Robert Jeffress - Who's the Boss?
Hi, I'm Robert Jeffress, and welcome again to Pathway to Victory. Perhaps you stumbled out of bed this morning with a sense of dread about going to work, well you're not alone. The pressing deadlines and long hours have millions of workers dragging their feet in the morning. But many times it's not the work, but our boss, that makes a job so challenging. Well, today we're going to talk about responding to our work authority. My message is titled, "Who's the Boss" on today's edition of Pathway to Victory.
Oscar Hammerstein, the great lyricist, in his book "Lyrics" tells about seeing a photograph that was taken from a helicopter that was hovering above the statue of liberty. And Hammerstein says what impressed him about that photograph was the great detail that the designer Frederic Bartholdi had used in designing the hair of the great lady. I mean, after all, when Bartholdi did his work, it was a 100 years before the helicopter was even invented. He designed the hair of the statue, not believing anybody would ever see it. Then Oscar Hammerstein gave this obvious moral to the story. He said, "When you are creating a work of art, or any other kind of work, finish the job off perfectly. You never know when a helicopter, or some other instrument not yet invented, may come along and find you out".
Now that's a great motivation to do your work excellently, but there's an even more powerful motivation for doing our work diligently that we're going to look at this morning. If you have your Bibles, turn to Colossians 3, Colossians 3 as we look at what Paul says about the workplace. Now you remember, we're coming to the end of Colossians 3, the whole chapter is about how we become like Jesus Christ in our everyday actions, attitude, and affections. And Paul says, "Do you want to know if you're really becoming like Christ"? Here are two questions.
1. How do you behave at home?
2. How do you behave in the workplace?
The fact is it's difficult being an employee and obeying that employer whom you don't agree with, and you don't understand, and you really don't like. It's hard, as employers, to treat your employees with compassion and with fairness. And that's why Paul selects these two areas to say if you want to know whether you're really progressing in your spiritual life, look at yourself at home, look at yourself in the workplace.
Now the last two weeks we've looked at what Paul says about the home, now let's look and see what he says to employees. Beginning of verse 22-25, Colossians 3, he says, "Slaves, in all things obey those who are your masters on earth, not with external service as those who merely please men, but with sincerity of heart, fearing the Lord. Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord, rather than for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance. It is the Lord Christ whom you serve. For he who does wrong will receive the consequences of the wrong which he has done, and that without partiality".
The relationship between masters and slaves in Paul's day was so complex that Paul spends more time addressing this relationship than he does of any in the home or any other place. And you can understand, if you think about it, why it was so complex in the Colossian church. Here you have slaves and slave owners sitting in the same pew together, worshiping the same God. Many of them had become Christians. And so the natural question is, okay, now that we're Christians and one in Christ, how do we relate to each other?
Now I think we need to stop here and clear the air about a subject that maybe you've wondered about or you've been questioned about. Does the Bible support slavery? Let's be honest and clear about it. The Bible neither supports nor condemns the institution of slavery. And there's a reason why, and the reason is Jesus Christ, when he came to earth the first time, did not come to right every social injustice that was going on in the world. He will do that when he comes back the second time. The reason Jesus came the first time was to deal with a much deeper problem, and that is the sin problem in every individual heart that is the cause of social injustice. And so Paul doesn't speak for or against slavery, he was addressing the world as it was at that time. Remember, up to half of the world was slave at that time. That means there were probably 60 million slaves in the Roman Empire, half of the population, which means many in the Colossian church were also in this relationship, they were slaves.
You see, Paul understood God was interested in what was happening in those individual hearts. What was going on in their relationship with God? And the fact is God uses difficult situations in order to make us more like Jesus Christ. It's like he did his own son, Hebrews 5:8, "Though Jesus was a son, he learned obedience to God by the things that he suffered". The Bible isn't speaking for or against slavery in this passage, what the Bible is doing is saying slaves, if you're in this situation, here is how you are to respond. Now, of course we don't have that same kind of relationship today, and the closest to it would be the employer-employee relationship, which many people think is a slave-master relationship, but it's not, but there are some overriding principles that apply to us today. And I find three principles here that apply to all of us, especially those of us who are employees. Principle number one Paul teaches in this passage, we are to obey our employers as we obey Christ.
Now get the picture, here you have all of these families seated together, the fathers have been addressed, the wives, the parents, the children, and remember slaves were a part of the household, so they were together there as well. And so these slaves were probably seated on the edge of their seat, just waiting for what the pastor would read from Paul's letter that applied to them? The pastor was up there reading this letter to the Colossian church. And so they were very anxious about what Paul would say about their situation. Next verse 22, "Slaves, in all things obey those who are your masters on earth, not with external service as those who were merely pleasing men, but with sincerity of heart, fearing the Lord". Not only were the slaves disappointed, they were probably confused. I mean Paul, you just got through saying, "We're all equal before Christ," why do I have to obey this master?
