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1 Peter 2 Part 7: Honor your Masters
1 Peter 2:18-20; 1 Timothy 6:1-2. Work for your masters as though you are working for God; Work to free those who are still enslaved
“Servants, be submissive to your masters with all respect, not only to those who are good and gentle, but also to those who are unreasonable. For this finds favor, if for the sake of conscience toward God a person bears up under sorrows when suffering unjustly. For what credit is there if, when you sin and are harshly treated, you endure it with patience? But if when you do what is right and suffer for it you patiently endure it, this finds favor with God.”
1 Peter 2:18-20 NASB1995
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After advising us to respect those in authority in government, Peter goes on to tell his flock that servants should be submissive to their masters in all respects. Not only that, but believers should do what is right in the sight of God at all times even if you are treated unjustly and suffer. We should patiently endure, to find favor with God. Word of warning: This devotional is rather long.
The NASB version of this passage uses the word “servants”; a couple of other translations use “slaves”. The word servant in this context comes from the Greek word οἰκέτης or oiketes and literally means a domestic servant in the same household. Research indicates that this particular position (oiketes) was often one of long-time servitude within a household. The word master comes from the Greek word δεσπότης or despotes, meaning absolute ruler, lord, or master and is the source of the English word despot, which seems to only have negative connotations now, but was used in a variety of ways during the time of the NT. And just to remind believers: We are all to be obedient servants of an absolute Lord, our Savior Jesus Christ.
Paul reiterates these attitudes in 1 Timothy 6:
“All who are under the yoke as slaves are to regard their own masters as worthy of all honor so that the name of God and our doctrine will not be spoken against. Those who have believers as their masters must not be disrespectful to them because they are brethren, but must serve them all the more, because those who partake of the benefit are believers and beloved. Teach and preach these principles.”
1 Timothy 6:1-2 NASB1995
There are two observations one could make about these passages. First, how do these admonishments translate into the modern-day employer/employee relationship? Second, why was there no attempt in NT times to abolish slavery in the Roman Empire? So let’s tackle both of those questions.
Serving our Masters now:
Most people in our society are employees of an organization or company or government agency. I worked for a large Aerospace company for 37 years and had opportunities to supervise a few employees plus I worked for many years as a well-compensated individual contributor who was considered a subject matter expert (I enjoyed that much more). I worked for some real doozies (can we say “despots”?) and for some great bosses. Most of the program leaders were white men and many of them came from military careers. I never worked directly for a woman in my career, although there were upper level female leaders in the later years. I’m glad I didn’t work for one, for a variety of reasons. I’ll be honest with you, dear readers: 1 Peter is a real slam in the face for me because I’ve always been “anti-authority”. That attitude probably came from two things: I was an only child (rather spoiled) and my formative years were in the 1960’s.
I have read this epistle many times but you really don’t see its nuances until you have to write about it. Not only is Peter telling us to honor our governmental authorities (and I don’t like them right now), he is also telling us to honor our bosses and leaders in our personal lives (and I clashed with many of them). Later, in Chapter 3, Peter will tell me to submit to my husband; that write-up will be full of true confessions. My skepticism (due to many science classes), innate stubbornness and “feminist” attitude were some of the things that drove me away from belief many years ago. I carried that attitude into my work life; I was a “pioneer” of sorts in my career, being one of the first female engineers on a major launch vehicle program, so I had a chip on my shoulder.
However, in spite of those failings/sins, I did try to do my job to the utmost of my abilities (now I know those abilities came from God), earning many awards and top ratings for most of my career. I was not quiet, however, in obeying directions and I was a poor multi-tasker and those flaws often earned me a closed-door session with one of the “despots”. Perhaps I should say I did my job to my expectations, which were perfectionistic and usually exceeded the boss’s assignment. If you have ever watched the television series “Star Trek: Voyager”, my prickly personality and drive for process effectiveness/efficiency (I was a sought-after Lean/Six Sigma Black Belt) is reflected in the attitude of the character of “7 of 9”, a human who was enslaved as a Borg for many years. She does her job very well, but is not a friend of most of the crew.
Sadly, what I see in many workplaces today are more likely the post-modernist (and post-COVID) attitudes of “I don’t care”. Many employees are doing the bare minimum to get by or let you know through their actions that they are unwilling to go an extra 10 feet to do the job. These employees don’t respect their bosses or their employers. As Steve noted in his devotional for yesterday (June 29), things like “pride” are centered around the ego of the individual. That same “me, me, me” attitude makes many resent the fact that they have to work for a living, so they try to do a gig job that allows them to follow their bliss. If they are forced to work for others, then they tend to make mistakes or anger customers (this is not true everywhere, but it is becoming more noticeable). Here are a few examples from recent experiences:
We had our taxes done for years with a local accounting company. After they barely made the 2022 deadline after having our information for over six weeks, we moved to a new accountant for this year. We informed the old company and the lead accountant there acknowledged our decision. Imagine our shock when we got a letter from that old company in June telling us that they had filed an extension with the IRS because they had not received our tax info. The head of the company was extremely apologetic - this was caused by “new employees” who didn’t listen to instructions and didn’t coordinate efforts. The IRS rejected the extension because they already had our taxes filed from our new accountant.
We flew twice recently on a major airline that we have used for many years that touts its embrace of diversity and inclusion and wants flight crews that match those “values”. On those two flights, we had extremely rough landings, with the second one being so bad that many people screamed and numerous overhead bins came open (I would presume the plane may have suffered some damage). We didn’t get a peek at the flight crews but we could hazard a guess that there are shortcuts to hiring qualifications and training to fulfill those stated values. As long as the personal pronouns are correct, I guess that’s all that matters when they ultimately crash a plane due to ineptness of the crew.
We had a poor experience with a major rental car company on our recent trip. We had to exchange the first car we got after one day because a tire was obviously having problems and the car was filled with marijuana smoke from the previous occupants (whatever happened to car cleanings in-between customers?). The second car wasn’t much better, given to us without any inspection or cleaning. It had a defective steering wheel lock and an advisory that the car was over due for major service. When we returned the car to fly home, the staff at the return area did not examine the car or come over to talk to us. “Just leave the keys!” There were several employees in the return area standing around playing with phones and talking to each other. Someone got in and drove our returned car off, probably getting ready to foist it on another customer without knowing what the defects were.
Social media devices stand in the way of good service in many restaurants, as servers hang around looking at their phones and ignore requests for service. Or they stand around in groups and talk, rather than attend to customers.
When I was hospitalized at the beginning of April for two days, I had some good nurses and attendants but also had others that obviously resented their workload and it showed in their attitudes. One in particular was a male night nurse who had a massive chip on his shoulder and got angry with me for no reason that I could perceive, nearly storming out of my room instead of hooking up a vital antibiotic drip. Later, he tried to apologize by telling me long stories of his near-fatal infection and his ex-wife’s attitude (me, me, me again).
There are many other examples that can be dredged up, but I don’t want to drag this out too long. Let’s just say that when you serve God, you are naturally inclined to serve others. I wish God had been my Master during my entire career, instead of coming to bring me home to Him in the last years of work.
Slavery in the NT and Now:
Non-believers have a field day criticizing Christians due to the fact that slavery in Roman times was not immediately abolished by the early church. Because slavery was tolerated then and there were even cases of Christian masters and slaves, slavery continued to be practiced for centuries afterwards and even condoned by some Christian leaders. This is a “thorn in the side” of American race relations because the founders did not abolish slavery at the time of the Revolutionary war and establishment of the Constitution. Of course, a Civil War was fought over the institution of slavery (among other things) and over 360,000 Union soldiers died to ensure the slaves were freed. President Abraham Lincoln’s assassination happened because of his support of the Emancipation Proclamation. Western European countries and their offspring colonies like the US were among the first places in the world to eliminate slavery.
I found an interesting answer in GotQuestions.org about slavery in the NT:
Jesus and the apostles did not outright condemn slavery. They didn’t need to. The effect of the gospel is that lives are changed, one by one, and those changed lives in turn bring transformation to entire families, clans, and cultures. Christianity was never designed to be a political movement, but, over time, it naturally affected political policy. Alexander MacLaren wrote that the gospel “meddles directly with no political or social arrangements, but lays down principles which will profoundly affect these, and leaves them to soak into the general mind” (The Expositor’s Bible, vol. VI, Eerdmans, 1940, p. 301). In nations where Christianity spread and took firm hold, slavery was brought to an end through the efforts of born-again individuals.
The seeds of the emancipation of slaves are in the Bible, which teaches that all men are created by God and made in His image (Genesis 1:27), which condemns those who kidnap and sell a person (Exodus 21:16; cf. 1 Timothy 1:8–10), and which shows that a slave can truly be “a brother in the Lord” (Philemon 1:16).
Some criticize the Bible because it did not demand an immediate overthrow of every ingrained, centuries-old sinful custom of the day. But, as Warren Wiersbe pointed out, “The Lord chooses to change people and society gradually, through the ministry of the Holy Spirit and the proclamation of the truth of the Word of God” (The Wiersbe Bible Commentary, David C. Cook, 2007, p. 245).
So why is there still a criticism of Christians for what happened in the past rather than focus on what is currently happening in the world in terms of human trafficking and slavery? That’s a really good question and I don’t understand the obsession with our past sins rather than a strong effort to eliminate this terrible scourge NOW. The map below is from GeoSpatialWorld.net in an article a few years ago about modern slavery:
The five countries with the highest percentages of modern slaves (India, China, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Uzbekistan) are countries with only a tiny percentage of persecuted Christians in their populations. In fact, if you look at the map, many Islamic countries perpetuate slavery, most African countries continue the practice, and India is one of the worst offenders in the world, a Hindu-majority nation which relies on anti-human castes to keep “untouchables” essentially enslaved. It is estimated that there are over 40 million people in the world TODAY in various forms of modern slavery, according to the A21 anti-trafficking program run by Christine Caine.
Slavery today is defined as forced labor, forced enslavement for sex trafficking (mainly women and children), or other conditions where the person is unable to escape a labor situation because of financial considerations or because they were “sold” or they bought into an employment condition. In the case of a country like North Korea, virtually the entire population is enslaved to do the bidding of their true despot leader.
So who is doing the best job to eliminate human trafficking and slavery in the world today? Here’s another map from the same article:
It is interesting to note that many of those countries taking the most action are Christian-majority or had a long Christian history (with the exception of Russia and and few other countries like Venezuela). Our situation in the US has deteriorated in recent years due to the open borders policies that have been followed. The article at this Heritage Foundation link talks about the border trafficking crisis that belies our current government’s commitment to eliminate human trafficking (and I don’t apologize for the source).
Once again, it is imperative that we understand what Peter is saying (and what he says comes from God) and that we see other humans as truly loved and uniquely created by God. We want to serve them and free them from exploitation. This goes a long ways towards a more just, well-run and safe society and by caring about others and wanting to bring them to Jesus, we are showing our eternal commitment to Him and them. I don’t think I’m contradicting anything I said in my last devotional, but we do know that the number one priority for believers is the harvest of souls.
My next devotional examines 1 Peter 2:21-25 - Christ is our Example
Heaven on Wheels Daily Prayer:
Dear Lord - Help me to serve you by serving others. Thank you for a meaningful employment that I enjoyed for so many years and thank you for my bosses, including the ones who were difficult. Please help me to value all other humans as being made in your image and to work diligently to harvest souls. Amen.
Scripture quotations taken from the (NASB®) New American Standard Bible®, Copyright © 1960, 1971, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission. All rights reserved. lockman.org
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