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Responsibility of employees towards their employers (1 Tim 6: 1&2)

Responsibilities of employees towards their employers

1Let as many bondservants as are under the yoke count their own masters worthy of all honor, so that the name of God and His (our) doctrine (or teaching) may not be blasphemed (reviled). 2And those who have believing masters, let them not despise them because they are brethren, but rather serve them because those who are benefited are believers and beloved. Teach and exhort these things. (NKJV with ESV in brackets)[1]

All who are under the yoke of slavery should consider their masters worthy of full respect, so that God's name and our teaching may not be slandered. Those who have believing masters are not to show less respect for them because they are brothers. Instead, they are to serve them even better, because those who benefit from their service are believers, and dear to them. These are the things you are to teach and urge on them. (NIV)

Recap

Paul, as an apostle and friend and father figure to Timothy, writes to Timothy as an apostolic delegate in the Church at Ephesus to strengthen him, so that he would remain at the church in order to deal with false teaching in general, and in particular dealing with the Judaiser's[2].

The Ephesian Church had major issues, beginning with Judaisers who wanted those that had turned to Christ, to keep the law, derailing the liberty of the Christians, making faith void and the promise no effect (Romans 4:14),

False teachers had risen and led the church astray. Paul writes to Timothy, privately and openly that shows not only is Timothy a trustworthy man, but he has the authority from Paul the Apostle, as an apostolic delegate, to deal harshly with the false teachers in particular.

1Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ, by the commandment of God our Saviour and the Lord Jesus Christ, our hope, 2To Timothy, a true son in the faith: Grace, mercy, and peace from God our Father and Jesus Christ our Lord. 3As I urged you when I went into Macedonia-remain in Ephesus that you may charge some that they teach no other doctrine, 4nor give heed to fables and endless genealogies, which cause disputes rather than godly edification which is in faith.

Others have suggested the main purpose is to deal with the "household" of God which is entirely appropriate (eg Hamilton Smith[3]).

These things I write to you, though I hope to come to you shortly; but if I am delayed, I write so that you may know how you ought to conduct yourself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth. 1 Timothy 3:14 through 1 Timothy 3:15 (NKJV)

Overview of verse 1 and 2

Slaves and servants are to honour their masters, in the same way the elder in the church was to be honoured.

Both are worthy of honour (6:1)

The elder was worthy of double honour (5:7)

The master was worthy of all honour

The honour needed to be given in order that the name of God and His Doctrine would not be blasphemed.

Servants who have believing masters were to hold them in high regard, not despising them:

must not be disrespectful on the ground that they are brothers; (ESV)

These were to serve their masters well - indeed "better" than if they were unbelievers, because doing so serves the whole house of God.

That is, the beneficiary of the service is a brother or sister in Christ, and hence the Church.

Application

Principle: The attitude of the slave towards his master must be God-like, and more so, if the master is a Christian.

The economy of the Roman empire, at this time was established on slavery. Note that the slave owners here are never rebuked as such, and it is apparent from the text, that some slave owners were indeed Christian[4]>. (This does not negate the work of William Wilberforce, who worked tirelessly against the abject evilness of the racially motivated - and based on Darwin's theories - slave trade, nor the current evil practices of the sex trade industry etc). It also must be noted that the slavery of the Roman empire was not the slavery of America - racial motivation was not the cause of it; by the time Paul wrote this letter, most slaves were slaves by birth.

Our economy is not much better. All employees are in the some way a slave, and the application of these two verses can be applied in the same way to employees as to slaves. In our current economy there is much freedom, but all need to be employed, or enslaved to a master in order to work and hence receive an income to live. It was not so long ago, when there was not so much freedom and even today in some economies, a worker has little freedom, in that he cannot just pack in a job and expect to find another the next day. The piecemeal workers of the sweatshops found in the textile industry exist in our own economy, especially amongst the illiterate and migrant workers. Indeed these are probably worse off than slaves, in that, food and shelter is not supplied.

Hence the application of these two verses belong in the same way to employee and employer.

Principle: The attitude of an employee towards his employer must be God like, and more so, if the employer is a Christian.

Purpose of verses 1 and 2

Honouring the Name of God

God's name has been made manifest.

