7 ways to glorify Christ in your work: Part 1

June 25, 2018

In Ephesians 6:5–9 Paul finishes his “household codes” by addressing slaves/bondservants and masters and how they ought to work as unto the Lord. In fact, Paul makes five explicit references to Christ in five verses.Thus, as with marriage (Eph. 5:22–33) and parenting (Eph. 6:1–4), he gives hyper-attention to the way Christ motivates Christians in the marketplace.

Acknowledging the cultural differences (and challenges) between masters and bondservants in Ephesus and our own modern free-market, post-slavery context in America, there are numerous ways Paul’s words continue to speak to marketplace Christians today. Indeed, by walking through these five verses, we can see how Christ motivates, supervises, evaluates, and coaches his followers. Rather than bifurcating Sunday from the rest of the week, Paul teaches us how Christ should be present with believers as they enter the work week.

Here are the first four of seven ways Paul puts Christ in the cubicle, the shop, the council chamber, and the medical office.

1. Christ is the ultimate motivation for work.

In verses 5–8, Paul addresses bondservants (ESV), and he calls them to “obey” their earthly masters (“masters according to the flesh”). Why? For the sake of Christ. Verse 5 reads, “Obey your earthly masters with fear and trembling, with a sincere heart, as you would Christ.” Paul explains that in obeying earthly masters, those in the service of another are evidencing their commitment to Christ.

There are many ways this teaching has and can be abused by those in authority, but in the original context, Paul is urging Christians to respect and obey their “employers” for the sake of Christ. This is the ultimate motivation for the worker, and as we’ll see, for the master/employer. Money, fame, pleasure, pride, prestige, power—none of these can be ultimate motivators. Neither can goodness, justice, love, or anything else be the ultimate motivation. In Christ, the Spirit-filled believer will long to glorify Christ, and as Paul says in Colossians 3:17: “And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” Every other motivation must be tempered by and trained to serve the first priority—to serve others as the Lord.

2. Christ is your vocational supervisor.

If Christ is your motivation, he is also your supervisor. As verse 6 puts it, the disciple of Christ does not work “by way of eye-service, as people-pleasers.” As Galatians 1:10 indicates, such workers cannot serve Christ. Why? Because their man-centered devotion will ultimately lead them away from the Lord.

Built into this instruction is the reality that in our fallen world, every worker will be confronted with decisions that will demand them to answer this question: Will they serve God? Or will they serve man? As Jesus says, “No man can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other” (Matt. 6:24). In context, Jesus is talking about God and money, and Paul seems to be making a similar point. Every worker will be working to please God or themselves or some other human supervisor.

Therefore, we learn from Paul that no matter the company, institution, office, etc., the Lord claims precedent over them all. And Christians bought by Christ’s blood are not first and foremost slaves of their earthly master; they are slaves of Christ. And thus, what he says matters most. This, of course, does not mean that Christ permits workers to reject the authority of their earthly supervisors. Just the reverse, his oversight motivates us to humbly respect and obey our earthly “lords.” This is why Paul uses the word “obey” when speaking to servants.

3. Christ and his Word is your standard.

If Christ’s supervisory role calls us to affirm our allegiance to him, it also beckons us to work with diligence, skill, and honesty. In truth, our earthly masters may not see our dishonesty, and others may not care. As long as pragmatism reigns, there will be many work environs where productivity, not integrity, is prized.

But unrighteousness cloaked by effectiveness is not what pleases the Lord. As the Proverbs speak so often about hard work, honest scales, and righteous speech, the Lord longs for his sons and daughters to do more than get the work done. He longs for them to reflect his character in their carpentry—whatever their vocation may be.

In Ephesians 6:6 Paul calls for Christ’s disciples to do the will of God from the heart. In other words, work for the Christian is not just a means to some spiritual end (e.g., evangelism, money for the church, etc.). Work is a context—perhaps the most enduring context—Christians put God’s will into practice. Therefore, with respect to speech, decision-making, work relationships, etc., God’s Word—not man’s praise—is the standard by which our labors are judged.

4. Christ’s name is on your contract.

If Christ is our motivation, supervisor, and standard, it is not surprising he is also the one who “hires us.” This doesn’t deny the people and companies who sign our contracts, but it does recognize (1) the sovereignty of God in preparing us and placing us in our current occupations and (2) the sovereignty of God to lead, guide, and direct us in our vocations.

In fact, Paul’s words do more than draw the implicit connection between God’s sovereign rule and man’s work. He actually says that in fulfilling our calling, we are to “render service with a good will as to the Lord and not to man” (v. 7). This does not deny the human element in any vocation, but it does heighten the calling to serve God. He is our Lord and thus all that we say and do, is because of him, for him, and by him—by the Spirit of Christ (see Eph. 5:15–21).

