When it comes to our responsibility as Christians, God expects us to be hard-working, responsible employees and employers. There is no place for laziness in the life of a Christian. What we do on the job can have a drastic effect on our witness for Christ. It is so important for us to show the world by our actions that Christ has indeed made a genuine difference in our lives.
We can’t be as one Christian was quoted to have said, “I like work. It fascinates me. I could sit and think about it for hours.” That won’t cut it.
Instead we should be more like what Jack Gulledge, the editor of a Christian periodical relayed as he described the stately old home of Mrs. J. O. Williams in Nashville, TN. He says that the majestic old home has a large adjoining garden that is breathtakingly beautiful. The flower-covered arbor and the ornate water fountain have been the setting for many weddings and other social gatherings in Nashville.
Mrs. Williams, in her eighties, takes care of the garden herself. Gulledge wrote, “As I strolled with her down the flower-lined walkways, I remarked, ‘Mrs. Williams, you must have a green thumb!’”
With a twinkle in her eyes, she instantly replied, “No, I have a dirty thumb and a purple knee.” What a message for those of us who often want to pick the grapes without first working in the vineyard.
A dirty thumb and a purple knee is what it takes whether we are planting a garden or a church or making an impact for Christ in our workplace. Our work ethic is one of the elements that will make a big difference in our impact upon our lost work associates. Peter says that if we want to win our neighbors and our co-workers and even our lost family members, and we want to silence the critics of Christianity, the way to do it is by living an exemplary life before them.
And the section of Scripture that we are dealing with again today is talking about how we relate to those we work with. We started this last week but didn’t quite finish, so we’ll pick it up again this week.
In that day the context was that of slavery, but in our day the application has to do with the way we relate to the people we work with and for. Now, I we broke this down into three parts: Our Mandate, Our Motive and Our Model:
- OUR MANDATE (v. 18)
Peter sums up our mandate in v. 18, “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.” We are never more like the devil when we rebel against the authority that has been placed over us, and we are never more like Christ than when we are submissive to authority. And Peter is very concerned (all through this letter) with this issue of submission. In v. 13 he said that we are to submit to the civil authorities. And now he is saying that we are to be submissive to those over us in the workplace.
So the mandate here is very simple, “Servants, be submissive to your masters with all respect…” In our day, “employees, be submissive to your employers with all respect.” As Christians we should be the hardest-working, most respectful and most responsible people on the job. And we should always remember that we are doing it “as to the Lord” and not for men.
That’s our mandate as believers. But notice secondly:
- OUR MOTIVE (vs. 19-21a)
There are four primary issues here. First of all, there is:
A. The Issue of Commendability (19a)
What’s the motive for submitting to authority in the workplace? V. 19, “For this finds favor…” (stop right there) Literally, the Greek says, “This is a grace…” What does that mean? It means that this is an act which is intrinsically attractive to God. This finds favor with God. Look at the end of v. 20. Again you see that same phrase, “…this finds favor with God.”
You’re doing this for the Lord and not for men. Remember back in Eph. 6:7-8 it says, “With good will render service, as to the Lord, and not to men, 8knowing that whatever good thing each one does, this he will receive back from the Lord, whether slave or free.”
Being a godly employee pays off in eternal dividends. Your boss may not reward you for your godliness, but God will!
If you’re on the other side of the fence as an employer, just remember that you are working to please and honor God by the way you treat your employees. God will reward your godliness, even if your employees do not. Notice secondly:
- The Issue of Consciousness (19b)
Notice the second phrase of v. 19, “…if for the sake of conscience toward God…” Now, a better translation of this is, “…if for the sake of consciousness of God…” So the full verse would read, “For this finds favor, if for the sake of consciousness of God a person bears up under sorrows when suffering unjustly.” The idea is that as you work for whatever employer, you have a constant awareness of the presence of God. God is always observing your work.
And He tells us in His Word what pleases Him. It please Him when we work hard and put in an honest day’s work. It pleases Him when we are dependable and reliable. It pleases Him when we are people of integrity.