I appeared to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, as God Almighty [El Shaddai], but by My name Lord [Jehovah or YEHWAH] was not known to them. Exodus 6:3 (NKJV)

That does this mean?

God cannot speak of himself under a single name - his might and majesty and sovereignty and love is too great for this. David is known as the shepherd, warrior, king, prophet, poet and musician. So is God's character and attributes described by his names.

In Genesis we see Elohim - which reveals the character of the covenant-relationship. Elohim works according to his purpose and everything is good. Jehovah opposes all that is false and evil, and must judge it. Doing so, he suffers in the judgement of it. (The final offering was a sweat smelling savour and a non-sweet-savour blood offering, involving death).

God reveals himself to Abram as Almighty and as Most High to King Melchisedek. God is Love and God is Truth, and hence God is Almighty. To Abram, the Almighty was to carry out His own will and purpose to the uttermost and this was to be revealed in Abraham and eventually Jesus Christ.

The El as in El Shaddai could be rendered "power": Labon says to Jacob I have the power or EL to harm you; but last night the God of your father said to me, 'Be careful not to say anything to Jacob, either good or bad.' Genesis 31:29 (NIV)

In Psalm 77:14 "El" is used as God: Thou art the God [El] that doest wonders: thou hast declared thy strength among the people. That is the wonder of God that reveals His power and Might.

El Shaddai is not the power of the sword, that is, the power of righteousness and judgement, but the power of "all bountifulness" - literally the pourer or shedder forth being blessings both temporal and spiritual.

God comes firstly to Abram as "Almighty" to provide of all. The revelation expressed in the covenant is Abram was to receive all from God, the Almighty. He than adds His name to Abram changing it to Abraham adding He (ה) from Jehovah (YHWH).

The resources of the Almighty the Children of Israel had certainly experienced. They had been translated from a man and a women to a great nation, which was, at the time of the Exodus writing, embedded in the Egyptian economy, BUT God was about to show the nations that He was a great and awesome God - the judger of all things - The Lord God Jehovah:

Or did God ever try to go and take for Himself a nation from the midst of another nation, by trials, by signs, by wonders, by war, by a mighty hand and an outstretched arm, and by great terrors, according to all that the Lord [Jehovah] your God did for you in Egypt before your eyes?

To you it was shown, that you might know that the Lord Himself is God; there is none other besides Him.

Out of heaven He let you hear His voice, that He might instruct you; on earth He showed you His great fire, and you heard His words out of the midst of the fire.

.Therefore know this day, and consider it in your heart, that the Lord Himself is God in heaven above and on the earth beneath; there is no other. 40You shall therefore keep His statutes and His commandments which I command you today, that it may go well with you and with your children after you, and that you may prolong your days in the land which the Lord your God is giving you for all time." Deuteronomy 4:34-40 (NKJV)

Jehovah, for which we could speak for ages on the ways the Jews treated the letters JHWH mysteriously, has the meaning of "the unchanging, eternal, self-existent God," the "I am that I am,"

For the Lord your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great God, mighty and awesome, who shows no partiality nor takes a bribe. Deuteronomy 10:17 (NKJV)

Abraham knew God as the covenant and not until the redemption out of Egypt would they know him as JEHOVAH. Note the Eve knew God as Jehovah - she sees judgement and his righteousness and his grace, being save by child birth, Noah also had been reveals this name - he saw both judgement and grace.

Hence God's name is full of meaning and application - it is not to be blasphemed. Indeed:

God's name must be honoured.

Make a joyful noise unto God, all ye lands: Sing forth the honour of his name: make his praise glorious. Psalm 66:1, 2 (KJV)

The issue with Christian employees and employers is that there is a greater exposure to the temptation of being "off-hand" and slack in honouring God, as if one could get away with it. William Kelly writes:

Hardness of conscience goes where there is habitual carelessness as to God, while at the same time keeping up appearances Men thus become insensible to all.[5]

God's name must be feared by all.

. For I am a great King," Says the Lord of hosts, "And My name is to be feared among the nations.

Malachi 1:14 (NKJV)

God is the giver of all things, the creator and judge. He must be feared and reverend, something our pagan world knows little about. There is a blessing in this, in that the Son of God will heal those that fear him (Malachi 4:2).

God's name is never to be used falsely.

