5 Slaves, be obedient to those who are your masters according to the flesh, with fear and trembling, in the sincerity of your heart, as to Christ; 6 not by way of eye service, as men-pleasers, but as slaves of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart. 7 With good will render service, as to the Lord, and not to men, 8 knowing that whatever good thing each one does, this he will receive back from the Lord, whether slave or free. 9 And masters, do the same things to them, and give up threatening, knowing that both their Master and yours is in heaven, and there is no partiality with Him.
This passage is one that seems easy to skip over since “technically” we don’t live in an era of slaves anymore. I believe this is synonymous with any type of work where there is a “boss” and subordinates. I got hung up on the phrase “fear and trembling.” It makes me think about other instances in the bible when an angel of the Lord appears to a human and the human falls to his face in fear and trembling. It’s a display of complete reverence, respect, and acceptance of authority. It isn’t a display, or pretend actions. Rather it is sincere to the core of the person. This is how Paul is instructing us to revere those who are in positions of authority above us. I mentioned yesterday that God put people in charge of us for a reason. Our leaders are God appointed (whether it seems like it or not).
We aren’t to be “yes men” and simply go along with what people say to make them happy. No, what Paul is saying here is that we are to respect authority because ultimate authority comes from God. We are to revere our leaders as if God put them there (well, He has). With good will render service, as to the Lord, and not to men. I think sometimes in our daily lives it is easier to work for the Lord than it is for men. In our jobs, maybe we have a power hungry boss. Maybe someone is our supervisor and all they care about is getting to the next level, even if they have to step on you to get there. There is a book I am reading called Servant Leadership which details how we lead as servants. This is what Paul is encouraging us to do.
Imagine that boss or supervisor is just a complete jerk. They don’t care about you, your coworkers, they demand respect instead of earning it, they throw you under the bus and let the “crap roll downhill.” Imagine if you took all that with humility and a smile. Certainly, it would probably get worse, because it would bug them to no end. One day…one day they will ask what your problem is. That’s when you get to tell them that you aren’t working for them, you’re working for God.
Verse 8 is what I see as the biblical version of “what goes around comes around.” Likewise, as superiors over others we should also treat them with love and kindness because we aren’t the boss, God is. This certainly doesn’t mean let them get away with things, as we discussed before, discipline comes from love. However, our position as superiors is to be one of service. God didn’t put us in a position of superiority so we can get our kicks out of forcing people to do things. Rather, He put us in these positions so that we can serve God by serving those subordinate to us.
How can you lead through service? What position has God placed you in to serve? Must you serve up to your leaders? Are you in a position to serve down to others? How about around you, can you serve the man or woman next to you?