But He tells us something else that pleases Him right here in this verse. It pleases Him when we suffer unjustly and respond with grace. It pleases Him when we bear up patiently under an oppressive or mean-spirited supervisor. Isn’t that what v. 19 is saying? This is not talking about when you have a great boss and everything is going great. This is talking about when you have an employer that is difficult to work for.
What are we to do when we have a boss that is tough to work for? We are to bear up patiently under that suffering. Why? Because we know that God is always watching. And we know that God is going to reward that longsuffering because this is something that finds favor with Him. I didn’t write that, the HS did. Remember the verse in Eph. 6? V. 6 says, “…not by way of eyeservice, as men-pleasers, but as slaves of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart.”
Remember what that means? It means that you work just as hard and you are just as reliable when the boss is not watching as you are when he is. It doesn’t matter whether your boss is watching or not because God is. God is always observing your work and you attitudes and your conduct.
And notice that that verse talks about suffering unjustly. This is not talking about suffering that comes from your being lazy or irresponsible. You see, as Christians, when we suffer, we need to make sure that it is not because we deserve it.
I’ve heard people say that they were suffering for Jesus, but in reality they were suffering because they had been irresponsible or made some bad decisions.
This is not talking about that kind of suffering. This is talking about when you are doing right and still suffering. You are working hard and being responsible and being a person of integrity and still you are suffering under the oppression of a cruel boss. And when we suffer for doing right, how do we respond? I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, “If you want to know how close to Jesus someone is, don’t watch how they act, but how they react.
Any pagan can suffer when he deserves it, but it takes a real man or woman of God to suffer silently when they are in the right. But we must remember that when we do this, it finds favor with God. God is well pleased when we respond this way. Thirdly:
- The Issue of Credit (20)
Look at v. 20, “For what credit is there if, when you sin and are harshly treated, you endure it with patience?” There is no credit if you deserve it. If you are being punished in some way for something irresponsible you did, there is not virtue in that. But notice that last phrase, “But if when you do what is right and suffer for it you patiently endure it, this finds favor with God.” Here is that phrase again, “This is a grace. This is intrinsically attractive to God.”
Listen, God isn’t particularly pleased if you are patient when you deserve the pain. But God is very pleased when you suffer and don’t deserve it. And when God is pleased, what does He do? He blesses. Now, if you want to short circuit the blessing of God in your life, then go ahead and react negatively and complain and lash out against your employer. You can do that, but you will forfeit the blessing of God.
Oh, you may get what you want in the natural realm by doing so, but you will give up what God has for you in the supernatural realm. Now, this taching isn’t anything new at all. Where did Peter learn this? He learned it from Jesus. Jesus said (in Mat. 5:11), “Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me. 12“Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great; for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”
The question for us is, “Can we have an eternal perspective or do we have to have it all right now?” You say, “I want that promotion, I want the wage increase, I want what It want and I want it now…”
But God says, “Don’t forget what counts the most. Don’t forget what is eternal and can never pass away. Don’t forget that GREAT is your reward in heaven when you are willing to suffer unjustly with grace.” God never forgets when you do that!
Listen my friend, if you are a child of God, no one will ever get away with abusing you! In Mat. 18:6 Jesus is talking about those who are His spiritual children and He says, “…whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to stumble, it would be better for him to have a heavy millstone hung around his neck, and to be drowned in the depth of the sea.”
When we suffer unjustly, we can have confidence knowing that God will someday set things right and that we can patiently endure knowing that our longsuffering is pleasing to Him. There is no credit for suffering if we deserve it, but there is a great reward awaiting us in heaven when we suffer for righteousness sake. Notice fourthly:
- The Issue of Calling (21a)
Look at v. 21, “For you have been called for this purpose…” Wow! Do you understand Christian that you and I have been called for this specific purpose of suffering and patiently enduring when we don’t deserve it?