Once again, Paul’s point of view is radical. It grates against any sense of self-achievement and crushes the desire to boast in one’s resume, education, or accomplishments (cf. 1 Cor. 4:7). To the self-confident, sought-after contractor, this way of thinking is repulsive. But to the Lord who opposes the proud and gives grace to the humble (Prov. 3:34), this exactly what he wants. He’s not looking for high-end employees to boost his lagging company; he’s looking for children who seek their Father’s glory alone.

Paul, therefore, reminds us who ultimately signs our contract—it is the sovereign Lord of heaven and earth. To work with wisdom and grace, we must acknowledge him. The alternative is to look upon the work of our hands like Nebuchadnezzar (Dan. 4) and invite God’s judgment.

Stay tuned for the second part of this article next week. This article originally appeared here.

David Schrock

David Schrock David Schrock is the pastor of Calvary Baptist Church in Seymour, Indiana and the assistant editor for the Journal for Biblical Manhood and Womanhood. He is the husband of Wendy and the father of two energetic boys. Read More by this Author

Article 12: The Future of AI

We affirm that AI will continue to be developed in ways that we cannot currently imagine or understand, including AI that will far surpass many human abilities. God alone has the power to create life, and no future advancements in AI will usurp Him as the Creator of life. The church has a unique role in proclaiming human dignity for all and calling for the humane use of AI in all aspects of society.

We deny that AI will make us more or less human, or that AI will ever obtain a coequal level of worth, dignity, or value to image-bearers. Future advancements in AI will not ultimately fulfill our longings for a perfect world. While we are not able to comprehend or know the future, we do not fear what is to come because we know that God is omniscient and that nothing we create will be able to thwart His redemptive plan for creation or to supplant humanity as His image-bearers.

Genesis 1; Isaiah 42:8; Romans 1:20-21; 5:2; Ephesians 1:4-6; 2 Timothy 1:7-9; Revelation 5:9-10

Article 11: Public Policy

We affirm that the fundamental purposes of government are to protect human beings from harm, punish those who do evil, uphold civil liberties, and to commend those who do good. The public has a role in shaping and crafting policies concerning the use of AI in society, and these decisions should not be left to those who develop these technologies or to governments to set norms.

We deny that AI should be used by governments, corporations, or any entity to infringe upon God-given human rights. AI, even in a highly advanced state, should never be delegated the governing authority that has been granted by an all-sovereign God to human beings alone. 

Romans 13:1-7; Acts 10:35; 1 Peter 2:13-14

Article 10: War

We affirm that the use of AI in warfare should be governed by love of neighbor and the principles of just war. The use of AI may mitigate the loss of human life, provide greater protection of non-combatants, and inform better policymaking. Any lethal action conducted or substantially enabled by AI must employ 5 human oversight or review. All defense-related AI applications, such as underlying data and decision-making processes, must be subject to continual review by legitimate authorities. When these systems are deployed, human agents bear full moral responsibility for any actions taken by the system.

We deny that human agency or moral culpability in war can be delegated to AI. No nation or group has the right to use AI to carry out genocide, terrorism, torture, or other war crimes.

Genesis 4:10; Isaiah 1:16-17; Psalm 37:28; Matthew 5:44; 22:37-39; Romans 13:4

Article 9: Security

We affirm that AI has legitimate applications in policing, intelligence, surveillance, investigation, and other uses supporting the government’s responsibility to respect human rights, to protect and preserve human life, and to pursue justice in a flourishing society.

We deny that AI should be employed for safety and security applications in ways that seek to dehumanize, depersonalize, or harm our fellow human beings. We condemn the use of AI to suppress free expression or other basic human rights granted by God to all human beings.

Romans 13:1-7; 1 Peter 2:13-14

Article 8: Data & Privacy

We affirm that privacy and personal property are intertwined individual rights and choices that should not be violated by governments, corporations, nation-states, and other groups, even in the pursuit of the common good. While God knows all things, it is neither wise nor obligatory to have every detail of one’s life open to society.

We deny the manipulative and coercive uses of data and AI in ways that are inconsistent with the love of God and love of neighbor. Data collection practices should conform to ethical guidelines that uphold the dignity of all people. We further deny that consent, even informed consent, although requisite, is the only necessary ethical standard for the collection, manipulation, or exploitation of personal data—individually or in the aggregate. AI should not be employed in ways that distort truth through the use of generative applications. Data should not be mishandled, misused, or abused for sinful purposes to reinforce bias, strengthen the powerful, or demean the weak.

Exodus 20:15, Psalm 147:5; Isaiah 40:13-14; Matthew 10:16 Galatians 6:2; Hebrews 4:12-13; 1 John 1:7 

Article 7: Work

We affirm that work is part of God’s plan for human beings participating in the cultivation and stewardship of creation. The divine pattern is one of labor and rest in healthy proportion to each other. Our view of work should not be confined to commercial activity; it must also include the many ways that human beings serve each other through their efforts. AI can be used in ways that aid our work or allow us to make fuller use of our gifts. The church has a Spirit-empowered responsibility to help care for those who lose jobs and to encourage individuals, communities, employers, and governments to find ways to invest in the development of human beings and continue making vocational contributions to our lives together.

