AN EXHORTATION TO CHRISTIAN EMPLOYEES
“Exhort servants to be obedient unto their own masters, and to please them well in all things; not answering again; not purloining, but shewing all good fidelity; that they may adorn the doctrine of God our Saviour in all things.” Titus 2.9,10.
If there is one feature that stands out more than any other in the pastoral epistles, it is the Apostle Paul’s concern that Christians should manifest themselves as Christ’s disciples by their practical obedience to the Gospel. Knowing that the Lord Jesus Christ “gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works” (Tit. 2.14), the Apostle took pains to ensure that the Lord’s people received the type of ministry they would need if they were to function as a redeemed people in the world, and bring that glory to Christ and that honour to the Gospel that Paul brought by his own life and ministry. Instructions about the ordination of suitably qualified elders, counsel to ministers, precepts, warnings and exhortations addressed to ordinary Christians, are all designed to that end, and consequently form a rich store of pastoral instruction from which Christians can draw in every age of the church.
In this article we shall open one of the doors of the spiritual treasure-house of Paul’s Epistle to Titus, and consider the exhortation addressed to Christian servants, or employees as we would call them today, found in verses 9 and 10 of the second chapter.
1. The need for the exhortation. We begin by asking why Paul included this exhortation in his Epistle to Titus. Why was the Apostle to the Gentiles so concerned that his colleague in Crete should earnestly remind the Christians on that island of their duties to their earthly masters? The answer is found in the first chapter of the Epistle, where we are given a good idea of the evil influences to which the Cretian Christians were exposed. A careful reading of verses 10-16 of that chapter shows that the danger came from the corrupt teaching and ungodly lives of other Cretians, the worst of whom were professing Jews. Indeed, such was the debased character of these Cretians that they had become a byword in their day. “One of themselves, even a prophet of their own, said. The Cretians are always liars, evil beasts, slow bellies. This witness is true”, (w. 12,13) Knowing, therefore, the effect that such influences could have on the Christians, and the dishonour into which such conformity could bring the Gospel, Paul counselled Titus to “rebuke them sharply, that they may be sound in the faith;
not giving heed to Jewish fables, and commandments of men, that turn from the truth” (vv. 13,14). A similar danger threatens Christians living and working in Great Britain today. For many
years Satan has diligently sown the evil seeds of atheistic materialism and corrupt religion throughout the land, and his plentiful harvest has included sad changes in people’s attitude to their daily work. On every hand Christians find themselves confronted – we might say, bombarded Â— by the ideas and practices of multitudes of people who are themselves the victims of “fables, and commandments of men, that turn from the truth”. That the danger of infection, leading to practical conformity, is very real is seen by the complaints we often hear, from Christians of all ages, of the difficulty of maintaining Christian standards and the evils they have to face each day at work. Clearly, then, the exhortation contained in the verses at the head of our article is a timely one, and as much needed by the young Christian just beginning his apprenticeship as by the older Christians with years of experience in his trade. Let us close our ears for a while to the “fables, and commandments of men, that turn from the truth”, and listen to some of “the things which become sound doctrine” (Tit. 2.1).
2. The Right Employer and the Right Obedience. Before we look in detail at the ways in which the Christian employee can please his earthly master, we must emphasize two general points which emerge from the Apostle’s opening phrase, “Exhort servants to be obedient unto their own masters” (v. 9).
(a) Recognizing his real employer. It is instructive to notice that Titus was to exhort Christians to be obedient to “their own masters”. Unless the Christian is clear about the identity of his real employer, he will go astray from the start. Our employer is the person, company or government that actually takes us into service and provides us with the often underestimated benefits of regular work and wages. This point not only reminds the Christian employee that the Lord requires him to obey his earthly master even when his master may not be a particularly congenial person, but also to avoid giving service to other people who are not really his masters at all. In days like these, when many trade unions have arrogated to themselves powers they do not lawfully possess, and place great pressure on multitudes of employees, the Christian can sometimes find himself being called on to take part in action which strikes either directly or indirectly at the authority and interests of his real employer. The Apostle’s words show clearly to whom our loyalty is due, and imply that God will supply the grace needed to say “No” when others would try to compel us to take part in disruptive action. This point also reminds Christians active in trade unions today to think carefully before they attempt to enforce trade union action on their fellow-employees. By bawling out the trade union arguments across the shop floor (as we hear some are doing) or plying individuals with them in private, they may lead other people astray, some of whom may be professing Christians.