There are a lot of people today who are interested in the blessing of God and the answers to prayer and the benefits of the gospel, but what we must learn is that the way to glory is through the cross. Jesus said that anyone who would follow after Him has to be willing to take up his cross and follow Him in suffering. There are a lot of people who want to jump on the train of salvation, but want to jump off when the suffering comes.
Everybody is interested in the glory, but not too many are interested in the suffering. But this is what God’s Word says we are called to.
2 Tim. 3:12 says, “…all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.” The moment you receive Christ, you become and enemy of the world and therefore you should be prepared to suffer for your faith. Be ready to be misunderstood. Be ready to be unfairly criticized. Be ready to be ridiculed. It goes with the territory. Phil. 1:29 says, “For to you it has been granted for Christ’s sake, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake…” This is not the way of the world, but it is the way of the cross.
The world says the sure way to glory is to be the boss. God says the sure way to glory is to be a servant. The world says the sure way to glory is to be a success. God says the sure way to glory is the way of salvation. The world says the sure way to glory is the easy life. God says the sure way to glory is the way of suffering.
And what will the end result be? We will receive the blessings and rewards of God. It will silence the critics around us when they observe our submissive spirit in the face of unjust suffering and some of them may even come to know Christ because of our godly example.
And before I move to the last point, there is one more compelling reason why we should be willing to exhibit a patient, submissive spirit in the workplace, and that is because we don’t want people thinking that the stuff of this world is all that important to us. We need to be living at such a level that we communicate by our lives that our joy does not come from the things of this world. Our joy is eternal and our ultimate home is heaven and therefore we are not willing to “sell out” for the stuff that this world has to offer. Let’s send the signal to those we work with that we are willing to endure anything in this life for the joy of the life that is to come. Let’s not lose our testimony by trying to fight for something that is going to go up in smoke anyway.
Well, there is one more thing that we need to see here and that is:
- OUR MODEL (21b)
Look at v. 21 again, “For you have been called for this purpose, since Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps…” We have a model of this. We have an example to follow and that example is the Lord Jesus Christ. Now, I don’t think we will get very far into this today, and I want to come back next week and look more closely at vs. 21-25 and the incredible example we have in the Lord Jesus Christ.
But notice what it says about this model we are to follow. V. 22, “…who committed no sin, nor was any deceit found in His mouth; 23and while being reviled, He did not revile in return; while suffering, He uttered no threats, but kept entrusting Himself to Him who judges righteously…” What did Jesus Christ do? Did He suffer justly or unjustly? There was never any deceit in his mouth and He never committed one single sin. He was not derving of any kind of punishment. His trial and execution was completely unjustified.
But how did He respond? Did He retaliate? Did He demand His rights? Did He revile or slander in return. NO!!! He was the perfect, sinless Son of God. “He could have called ten thousand angels to destroy the world and set Him free, but He died alone for you and me.” He did not even answer with a single word at His trial. He committed himself with perfect submission to the authorities over Him and put it all in the hands of His heavenly Father. He was willing to go to that cross and shed His blood so that you and I could have eternal life.
But notice what Peter is saying here. He is saying that not only did Jesus go to the cross and suffer for our redemption, but He also was doing this to leave us an example to follow. Beyond the redemptive work of the cross is the pattern of suffering unjustly with grace that we are to follow. The word “example” there means “a copy.” It is a pattern or a model and we are to walk in His steps. We are to walk the same road He walked. In fact, the word for “steps” is the word “footprint.” He left a set of footprints in the sand and we are to come along and walk in those footprints. We are to do as he did.
When He was reviled, He didn’t revile back. When He was slandered, He didn’t slander in return. When He suffered unjustly, He did not offer up any threats…He simply committed Himself to God and left everything in His hands. Listen, you think you have rights, you and I cannot begin to touch the rights that Jesus Christ had. He was fully man and fully God. But He did not consider His rights as God something to be clung to, but instead He emptied Himself and became obedient even to death on the cross.
And we are to have the very same mind He had. We are to think more highly of the needs of others than our own needs. We’re not to do anything from selfishness of empty conceit. We are to follow our model and respond with grace when we suffer unjustly.