And Paul was saying the reason you obey your master is the same reason that wives submit to their husbands, children obey their parents, citizens obey the government. It's because all of us have some authority that God has set over us. And the way God maintains orderliness in society and teaches us the principle of obedience is by obeying those whom God has placed over us. Now, the overall principle here is we're to obey our employers as we obey Christ. Principle number two here is, jot it down, we are to work diligently. We're to work, whatever our work is, diligently. Look at verse 23, "Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord, rather than for men".
Now that word heartily means with all of your heart or with all of your energy. Whatever job you have, do your work with all of your energy. In other words, don't just work when your boss is looking, work when he's not looking. Don't sweep the dirt under the rug hoping nobody will find out, because the fact is, even though your human boss may not be looking, even though he or she may have a day off, God doesn't take a day off. He's always in heaven watching and evaluating your work, and ultimately you're working for him, and that's why you're to do your work diligently. It is the Lord Jesus, not that obnoxious boss that you're ultimately serving. Isn't that an interesting concept? God is the one we are working for, that is why whatever we do, we do our work diligently. That word heartily is a good synonym for the word diligence. And the Bible has a lot to say about diligence.
Jot down a few of these verses. Proverbs 10:4, "Poor is he who works with a negligent hand, but the hand of the diligent makes rich". Or Proverbs 12:24, "Diligent hands will rule, but laziness ends in forced labor". Or Proverbs 13:4, "A sluggard's appetite is never filled, but the desires of the diligent are fully satisfied". If you want to be successful in work, both in this life and be rewarded in the life to come, Paul says you are to do your work, whatever it is, diligently. Now how do you do that in a practical way? Mike Murdock has a great book, came out a few years ago, entitled "Secrets of Winning at Work". And he gives six suggestions in this book for how you go about doing your work diligently. And if you want to be a success in the workplace, I want to encourage you to write down these quick six suggestions for working diligently.
First of all, hear your boss's instructions. That is when your supervisor, your boss, asks you to do something, make sure you're listening. Don't doodle when the boss is talking. Give him your undivided attention.
Secondly, a way to win at work, repeat your boss's instruction. When he asks you to do something, repeat those instructions back to make sure you and he are on the same page. If you're unsure, go ahead and ask for further explanation.
Number three, write down your boss's instructions. When he asks you to do something, always have a pen and paper handy so you can actually write it down. Whenever people are serving somebody else, they need to write down the instructions. Remember a long pencil makes up for a short memory. And by the way, when you're writing down, not only does that give your boss the confidence that you're listening, it will be a motivation to him to be more clear in what he's asking you to do, knowing that you're seriously writing it down.
Number four, do what you're instructed to do. If your supervisor asks you to do something, do it. Don't find every excuse not to do it. Just go ahead and do what you've been asked to do. You know, in Proverbs 26:13, the writer talks about the sluggard, the lazy person. And he says, "The sluggard says, 'there's a lion in the road, a fierce lion roaming the streets'"! What is he talking about? He's talking about a lazy person who's in bed looking for any excuse not to work. He'll come up with any excuse, including there is a lion in the street. Now the fact is the chances of a lion walking down the streets of Jerusalem was about as great as a zebra walking in your neighborhood, okay. It just didn't happen. But see, the sluggard is looking for an excuse not to do what he's been asked to do.
Next, report your activity to your boss. Once you've been asked to do something, and you've done it, report back to your boss. I'm going to tell you the employees I value the most are those who report back to me about their progress without me having to double check up on them. They come back and they say, "This is, I got the task done, pastor, here's what I found out. I made that phone call you asked me to make, here's what the person said". Report your activity back to your boss.
And finally, and perhaps most importantly, become your boss's number one problem solver. To me, I divide all employees into one of two categories, those who solve problems, and those who create problems. Every employee is doing one or the other, they're solving problems or they are creating problems. Bible says we're to obey our employers as we obey Christ, we're to perform our work diligently.
Number three principle in this passage, we are to perform our work honestly. We're to perform our work honestly. Look at verse 25, "For he who does wrong, will receive the consequences of the wrong which he has done, and that which without partiality". What Paul is saying is, look, it doesn't matter whether you're a Christian or non-Christian, if you steal, if you do wrong, you're going to be held accountable to God for that wrong. And the same way with us. If you're an employee, you are not to be dishonest. You are not to steal from your employer.
