7 ways to glorify Christ in your work: Part 2

July 2, 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 last three of seven ways Paul puts Christ in the cubicle, the shop, the council chamber, and the medical office. You can read the first four here.

5. Christ is your coach.

Not only does Christ oversee our labors, he also teaches us how to “work” as he worked. First of all, he liberated us from having to render service to the Lord by accomplishing a work we never could achieve. By dying on the cross, Christ paid the full price for our sins and in his resurrection, he is now building a temple for his people to dwell with his Father (Eph. 2:19–22). This is the work he does, and one we cannot do.

But in watching him work, we learn how me might imitate his craftsmanship. In fact, this is exactly what Paul says in Ephesians 2:10. For those who have been saved by faith and not by works (2:8–9), the Father has prepared good works for his new creations to walk in (v. 10). For some these works will include labors in the church, but many good works will be done “outside of church.” Still, it is in the church where disciples learn from Christ and his people how to work.

And thus, we find Paul giving a how-to in verses 6–8. In three consecutive participles (italicized, Paul says “doing the will of God from the heart”; “rendering service with a good will as to the Lord and not to man”; and “knowing that whatever good anyone does, this he will receive back from the Lord.”) In these three verses, Paul teaches Christ’s disciples how to work like Christ.

First, he calls us to learn the will of the Lord. Because Christ is the perfect example of God’s will, this instruction leads people to watch the Lord in his work. It is in this way that we can say Christ is our “coach,” “mentor,” or “teacher.” To be sure, the Lord doesn’t teach us medicine or metallurgy, but he does teach us principles of mercy and justice, wisdom, and goodness. These impact every area of work and therefore apply to all people, regardless of calling.

For Paul, working unto the Lord—whether as a bondservant or a master—was a call to do everything with an eye to the Lord, an awareness of his presence, and a passion to bring glory to God.

Second, by learning from Christ, we learn how to have a good will in serving the Lord. Just as Christ did everything in service to his heavenly Father, so must we. And we learn how to do that by looking to Christ. Hence, one of the most important habits a Christian can cultivate for “success” in their vocation is the study of God’s Word, especially the person and work of Christ. Only those who know Christ and his ways can render service with a good will.

Third, our motivation to do the will of the Lord, in the ways of the Lord, is increased by looking to the future reward promised to those who work by faith in Christ. Indeed, faith impels Christ’s followers to labor in love; however, hope is also needed to grant endurance in good works. As various vocations put into practice love of neighbor, difficulties will mount. In response, how will the Christian press on without growing discouraged or turning from the Lord’s ways? The answer Paul gives is to keep looking to the future reward. By sowing good seeds in the hope of future reward, the follower of Christ looks forward to a harvest that goes beyond company goals. This is what empowers God’s people to endure. And again, no one has modeled this better than Christ.

For all these reasons, Christ’s servant leadership and humble obedience models for all Christians how to work for God’s glory. Therefore, we should look to him and learn how Christ’s attitudes and actions inform our vocation.

6. Christ, not your career, is the source of your value and worth.

In Ephesians 6:9, Paul turns from bondservants to masters. Again, he puts Christ at the center of his instructions. Importantly, Paul uses the same perfect participle (knowing) in both verses to address bondservants (v. 8) and masters (v. 9). And in between Paul says the reward from Christ is irrespective of the workers class: “knowing that whatever good anyone does, this he will receive back from the Lord, whether he is a bondservant or is free.”

With an economic valuation that comes from heaven (see v. 9), he encourages masters and bondservants that their eternal rewards are not dependent on their earthly standing. Rather, the reward comes from Christ who looks at the heart. Moreover, by saying in v. 9, “Masters, do the same to them,” he stresses the reciprocal nature of masters and bondservants.

In principle, then, Paul teaches the value of work is based on someone’s relation to Christ and eternity, not to his income, education, or competence. To be clear, those things are not unimportant, for each of them come with a particular stewardship to glorify God. But ultimately, one’s value in Christ’s eyes is not based on his or her work; it is based upon their standing in Christ. “Well done, my good and faithful servant,” is the uniform praise God gives to his children regardless of their earthly standing.

7. Christ is the ultimate motivation for work.

Finally, we return to the first point, because Paul comes to it again with masters. The ultimate motivation for work is the glory of God. And we see this point in verse 9 when Paul says, “Masters, do the same to them, and stop your threatening, knowing that he who is both their Master and yours is in heaven, and that there is no partiality with him.”

Again, these words are meant to humble masters and to prevent the abuse of their power. Like bondservants, they too are to use their position to reflect God’s character. Only in this case, their position of authority requires their humility to look like kind-hearted service to those under their care. Why? Because they too are servants under the wise and loving care of Christ, their master in heaven.

In this way, Paul concludes this section like he began, with a Christ-centered motivation for masters to glorify God with their lives and their livelihoods.

Remembering Christ’s perfect attendance

Paul finishes his instruction about submission (going back to Eph. 5:21) by stressing the fact that God in heaven is looking down on all actions and attitudes of his people. And he calls masters (and all of us) to attend to this fact: God is always present.

Enthroned in heaven with all creation under his feet, Christ is never absent from the world and its various markets. And while false motives and unjust practices abound in the world, God is calling Christians to do more than bring Jesus to work. He is calling Christians to realize he is already there. As “little Christs” (i.e., Christians), we are to see him in our daily workspaces so that we might work to reflect his ever-present glory.

Indeed, for Paul, who at times worked in the marketplace to provide for himself, such service included far more than just making money for ministry or being a witness to co-workers—although both of those motives also exist. For Paul, working unto the Lord—whether as a bondservant or a master—was a call to do everything with an eye to the Lord, an awareness of his presence, and a passion to bring glory to God.

Such a motive should grip all of Christ’s followers today, too. Though the economic systems of the West are far different from first-century Ephesus, these inspired words abide the test of time. There continue to be occupations of authority and others of submission, and usually they are an admixture of the two. Thus, we can apply Paul’s words today, because they are centered on Christ and the calling of disciples to work as unto the Lord, by remembering his perfect presence and imitating his humble service to the Father’s glory.

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