(b) Serving his employer in sincerity. The second general point worth emphasizing today is that the obedience given by Christian
employees should be sincere. The Christian will not need to look very far before he discovers other employees who are engaged in what the Apostle Paul terms elsewhere eye-service (Eph. 6.6 and Col. 3.22). “Eye-service” is the type of service performed solely with a desire to be noticed by one’s superiors. It does not stem from a sincere interest in one’s employer, but from selfish principles, and does a good job only when the boss is around, or because his superior writes his annual confidential report. For the Christian to engage in this kind of service is to offer his Lord and Saviour a piece of hypocrisy. As the Apostle shows clearly in Ephesians 6.6,7, Christian employees are to serve “as the servants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart; with good will doing service, as to the Lord, and not to men.” In other words, the type of service in which Christ delights is heart service – a real obedience to our earthly
master stemming from a genuine desire to glorify our Heavenly Master.
3. Pleasing our employer in all things. Like the great pastor that he was, the Apostle Paul was never content to leave Christians with general exhortations. He always gave more detailed teaching, and this we find him doing in these words, “… and to please them well in all things; not answering again; not purloining, but shewing all good fidelity” (vv. 9,10). If we look carefully at what Paul tells us to avoid, we shall see that he is really underlining the three main ways in which the Christian employee can please his earthly master:-
(a) By his Christian subordination. This point comes out from Paul’s warning about ‘not answering again’. It has become common for employees to answer back when they are given legitimate orders by their employer, especially when they consider those orders to go against the grain. Although such people are usually the least capable of running a business and supervising other people, they are often the first to criticize their superiors, and will not hesitate to tear their employer’s character to pieces behind his back when rebuked. The root of this behaviour is pride which will not allow a man to recognize either the authority and ability of his employer, or his own responsibilities and limitations. The effects of this, especially when repeated, are bad working relationships and lower productivity. The Christian needs to be on his guard against catching the spirit which such people breathe out. Just one “barrack-room lawyer” can soon set a whole barrack-room disputing. A humble estimation of himself, and a due consideration of the behaviour required of him by Christ in the Gospel, will do much to preserve the Christian employee from adopting the attitude and language of ungodly workmates. Doubtless there will be times when the Christian employee feels that his superior is wrong. Even the most experienced men can make mistakes about their work, and the best-intentioned can mishandle those working for them. At such times, let the Christian make his point firmly and respectfully to the right authority. It is our experience that, in days
like these, employers will mark and value the man who shows intelligent subordination.
(b) By his Christian honesty. The next point that emerges from the Apostle’s teaching is the place that honesty should have in the service of the Christian employee, “…not purloining, but shewing all good fidelity”. Purloining is stealing, and in this context is particularly deceitful because it is practised against the person or people who have not only entrusted us with their possessions, but actually pay us to take good care of them. As we might expect in a society largely deprived of both Law and Gospel, the sin of purloining is widespread in Great Britain today. It is found in all ranks and walks of life, and in many forms. The under-manager who slowly and secretly embezzles hundreds of pounds of his firm’s money; the representative who submits exaggerated claims for allowances; the clerk who quietly pockets the firm’s stationery for his private use, are but a few examples of the many employees who regularly indulge in this sin. Now before the Christian reader says, “There is no need for me to concern myself with this point: I would never do such a thing”, let him at least consider the advantages Satan has gained over ungodly people, and the way some professing Christians have exposed themselves to temptation. The prevalence of the sin gives Satan the opportunity to lower the seriousness of it in the Christian’s eyes, and the temporal gain it promises can have a dazzling effect on Christians in financial difficulties, such as those who have foolishly plunged themselves into debt. We drop these hints in passing, and trust that none of the Lord’s people will bring guilt upon their own consciences and reproach upon the Gospel of Christ by purloining from the very employer God has provided for them. The Apostle’s words also remind Christian employees that they can help to reduce the level of purloining by rebuking fellow employees whom they catch in the act. This is just one of the many ways in which Christians can function as “the salt of the earth” (Matt. 5.13).
