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Finding Favor In Slave Labor

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EPH 6:5 Slaves, obey your earthly masters with respect and fear, and with sincerity of heart, just as you would obey Christ. [6] Obey them not only to win their favor when their eye is on you, but like slaves of Christ, doing the will of God from your heart. [7] Serve wholeheartedly, as if you were serving the Lord, not men, [8] because you know that the Lord will reward everyone for whatever good he does, whether he is slave or free.

Joseph and Daniel were two wonderful examples of people who succeeded under adverse circumstances.  Joseph, sold into captivity by his jealous brothers and Daniel carried away into captivity by King Nebuchadnezzar.  Joseph was sold as a slave to Potiphar where he found favor, sentenced to the King’s prison where he wound up favored by the warden and ultimately running the prison and then Egypt’s CEO under Pharaoh.

How do people rise under such negative circumstances when the same set of circumstances cause others to fail or to languish.

I know there are times when many of us feel like slaves.  Most people believe:

q      they are working harder than the next person

q      that they are more capable than their supervisors

q      that someone else is favored over them

q      that they are being under-appreciated

If the truth be known most people have it better than they realize.  You don’t have to look very far to find someone whose own circumstances make your own look better.

Job Description for Nurses - 1887

In addition to caring for your 50 patients, each nurse will follow these regulations:

1.  Daily sweep and mop the floors of your ward, dust the patient's furniture and window sills.

2.  Maintain an even temperature in your ward by bringing in a scuttle of coal for the day's business.

3.  Light is important to observe the patient's condition.  Therefore, each day fill kerosene lamps, clean chimneys, and trim wicks.  Wash the windows once a week.

4.  The nurse's notes are important in aiding the physician's work.  Make your pens carefully;  you may whittle nibs to your individual taste.

5.  Each nurse on day duty will report every day at 7 AM and leave at 8PM, except on the Sabbath, on which day you will be off from 12 noon to 2 PM.

6.  Graduate nurses in good standing with the Director of Nurses will be given an evening off each week for courting purposes or two evenings a week if you go regularly to church.

7.  Each nurse should lay aside from each payday a goodly sum of her earnings for her benefits during her declining years so that she will not become a burden.  For example, if you earn $30 a month, you should set aside $15.

8.  Any nurse who smokes, uses liquor in any form, gets her hair done at a beauty shop, or frequents dance halls will give the director of nurses good reason to suspect her worth, intentions, and integrity.

9.  The nurse who performs her labors and serves her patients and doctors faithfully and without fault for a period of five years will be given an increase by the hospital administration of five cents a day, providing there are no hospital debts that are outstanding.

1. What to do when you’ve got no choice

“Slaves, obey your earthly masters with respect and fear, and with sincerity of heart, just as you would obey Christ.”

There are times in our lives when we are forced to follow someone else’s leadership.  There are certain parameters that we exist within and we have no latitude to move beyond them.  Our choices or options are narrowed or limited.  Unlike slaves we do have options although we lose sight of them by times.  I was recently talking with a young lady in our church who is so stressed at her place of employment that she cannot see the way out.  At a point our concern is nothing more that survival and we have no creative energies to do anything else.

q      Do what you are asked.  It’s your job.  Your work is your witness.

We have not advanced very far in our spiritual lives if we have not encountered the basic paradox of freedom ... that we are most free when we are bound.  But not just any way of being bound will suffice; what matters is the character of our binding.  The one who would be an athlete, but who is unwilling to discipline his body by regular exercise and by abstinence, is not free to excel on the field or the track.  His failure to train rigorously denies him the freedom to run with the desired speed and endurance.  With one concerted voice, the giants of the devotional life apply the same principle to the whole of life:  Discipline is the price of freedom. 

Elton Trueblood in The New Man for Our Time.  Leadership, Vol. 10, no. 3.

q      Show respect – this is a demonstration of our own character.  If we see it this way then it is much easier to do.  When you choose to respect someone else then you are better for it. (David, Saul)  Generally the difficulty that people find in showing respect to others is that they do not have self-respect.  If you feel that you are diminished by showing proper respect to someone else then you lack the proper ability to respect yourself.

q      Be sincere.  In my minds it means to avoid manipulative techniques.  Excuses for instance??

And the Lord said unto Noah: "Where is the ark which I commanded thee to build?" And Noah said unto the Lord: "Verily, I have had three carpenters off ill. The gopherwood supplier hath let me down--yea, even though the gopherwood hath been on order for nigh upon twelve months. What can I do, O Lord?"

And the Lord said unto Noah: "I want that ark finished even after seven days and seven nights."

And Noah said: "It will be so."

And it was not so. And the Lord said unto Noah: "What seemeth to be the trouble this time?"

And Noah said unto the Lord: "Mine subcontractor hath gone bankrupt. The pitch which Thou commandest me to put on the outside and on the inside of the ark hath not arrived. The plumber hath gone on strike. Shem, my son who helpeth me on the ark side of the business, hath formed a pop group with his brothers Ham and Japheth. Lord, I am undone."

And the Lord grew angry and said: "And what about the animals, the male and female of every sort that I ordered to come unto thee to keep their seed alive upon the face of the earth?"

And Noah said: "They have been delivered unto the wrong address but should arrive on Friday."

And the Lord said: "How about the unicorns, and the fowls of the air by sevens?"

