Faithlife Sermons

Healthy Doctrine for the Workplace

Living with Grace  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  45:24
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There is growing interest in learning what the Bible says about our career, jobs, and professions, and for good reason! Our “work” is a major part of our lives. In 2019, the US Bureau of Labor Statistics conducted an American Time Use Survey, finding that working Americans spend more time per week working than in any activity besides sleep. If you’re employed, I don’t need to tell you this because you know how much of your life you spend at work, more than your church and perhaps even more than your family.
Thankfully, Paul didn’t overlook this significant part of our life when he told Titus how to teach the churches on Crete. You see, Christ doesn’t desire to transform our behavior only at home but at work as well. He said:
Exhort bondservants to be obedient to their own masters, to be well pleasing in all things, not answering back, not pilfering, but showing all good fidelity, that they may adorn the doctrine of God our Savior in all things. (Titus 2:9-10)
In this statement, Paul gives five guidelines for being what we should be and doing what we should do at work as employees. Then Paul also gives a crucial reason for why we should be these kind of workers for Christ.

God upholds the employer/employee relationship structure.

Bondservants refers to people who were either obligated or devoted to serving the needs of another person. By some estimates, such servants or slaves comprised as much as 40% of the population of the Roman Empire when Paul wrote this letter. Also significant is that this segment of the population seems to have comprised an even larger percentage of church membership at that time (1 Cor 1:26).
The experience of first-century slaves varied widely. Some experienced horrific treatment, like the horrible experiences of slaves in early America. Such treatment was generally frowned upon, though, and many slaves faced a more moderate though likely unenviable experience. Still others enjoyed caring, compassionate treatment from their masters as though they were children and not slaves. In fact, quite a few people chose to enter into contractual agreements to be slaves to meet their material needs. Such arrangements often offered more security than caring for themselves with limited resources.
Masters refers to independent, wealthy employers who relied on the efforts of slaves (or contracted laborers) to accomplish all sorts of things:
Defending their territory
Educating their children
Farming their crops
Managing their home, finances, and livestock
Manufacturing their goods
Representing them in judicial proceedings
Representing them in political venues
Transporting their resources
In this arrangement, the employer possessed final decision-making authority and it was the slave or employee’s obligation to support whatever decisions were made. Whether or not a slave or employee liked or agreed with his or her master, he or she was obligated to get behind whatever decision was made.
Though we don’t generally experience master/slave relationships like then today, the principles which Paul gave still apply to many arrangements we encounter today.
Construction, freelance, manufacturing, and production contracts obligate us to carry out certain work requirements according to specified conditions over which the contract holder possesses ultimate authority as specified in the terms of the contract.
Some jobs such as professional athletes or military personnel are more contract-oriented, giving significant decision-making authority to the contract-holder.
Regardless, even when we enter into voluntary work arrangements from which we may walk away at any time, we should recognize that God upholds the employer/employee relationship structure in society. If he did so for the more challenging scenarios of first-century life, he certainly does so for our work relationships today.

We should submit to our workplace superiors.

Submit means to get in line, to place yourself in order under the person above or before you. It means to take your proper place in society. This word recognizes the structure that God requires for an orderly life and society. Young children should obey their parents, wives should follow their husbands, and everyone should obey civil authority. Such submission, of course, applies so long as human expectations do not require us to disobey God (Acts 5:29).
Acts 5:29 NKJV
But Peter and the other apostles answered and said: “We ought to obey God rather than men.
Knowing this, believers should accept the decisions that workplace leaders make for us. It is not our place to rebel against them and assert our own will. We will not enjoy every decision they make, and some decisions will be uncomfortable to follow (not sinful, just uncomfortable). Even then, we should support the decisions they make. They should know that if anyone will push back, it will not be you. It will not be those who follow Christ. We, of all people, should comply with their expectations on the job.

We should pursue excellence in our work.

“Be well pleasing in all things.” Pleasing means to seek someone’s complete satisfaction. When you take this approach to your work, you will not “cut corners.” You will not compromise quality by taking the easy way, but you will do whatever is necessary to ensure an exceptional result (Eccl 9:10).
Ecclesiastes 9:10 NKJV
Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might; for there is no work or device or knowledge or wisdom in the grave where you are going.
“In all things” indicates that we should pursue excellence in everything you do, not just those things which you know will be inspected.
Whenever Paul uses this word for pleasing in the NT, he uses it for pleasing God (Col 1:10; 3:22-23).
Colossians 1:10 NKJV
that you may walk worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing Him, being fruitful in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God;
Colossians 3:22–23 NKJV
Bondservants, obey in all things your masters according to the flesh, not with eyeservice, as men-pleasers, but in sincerity of heart, fearing God. And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men,
Knowing this, we should probably understand it that way here as well. We should not only seek the complete satisfaction of our earthly superiors, but we should ultimately seek God’s satisfaction. When we work this way, we will actually tend to exceed our employer’s expectations, and that’s a good thing!

We should not talk back to our workplace superiors.

