORDS FOR SLAVES by Ray C. Stedman – http://www.pbc.org/dp/stedman/timothy/3779.html

4 Unknown source

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2 thoughts on “Wisdom For Workers – 1 Timothy 6:1-2”

  1. I am preparing to preach on this passage in my church in the UK this Sunday. This page has been very helpful. May God continue to bless you.

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