Slaves, obey your earthly masters with respect and fear, and with sincerity of heart, just as you would obey Christ. Obey them not only to win their favor when their eye is on you, but as slaves of Christ, doing the will of God from your heart. Serve wholeheartedly, as if you were serving the Lord, not people, because you know that the Lord will reward each one for whatever good they do, whether they are slave or free. And masters, treat your slaves in the same way. Do not threaten them, since you know that he who is both their Master and yours is in heaven, and there is no favoritism with him. (Ephesians 6:5-9)
Today, we conclude our study of Ephesians with a passage that contains some of the most direct instructions about work in all of Scripture for both “slaves” and “masters” (or in our modern parlance, employees and employers).
First, let’s look at the most obvious commands. If you work for someone else, Paul commands you to obey them “with respect and fear, and with sincerity of heart, just as you would obey Christ.” If you employ others, you are to “treat your [team] in the same way”—with respect, honor, and a lack of favoritism.
Those are the clearest and most direct commands in this passage. But I’d also invite you to take a closer look at verses 7-8, which command all of us to “serve wholeheartedly” at work. Why is Paul calling us to work with enthusiasm?
First, because in serving others at work we are “serving the Lord” (verse 7). This is our primary motivation for doing wholehearted, exceptional work. Excellence is ministry and part of how we love our employers, employees, and customers as ourselves and glorify our great God. That is motivating in and of itself.
But let’s not ignore the fact that Paul also holds out extrinsic rewards for good work as a secondary motivator. You see it right there in verse 8: “Serve wholeheartedly…because you know that the Lord will reward each one for whatever good they do, whether they are slave or free.” This is far from the only place that Paul claims that there are eternal rewards tied to how we steward our vocations (see 1 Corinthians 3:5-9, 1 Corinthians 3:11-15, 1 Corinthians 9:24-27, and Hebrews 6:10-12). Jesus also suggested the same thing in the Parable of the Talents (see Matthew 25:14-30).
Scripture couldn’t be clearer: There are eternal rewards for how we work in this life and it is good and right for those rewards to lead us to care deeply about serving others, and by extension the Lord, through the ministry of excellence at work. May that promise lead you to work with great enthusiasm today!