(Note: I wrote this article and posted it on my blog before my book, Immanuel Labor – God’s Presence in our Profession was published by WestBow Press in February 2018. This critical topic was later included in the book. I invite you to check it out.)
Here are some thoughts on this topic I presented to a lunchtime Bible Study at work, some college students, and my adult Sunday School class last year.
I don’t know about you, but this is where I think I struggle the most.
Here are a number of observations from God’s Word, regarding employer-employee relationships. It occurs to me that all of us who work are by definition, employees; some of us are employers, and many of us are both.
- A lazy employee is an irritation to his boss; a trustworthy employee brings refreshment to his boss (Prov. 10:26; 25:13)
- Obey your boss just as you would obey Christ, with sincerity of heart, even when they are not looking (Eph. 6:5-7; Col. 3:22-24)
- Bosses are to treat their employees with respect, knowing that Christ is the master of both of them (Eph. 6:9; Col. 4:1)
- Pray for those in authority, including your boss (1 Tim. 2:1-2)
- Honor your boss, do not be disrespectful, and serve well; this holds true especially if our bosses are believers (1 Tim. 6:1-2)
- Submit to your boss so that it will be a joy to work with you as an employee, not a burden (Heb. 13:17)
My professor at Grand Rapids Theological Seminary, Dr. Mike Wittmer, in his book, Worldly Saints, unpacked the meaning of the passage in Eph. 6:5-7 and Col. 3:22-24 (bullet #2 above), where Paul tells slaves they were serving the Lord Jesus Christ.
Based on a strong Christology indicated by such passages as John 1:1-3, Col 1:16, and Heb. 1:2, we believe that Jesus is one in essence with God the Father and that all things were made through Him and for Him. So, we can truthfully say that Jesus is our Creator. Gen. 1:26 shows us that Father, Son, and Holy Spirit together made man in their image. So, when we do our part to fulfill the creation mandate by using the gifts we have been given, we are obeying Christ. We are actually and literally serving Jesus Christ when we work.
Wittmer ties this together well. He observes that the cultural contributions of these 1st-century workers “enabled them and others to develop creation, and so they were obeying the first command that Jesus, who is the Creator of all, gave to the human race. They were not merely serving their masters, but the Lord himself.”
Final observation. When we truly trust God in this area, even with a boss who is less than stellar, we can learn to trust our employers. This will enable us to submit to and serve them, which allows us be a joy to them and not a burden. In the end, we bring Shalom to our workplace, bringing glory to God!
Master Sergeant Russell E. Gehrlein (U.S. Army, Retired) is a Christian, husband of 38 years, father of three, grandfather of four, blogger, and author of “Immanuel Labor – God’s Presence in our Profession: A Biblical, Theological, and Practical Approach to the Doctrine of Work”, published by WestBow Press in February 2018. He received a B.S. in Mathematics from Colorado State University in 1980 and an M.A. in Biblical Studies from Grand Rapids Theological Seminary in 2015. He is also a former junior/senior high school math and science teacher and youth pastor. Russ currently works as a Department of the Army civilian at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri.