The Duties of Employers

In this study we are using the term ‘work’ to refer to one’s living, one’s occupation, whatever it may be. The Scripture uses the word in this same way and speaks at length about work in this sense (Ps 104:23) We have so far argued that the Bible teaches Christians to see their work as a service rendered directly to God, to see it for that reason as holy. Further they are to understand their work as an instrument through which God’s blessing comes to them. We have considered the double perspective on work that we find in the Bible, one deriving from creation and the other from the fall. Work is, in the Bible, at one and the same time a futility and a fulfillment, a frustration and a satisfaction, a problem and a solution and our work will be and must be always both at the same time for us as well. Last time we began to consider more specifically the Bible’s ethics of work, its specific teaching regarding the moral obligations that govern the working life. We began with the general obligations of the worker: how men and women are to perform their work as doing it, in Milton’s phrase, “before their great taskmaster’s eye.” We considered the general statements in Ephesians 6:5-8 and its parallel, Colossians 3:22-25, their chief point being that in all our work performed for men we are always to consider ourselves as working ultimately for the Lord. Consequently, we are to do our work in that faithful, honest, industrious way that is pleasing to him and reflects his holiness and goodness. Our daily work is to be, in this way, an act of love for and devotion to God. Tonight we continue with the Bible’s general account of the obligations of the employer, boss, or supervisor.

Once again, the summary texts on this subject are found in Paul’s twin letters, Ephesians and Colossians.

Read: Ephesians 6:9; Colossians 4:1

It is easy to read these familiar texts as 21st century readers and fail to appreciate how utterly revolutionary this teaching was when Paul first wrote it. But, familiar or not, it is for us to realize afresh how utterly and wonderfully it would transform the American workplace if these commandments were to be kept today. What Paul is saying, in short, is, as J.B. Lightfoot put it: ‘the claims of the slave [or employee] are as real as the claims of the master.’ That represented an utterly and uniquely Christian distinctive. The same obligations of Christian charity and brotherly love and the golden rule that apply to workers apply equally to bosses. Remember, we made the point last time, from Ephesians 6:8 that Paul understands his ethics here to apply generally, not only to masters and slaves. These are ethics for employers and employees. Fact is, in those days, most employees were slaves and so to couch the teaching in those terms made perfect sense.

Now, what does Paul say to employers or bosses here? He says that they will have to answer to God, as an employer or a supervisor, for the treatment of their workers as they will have to answer for the way they treat anyone else. And when Paul says in Eph 6:9 that employers should “treat their slaves [or workers] in the same way” – that is, they are to treat their workers in the same way as, in the previous verses he said that workers are to work for their employers – Paul is saying that bosses should treat their workers as if they were serving the Lord and not men, and like the slaves of Christ doing his will from the heart. “After all,” Paul means, “at the last day you will not have to answer to the stockholder or to the customer or to the government regulator or to the person in the company higher than you, but to and only to the Lord Almighty.” That fact is a universal acid that eats away all the reasons why company owners and bosses and supervisors have ever mistreated their workers.

This mind should dominate anyone who is responsible for the work of others. It did in a righteous man like Job (31:13-1 5):

Read the whole thing…

Scripture: Ephesians 6, 4
Topics: Executive Leadership, Leadership, Management, Work and Ethics
Church: First Presbyterian Church, Tacoma

About the Author

Rev. Dr. Robert Rayburn serves as senior pastor at Faith Presbyterian Church (PCA) in Tacoma, WA.