And Noah wrung his hands and wept, saying: "Lord, unicorns are a discontinued line; thou canst not get them for love nor money. And fowls of the air are sold only in half-dozens. Lord, Lord, Thou knowest how it is."

And the Lord in His wisdom said: "Noah, my son, I knowest. Why else dost thou think I have caused a flood to descend upon the earth?"

   --James S. Hewett, Illustrations Unlimited (Wheaton: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc, 1988) pp. 181-182.

It is too easy to learn survival tactics and they can become engrained.  No games, no hidden agendas.  No passive aggressive behaviors.  Honesty – if you are given an opportunity to share your criticisms – do so.  If you know that uninvited criticism is not welcome then keep it to yourself.  The bottom line is that you need to know how to play follow the leader.

2. What to do when you get your chance.

”Obey them not only to win their favor when their eye is on you, but like slaves of Christ, doing the will of God from your heart.”

3787 ophthalmodouleia { of-thal-mod-oo-li’-ah}

from 3788 and 1397; TDNT - 2:280,182; n f

AV - eyeservice 2; 2

GK - 4056 { ojfqalmodouliva }*

1)   service performed [only] under the master’s eyes

1a)  for the master’s eye usually stimulates to greater diligence

1b) his absence, on the other hand, renders sluggish[1]

People who perform well only under the spotlight are not people of character.

What happens though when there is no one to supervise me?  What happens when there are no repercussions of my actions.  Likewise our character is revealed by what we do when no one is forcing us to behave in a prescribed manner.  Our character is evident in our speech.  This is where the test comes.  Do I perform best when someone is supervising me directly – when I have an audience or can I be counted on when there is no cheering section?  My motivation is revealed in the absence of supervision.

This is consistency.  A consistent lifestyle and demeanor is one of the greatest evidences of character because character doesn’t vacillate significantly over the years except to become more evident and refined and predictable.

Every man's work, whether it be literature or music or pictures or anything else, is always a portrait of himself, and the more he tries to conceal himself the more clearly will his character appear in spite of him.

Samuel Butler

Be more concerned with your character than your reputation. Your character is what you really are while your reputation is merely what others think you are.

n      John Wooden

If you cheat in practice, you'll cheat in the game. If you cheat in your head, you'll cheat on the test. You'll cheat on the girl. You'll cheat in business. You'll cheat on your mate. Sow a thought, reap an act. Sow an act, reap a habit. Sow a habit, reap a character. Sow a character, reap a destiny.

n      George Munzing, "Living a Life of Integrity," Preaching Today, Tape No. 32.

It was Charles Reade, English novelist and dramatist, who wrote, "Sow an act, and you reap a habit. Sow a habit, and you reap a character. Sow a character, and you reap a destiny."

   -- Robert C. Shannon, 1000 Windows, (Cincinnati, Ohio: Standard Publishing Company, 1997).

Paul was admonishing slaves to be true and trusted by peforming dependably whether or not they needed to.  Whether or not their actions were being evaluated.

3. What to do when God’s in charge.

“Serve wholeheartedly, as if you were serving the Lord, not men”

Differences Between You and Your Boss

When you take a long time, you're slow.

When your boss takes a long time, he's thorough.

When you don't do it, you're lazy.

When your boss doesn't do it, he's too busy.

When you make a mistake, you're an idiot.

When your boss makes a mistake, he's only human.

When doing something without being told, you're overstepping your

authority. When your boss does the same thing, that's initiative.

When you take a stand, you're being bull-headed.

When your boss does it, he's being firm.

When you overlooked a rule of etiquette, you're being rude.

When your boss skips a few rules, he's being original.

When you please your boss, you're apple polishing.

When your boss pleases his boss, he's being co-operative.

When you're out of the office, you're wandering around.

When your boss is out of the office, he's on business.

When you're on a day off sick, you're always sick.

When your boss is a day off sick, he must be very ill.

When you apply for leave, you must be going for an interview.

When your boss applies for leave, it's because he's overworked

God is always in charge of your life.  He is always active whether or not your realize it.  It is the thing that we do that we count to be insignificant that others notice and are impacted by.  Our consciousness of our own actions allows us to be more deceptive or manipulative but what we truly are shows when we are unconscious of our actions.  God uses our unconscious, righteous behavior much more mightily than or actions by design.

There are times when we work for people who have significant problems and dysfunctions and we have to shift from finding our approval in their response to our work.  Paul says, “

“Serve wholeheartedly, as if you were serving the Lord, not men”

God is the one who will ultimately bless us in this life and reward us in the next.

“because you know that the Lord will reward everyone for whatever good he does, whether he is slave or free.”

| ! G


alatians 3:26 You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus,  27 for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.  28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.  29 If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.


4 What I am saying is that as long as the heir is a child, he is no different from a slave, although he owns the whole estate.  2 He is subject to guardians and trustees until the time set by his father.  3 So also, when we were children, we were in slavery under the basic principles of the world.  4 But when the time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under law,  5 to redeem those under law, that we might receive the full rights of sons.  6 Because you are sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, “Abba, Father.”  7 So you are no longer a slave, but a son; and since you are a son, God has made you also an heir. [2]


[1]Enhanced Strong’s Lexicon, (Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.) 1995.

[2]The New International Version, (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House) 1984.

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