And you shall not swear by My name falsely, nor shall you profane the name of your God: I am the Lord. Leviticus 19:12 (NKJV)

God's name is upheld if his words are obeyed.

If anyone does not listen to my words that the prophet speaks in my name, I myself will call him to account. Deuteronomy 18:19 (NIV)

This was repeated by Jesus

The parable of the house built on solid stone (Luke 6:47)

If ye love me, keep my commandments. John 14:15 (NKJV)

And so on and so forth.

Not blaspheming or reviling or insulting the Name of God

The good conduct of the servant was essential in order that the name of God was not blasphemed. This is not just speaking of swearing, that is using the Lord's name in vain.

God's name is not to be taken in vain

1And God spoke all these words, saying:

2 "I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage.

3 "You shall have no other gods before Me.

4 "You shall not make for yourself a carved image-any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth; 5you shall not bow down to them nor serve them. For I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children to the third and fourth generations of those who hate Me, 6but showing mercy to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments.

7 "You shall not take [use or bear up or repeat or misuse] the name of the Lord your God in vain, for the Lord will not hold him guiltless who takes His name in vain. Exodus 20:1-8 (NKJV)

These ordinances are often misapplied. Verse 7 - "you shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain" is less about swearing (although this is fully its meaning) but more about causing the name of God to be besmirched or reviled by your actions. An ambassador of a country must uphold the name of the country or be charged with treason, at worse. A Christian holds a similar position - we must always speak for Christ.

An example of blaspheming the Lord's name can be found in the Old Testament. Isaiah and Ezekiel (quoted in Romans 2:24) indicate how God's name was blasphemed by the gentiles. The gentiles had falsely accused God of the lack of power to save Israel from its captivity, and they imputed the crimes of Israel to God. God reproached Israel for this, since it was their sin that led Gentiles to arrogantly accuse and blaspheme God of these things.

There is only one God and we must acknowledge this in word and deed.

King David could say:

Therefore You are great, O Lord GOD. For there is none like You, nor is there any God besides You, according to all that we have heard with our ears. 2 Samuel 7:22 (NKJV)

God's name and character is made manifest by what Christ has and is working in us, plus what we say and do and how we respond to situations. Our faith is made manifest by our works (James 2:18).

BUT our heart must be right. There is a salient verse in Isaiah 29:13

Therefore the Lord said: "Inasmuch as these people draw near with their mouths And honor Me with their lips, But have removed their hearts far from Me, And their fear toward Me is taught by the commandment of men, Isaiah 29:13 (NKJV)

A man that does not blaspheme the Lord's name, but has a heart attitude contrary to God, in all other ways is no better than him than blasphemes.

On the other hand

Therefore by Him let us continually offer the sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to His name. Hebrews 13:15 (NKJV)


Application

An employee with a Christian employer is in a privileged position.

Such an employee must honour God; he does this by honouring his employee.

Such an employee is under greater obligation to honour a Christian employer because:

The whole household of God benefits

There is a greater chance of being off-hand and slack in one's walk, being in a "safe" environment, without the world looking on - such an attitude is sinful and displeasing to God.

The application pertains to the edict that faith without works is dead - practicing honour towards one's employer carries out this doctrine.

Endnotes

[1] "doctrine" is didaskalia (from διδαχῆς), which in the general sense is teaching or instruction as in the teaching of Jesus - John 18:19.

[2] Fee, Gordon (2007) 1 and 2 Timothy, Titus. New International Biblical Commetary. Hendreickson, Massachusetts.

[3] Smith, H (1862-1943) The First Epistle to Timothy, An Expository Outline: Stem Publishing at http://www.stempublishing.com/authors/smith/1TIMOTHY.html, accessed 10 August 2009 has many of Hamilton Smiths writings.

[4] As it was in the Hebrew economy - Joshua is described as the servant (or slave) of Moses Exodus33:11; Elisha had servants, 2 Kings 4:12, 5:20; and young Joseph was a servant-boy to the sons of Bilhah

[5] William Kelly Malachi. Lectures on the Minor Prophets. Available online at < http://www.stempublishing.com/authors/kelly/1Oldtest/malachi.html > accessed 10 August 2013.

 

David L Simon (13 December 2009 CCC)
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