(c) By his Christian industry. The third way in which the Christian employee serves his earthly master is by his industry. The Christian who fails to return a fair day’s work for a fair day’s pay is not likely to please his employer. After all, our employer pays us to labour for him, and to deprive him of that labour is to indulge in another form of purloining. Here again, the Christian who endeavours to be dependable and industrious at his daily work may well find himself swimming against the stream. So widespread has been the dissemination of atheistic principles in our land, so deep has the idolatry of leisure and pleasure become in the hearts of the people, that it is now common practice for many younger employees regularly to indulge in absenteeism, and for many older employees to idle through their working day, paying little attention to standards as they do so. But the views and ways of such people are not for the man who seeks to be subject to the Word of God. Knowing the evil effects of idleness on a man’s character, purse, and
posterity, he owns the wisdom of God in providing men with work, and inculcating industry in them. “In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground” (Gen. 3.19). Because he is a servant of Christ, the Christian seeks to glorify his Saviour day after day, by fulfilling those precepts of Romans 13.11 “Not slothful in business; fervent in spirit; serving the Lord”, knowing that he must soon give an account of the time and talents his Lord has given him. He will also take care not to go to the other extreme, i.e. of living solely for his work. Industrious Christians can become so engrossed with their calling that other considerations fly out of the window, and their spiritual life, marriage, and even personal health suffer in consequence. Pleasing our employer by our industry is one thing: turning our work into an idol is quite another thing.
4. The Valuable Testimony of a Christian Employee. We would not be doing justice to the Apostle’s teaching if we closed our article without considering the words “…that they may adorn the doctrine of God in all things” (v.10). Here we are taught that the great concern, the overall aim, of the Christian employee is not just to please his earthly master, but to adorn the Gospel of Christ. In other words, when a Christian employee obeys his employer in the ways we have sought to explain, he adds a beauty and a lustre to the doctrine he professes. What a timely reminder this is to Christians today that such practical obedience:-
(a) Helps to counteract the work of Satan. Satan hates the Gospel. Knowing that it is “the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek” (Rom. 1.16), the devil is always endeavouring to defile the Gospel and keep it from the people. All his work in corrupting the ministry, promoting error, encouraging practical ungodliness and bespattering the truth is designed to that end. Look at the way the doctrine of salvation by grace alone is accused of opening the door to ungodly living. What a denial of the truth – “For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world” (Tit. 2.11,12). How encouraging for Christian employees to see that their practical obedience helps to remove some of the graffiti with which Satan has defaced the Gospel of Christ in the world, and to exhibit the truth in its original beauty.
(b) Commends the Gospel of Christ to others. Most Christian employees find that the majority of the people they work with are not only unconverted, but also ignorant of the “doctrine of God” and out of touch with the usual means of instruction. Here is a golden opportunity for the Christian employee. Let him but perform his ordinary, daily work as the Gospel requires, and behave towards his fellow employees as a Christian should behave, and he will not fail to attract the attention of unbelievers. Questions will be asked, conversations will be started, which can often be exploited to teach poor, ignorant souls something of the Gospel.
“But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear.” (1 Pet. 3.15).
(c) A cts as an anchor to restless Christians. Sometimes Christians are tempted to feel that their daily work is very routine, insignificant, that they are wasting their time, and should either try to change their job or launch into what is called “full-time Christian service”. I have never forgotten a lesson I learnt on this point while serving at an R.A.F. Group Headquarters in Scotland in the nineteen-sixties. Besides its military secretarial staff, the Unit employed several civilians, the best of whom was a young woman who professed to be an evangelical Christian. One morning she surprised us all by announcing that she intended to resign from her post with the Ministry of Defence and train as a missionary. Enquiry revealed that she had been to a weekend house-party or convention, where there had been the usual use of missionary statistics and appeal for more missionaries, and she came home convinced that God had called her to take the Gospel to a foreign land. One tried to point out to her from the Scriptures that apostolic practice and precept proved that Christ did not call women to teach publicly in His church, and that there were other ways in which she could help fulfil our Lord’s great commission in Matthew 28.19,20, without throwing up her valuable work and intruding on the ministerial office. Her own minister confirmed her “call”, and one’s counsel was soon brushed aside. Shortly afterwards, she resigned from her job and went off to a missionary training college. At her departure, the Headquarters lost both her work and her testimony, and we have often wondered what were the long term consequences of that decision on her own life. Had there been a real understanding of her place and work as a single Christian woman, and some sound counsel from her minister, presumption would never have gained the day. By heeding the Apostle’s exhortation, and working it out in practice day by day at his work, the Christian employee can make a most valuable contribution to the overall testimony of the Church to the glorious Gospel of Christ. “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven” (Matt. 5.16).
P. D. Johnson