Answering back means something like mouthing off, pushing back with our words, arguing, debating, rebelling, expressing your refusal to comply, and speaking disrespectfully towards those who are in charge. We live in an age, culture, and generation that generally looks down on work and disrespects people who are in charge. We take every opportunity to complain, find inequity or injustice, and leverage that to our advantage, using it as an excuse to underperform. If your boss treats you poorly, for instance, you may use that as an excuse to complain and perform at a lower level.
This self-centered tendency contradicts Christ’s example, which we should aspire to be by God’s grace (1 Pet 2:23).
1 Peter 2:23 NKJV
who, when He was reviled, did not revile in return; when He suffered, He did not threaten, but committed Himself to Him who judges righteously;
In our places of work, we should refuse to talk back and express disrespectful or dissenting views against our superiors. If there is an appropriate channel or forum to express disagreements or concerns, then by all means utilize those opportunities when you believe there is a need to do so. But outside of those venues, you should speak graciously or not at all. And even when you express disagreements through appropriate means, you should do so in a respectful, gracious manner.

We should perform our work with honesty and integrity.

This word pilfering refers to dishonest business dealings that either misuse or steal from our employers. Leading people in the first-century world, whether successful businessmen, influential politicians, powerful military leaders, or wealthy landowners did not generally manage their affairs at the grassroots, detailed level. They managed their affairs from the top, much like CEOs do today. They relied on their slaves (or working-class employees) to manage their affairs, keeping their books, making purchase orders, hiring and firing personnel, establishing policies, conducting transactions, etc.
This being the case, slaves and lower-level employees have an opportunity adjust records, siphon out funds, and use resources for personal, unauthorized purposes. As you know, this happens a lot in the secular world, yet those of us who follow Christ should never do so. We – of all people – should be entirely reliable and trustworthy. Our unbelieving employers should know that they can trust us in every way, just as Potiphar trusted Joseph with everything that he owned (Gen 39:4-6).
Genesis 39:6 (NKJV)
Thus he left all that he had in Joseph’s hand, and he did not know what he had except for the bread which he ate.

We should show loyalty to our superiors.

“Showing all good fidelity” means that we should be loyal and supportive of our superiors. Showing refers to producing evidence, much like a prosecutor shows evidence to prove a defendant’s guilt while a defense attorney shows evidence to prove the defendant’s innocence. As such, we should give our employers ample confidence in knowing that “we have their back.” They should know they can trust us with key information because when they give sensitive info, we don’t leak it out to other people. They should know they can trust us with difficult assignments because when they give such assignments to us, we don’t talk back, cut corners, set back, or undermine the project. Though we should not support evil causes and participate in sinful behavior, we should be loyal, reliable, and supportive employees otherwise.

We should view our work as an evangelistic opportunity.

We too easily assign being a pastor or missionary with doing “ministry,” “outreach,” or “spiritual” work. And while these roles definitely focus on such things in a more front-end, direct way, so many other jobs and professions that believers pursue are far more “front end” or “spiritual” in purpose than we understand.
Paul gives a crucial reason for why we should behave in a counter-cultural, unselfish way towards our work and employers, even though this approach is often uncomfortable and demanding – “that they may adorn the doctrine of God our Savior in all things.”
Adorn refers to making something appear presentable, honorable, and impressive by placing it in an orderly, neat, and tidy manner. It should bring to mind scenarios like placing diamonds into a costly ring or jewels into a royal crown. When we accept our place in society at work and at home in a faithful, honest, and honorable way, we give credibility and honor to the gospel we believe and represent.
Paul has already hinted at this purpose for depending on God’s grace to take our position in God’s order for society.
When Christian wives resist the leadership of their husbands, they make the gospel appear embarrassing and shameful (Tit 2:5).
When young men behave live with integrity and honor, they reduce the possible arguments that critics of Christianity may make (Tit 2:8.
Now here, Paul tells us that when we behave like Christ as work, we give the gospel more credibility to the nonbelievers around us. This grace-transformed behavior stands in sharp contrast to those people who profess to follow Christ but then live (“in works”) as though nothing has changed in their lives (“they deny him”) (Tit 1:16).
Titus 1:16 NKJV
They profess to know God, but in works they deny Him, being abominable, disobedient, and disqualified for every good work.
Do you deny the life-changing power of God’s grace by the way you behave at work? Whether our employers and co-workers are curious about Christ or intolerant towards him, they should know that he has made a difference in our lives no matter what by the way we work and the way we behave and speak towards our superiors in the workplace.
In fact, it’s by being good employees that we bring the grace of God to all men, teaching them how God changes our lives by the way that we behave at work (Tit 2:11).
Titus 2:11 NKJV
For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men,
You can pass out all the gospel tracts you want, whistle all the Christian tunes you want, and talk about your church all you want, but if you don’t conduct yourself as an honest, reliable employee, you will undermine whatever other testimony for Christ you may attempt to have. You can be a faithful witness for Christ by being a faithful employee. And today, just doing that will cause you to “stand out” for Christ even more since such employees are getting increasingly difficult to find – an employee who is there for his employer and not for himself.
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