We deny that human worth and dignity is reducible to an individual’s economic contributions to society alone. Humanity should not use AI and other technological innovations as a reason to move toward lives of pure leisure even if greater social wealth creates such possibilities.

Genesis 1:27; 2:5; 2:15; Isaiah 65:21-24; Romans 12:6-8; Ephesians 4:11-16

Article 6: Sexuality

We affirm the goodness of God’s design for human sexuality which prescribes the sexual union to be an exclusive relationship between a man and a woman in the lifelong covenant of marriage.

We deny that the pursuit of sexual pleasure is a justification for the development or use of AI, and we condemn the objectification of humans that results from employing AI for sexual purposes. AI should not intrude upon or substitute for the biblical expression of sexuality between a husband and wife according to God’s design for human marriage.

Genesis 1:26-29; 2:18-25; Matthew 5:27-30; 1 Thess 4:3-4

Article 5: Bias

We affirm that, as a tool created by humans, AI will be inherently subject to bias and that these biases must be accounted for, minimized, or removed through continual human oversight and discretion. AI should be designed and used in such ways that treat all human beings as having equal worth and dignity. AI should be utilized as a tool to identify and eliminate bias inherent in human decision-making.

We deny that AI should be designed or used in ways that violate the fundamental principle of human dignity for all people. Neither should AI be used in ways that reinforce or further any ideology or agenda, seeking to subjugate human autonomy under the power of the state.

Micah 6:8; John 13:34; Galatians 3:28-29; 5:13-14; Philippians 2:3-4; Romans 12:10

Article 4: Medicine

We affirm that AI-related advances in medical technologies are expressions of God’s common grace through and for people created in His image and that these advances will increase our capacity to provide enhanced medical diagnostics and therapeutic interventions as we seek to care for all people. These advances should be guided by basic principles of medical ethics, including beneficence, non-maleficence, autonomy, and justice, which are all consistent with the biblical principle of loving our neighbor.

We deny that death and disease—effects of the Fall—can ultimately be eradicated apart from Jesus Christ. Utilitarian applications regarding healthcare distribution should not override the dignity of human life. Fur- 3 thermore, we reject the materialist and consequentialist worldview that understands medical applications of AI as a means of improving, changing, or completing human beings.

Matthew 5:45; John 11:25-26; 1 Corinthians 15:55-57; Galatians 6:2; Philippians 2:4

Article 3: Relationship of AI & Humanity

We affirm the use of AI to inform and aid human reasoning and moral decision-making because it is a tool that excels at processing data and making determinations, which often mimics or exceeds human ability. While AI excels in data-based computation, technology is incapable of possessing the capacity for moral agency or responsibility.

We deny that humans can or should cede our moral accountability or responsibilities to any form of AI that will ever be created. Only humanity will be judged by God on the basis of our actions and that of the tools we create. While technology can be created with a moral use in view, it is not a moral agent. Humans alone bear the responsibility for moral decision making.

Romans 2:6-8; Galatians 5:19-21; 2 Peter 1:5-8; 1 John 2:1

Article 2: AI as Technology

We affirm that the development of AI is a demonstration of the unique creative abilities of human beings. When AI is employed in accordance with God’s moral will, it is an example of man’s obedience to the divine command to steward creation and to honor Him. We believe in innovation for the glory of God, the sake of human flourishing, and the love of neighbor. While we acknowledge the reality of the Fall and its consequences on human nature and human innovation, technology can be used in society to uphold human dignity. As a part of our God-given creative nature, human beings should develop and harness technology in ways that lead to greater flourishing and the alleviation of human suffering.

We deny that the use of AI is morally neutral. It is not worthy of man’s hope, worship, or love. Since the Lord Jesus alone can atone for sin and reconcile humanity to its Creator, technology such as AI cannot fulfill humanity’s ultimate needs. We further deny the goodness and benefit of any application of AI that devalues or degrades the dignity and worth of another human being. 

Genesis 2:25; Exodus 20:3; 31:1-11; Proverbs 16:4; Matthew 22:37-40; Romans 3:23

Article 1: Image of God

We affirm that God created each human being in His image with intrinsic and equal worth, dignity, and moral agency, distinct from all creation, and that humanity’s creativity is intended to reflect God’s creative pattern.

We deny that any part of creation, including any form of technology, should ever be used to usurp or subvert the dominion and stewardship which has been entrusted solely to humanity by God; nor should technology be assigned a level of human identity, worth, dignity, or moral agency.

Genesis 1:26-28; 5:1-2; Isaiah 43:6-7; Jeremiah 1:5; John 13:34; Colossians 1:16; 3:10; Ephesians 4:24