By the way, stealing from your employer is more than simply dipping into the cash register. That's certainly one way to steal from your employer, but it's not the only way. We're guilty of stealing when we steal time from our employer. That is we come in late and leave early from our work and don't work the full hours for which we've been paid. Whenever you speak badly of your employer, or you speak badly of the organization for which you work, you're stealing, you're stealing the reputation, which in some ways is more valuable than money, from that employer or from that organization that's paying your salary. And what Paul is saying here is, look, you have an obligation to do your work honestly, not to steal.
And that's the obligation that employees have to their employers, to obey them as they obey Christ, to do their work diligently, to perform their work honestly. I imagine at this point, boy the slave owners were feeling pretty good. That's right, Paul, let that lazy, no-good slave of mine have it. This has been a great sermon, I'm going to get a cd and play this over and over again. And I imagine those slave owners are getting up, ready to leave, thought the service was over, they were getting ready to grab hands and sing "High and lifted up" and get out of there. But the pastor said, "Oh wait, wait, wait, wait, wait. Before you leave, Paul has a word for you slave owners as well, you have a responsibility". Look at chapter 4:1, there was no chapter break in the original text. He says, "Masters grant to your slaves justice and fairness, knowing that you too have a master in heaven".
Now this was a revolutionary concept, the idea that masters, slave owners, would have responsibilities. It was unheard of in this culture that a slave owner would have any obligation toward his slaves. But that's how the Word of God is different. God's word says, "Yes, you have a responsibility, and here it is, to grant to your slaves justice and fairness". And if you're an employer today, if you're a supervisor, those are very important words to remember. You are to treat your employees the same way you want God to deal with you. Think about for a moment, how does God deal with us who are his servants? Three principles I find about God dealing with us.
First of all, God spells out his expectations clearly for us, doesn't he, he spells out his expectations clearly. There is no confusion about what God wants us to do. I mean, after all everything's in the personnel manual called the Bible that God expects from us. It's all clear, and that's not easy to do all the time, but it is clear what God expects from us. Deuteronomy 30:11-15, remember what God said? "For this commandment which I've commanded you today is not too difficult for you, nor is it out of reach. It's not in heaven that you should say, 'who will go up to heaven and get it for us'". Verse 13, "Nor is it beyond the sea that you should say, 'who will cross the sea for us to get it for us and make us hear it'? But the word is very near in your mouth and in your heart that you may observe it. See, I have set before you today life and prosperity or death and adversity". God's saying, "My word is very clear, it's available to you. It's a simple choice, you can obey it and have life and prosperity, or you can disobey my word and experience death and adversity". Now in the same way, those of us who are employers need to make sure that we have spelled out clearly to our employees what is expected of them.
And number two, not only does God speak, spell out our expectations clearly, number two, God deals with us equitably. Notice he uses two words to describe how we ought to treat our employees. He says we are to do so with justice and with fairness. You know, this word justice carries the idea of giving our employees what they deserve. We have an obligation to be sure that we are being just in our compensation. Are we paying people what they're worth? Are we paying according to industry norms? Are we taking care of their basic needs? We're to deal with employees according to justice. And then the second word here is fairness.
Now that word fairness does not mean we pay everybody the same thing. The idea here is that we use the same criteria to evaluate everyone. I mean, the fact is you don't pay everyone the same thing. The Bible speaks against that in 1 Timothy 5:17, Paul is talking about the compensation for elders in the church and he says, "Those who work especially hard should be worthy of double compensation". And that principle applies to any and every job, those who work harder, those who produce more, ought to be paid more. But what Paul is saying here is when you are judging employees, make sure you use the same standard for all. You don't judge somebody according to their race, or their gender, or whether or not you like their personality, you have objective criteria that you use. You are equal, you are fair in your evaluation. Why are we to be that way? Because that's the way God is with us. God doesn't play favorites. Verse 25 says, "God is the one who judges us without partiality".
And third principle I find here is, in the way that we're to treat our employees, God treats us compassionately. God treats us compassionately, so we're to treat other people who work for us. You know, God doesn't look at us as simply means to an end to get his purpose achieved, he deeply cares about every part of our life. And in the same way, we're to show that compassion to those who work for us, not to see them as simply means to an end, our end, but we're to see them as fellow heirs, according to Christ Jesus. It means that we care about their families. It means we care about their personal needs. It doesn't mean we don't be firm with them. It doesn't mean we don't discipline them. It doesn't mean we may not have to dismiss them. But what it means is we care about them as individuals, just as God cares about us.
When you treat your employees well, the way you want God to treat you, not only are you ensuring the success of your organization, you as employers are also ensuring that one day you will receive a reward from your master who is in heaven. How do you know if you're becoming like Jesus Christ? Employees, are you doing your work enthusiastically, diligently, honestly, as if you were doing your work for God himself? Employers here today, are you being just and equitable with your employees? Are you treating them in the very same way you want God to treat you? That's the test of whether or not you're becoming like Jesus Christ.