God At Work In Your Calling As A Worker (Ephesians 6:5-9)

Text: Ephesians 6:5-9

For the last two weeks we have been discussing the idea of Vocation.  As you can recall, the word ‘vocation’ means, calling.  Furthermore, we have discussed that you and me actually have several vocations and callings in our life.  We are called to be citizens, called to our jobs, called to our families and called into the church.  These are our four basic callings that we operate in; they are the four different hats that we wear in this life.  Keep in mind that these callings are avenues that we do good works in.  In other words, God has gifted us with certain gifts and abilities.  God has prepared good works in advance for us.  As a result of our makeup and the good works prepared in advance, we simply get to walk in these good works within these avenues or lanes of vocations.  Today, we are looking at the vocation of working, our calling as a worker.  With that in mind, let us read todays text from Ephesians 6:5-9.

Slaves, obey your earthly masters with fear and trembling, with a sincere heart, as you would Christ, not by the way of eye-service, as people-pleasers, but as servants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart, rendering service with a good will as to the Lord and not to man, knowing that whatever good anyone does, this he will receive back from the Lord, whether he is a slave or free. 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.

Each and every day the alarm goes off for millions of people in this world, which results in them getting up, showering, drinking coffee, and then going off to work.  Literally millions of people go off to work Monday through Friday and even on weekends.  Many of you here today get up to work in the agriculture fields, some of you go to work in the oil fields, while others go to your office or others to your homes to work. 

Typically for most people, work is not something that is desirable.  I have yet to meet a person that gets frustrated about going on vacation and is overly exuberant to go to work when they get back from vacation.  Most people that I know would choose to be on a cruise any day over going to the office, or being put under the pressures of work in the fields.  Now, I am sure that there are some jobs that are very satisfying and enjoyable, however, generally speaking no matter how rewarding job is, most jobs inevitably wear a person down, take energy, and make it so that a person needs a mental and/or physical break.  But why do we work then?  Most people don’t go to work out of the context of some high ideal, but they go to work because they have to make a living.  Is it not true that if we want to eat, have a house, and so forth, that we need to have a job?  If we don’t work, we don’t get money.  If we don’t get money, we don’t eat and don’t have a place to sleep.  If we don’t have a place sleep and don’t have money, we can get sick and die. 

What can end up happening is that work can seem meaningless at times.  Work can often times seem as if it is a means to an end—survival.  The daily grind of work, punching the clock, plowing the same fields year after year, doing the same mundane routines can not only become insanely repetitive, but their meaning are sometimes defined as merely a means to obtain money to pay the bills,  ultimately survival. 

To make things worse, work can also consume our very lives.  Instead of just having a job to pay the bills and to survive, our jobs can become our life.  Jobs, can consume our time, our emotions, our after-hours preoccupations. Our jobs can take away the time we would like to spend with our families.  With current technology many of your jobs put you on call 24 hours a day.  I know of an oil worker that got a call in the middle of the night, and then went to work on his computer from his kitchen table in his pajamas on a problem on a pipeline. Though we are following in the footsteps of Adam and Eve in working, there is no doubt about it that work causes us to sweat, tire and need breaks. 

As a result of the mundane routines and the exhaustion that comes with work, we can diminish our work as something that is quite meaningless, and purposeless.  We can diminish our work to something that simply pays the bills, something that helps us survive.  However, there is a much bigger perspective to our work that we can recognize today.  We can recognize that our jobs are our vocations that we walk in.  In other words, no matter how mundane or ordinary we can recognize that your jobs are our vocations, vocations that God gives meaning to.  For example, when God blesses us, He almost always does it through other people.  I have shared with you that God protects us through police officers and the legal system.  God gives us the ability to travel through the ministry of auto workers, mechanics, road crews and car dealers.  God keeps us clean through the work of trash collectors, plumbers and sanitation workers.  God heals us through doctors, nurses, and pharmacists.  He brings people to salvation through pastors, and through anyone else who proclaims the Gospel of Jesus.  Think about this, the fast-food worker, the cleaner, the administrative assistant, the accountant, the musician, the teacher and so forth—they are all high callings, used by God to bless and serve you and me.  Now, from our point of view we can obviously say that we are blessed from all of these vocations.  I am blessed when the sanitation department picks up my trash; I am blessed by the fast-food worker who gives me yummy food; I am blessed by the teachers who have taught me, and so forth.  From our perspective it is easy to see how these vocations are a blessing to us.  But from the perspective of the people slaving away in these vocations, their work is often a daily grind.  There work is often hard, boring, and a thankless task.  For you and your vocation, it may also seem like merely a job that pays the bills, a job that keeps you alive.  However, what we realize from our text today and what we realize from our understanding of vocation is that we as Christians are not only ‘called’ into our jobs, but we can also understand our ordinary labors of life to be charged with meaning.  In other words, God through His divine providence has gifted and shaped each of us and prepared us for our particular callings. Furthermore, we are called into our jobs by being hired, or asked to fulfill certain tasks for others. Then through our labor, no matter how big or small, God is at work serving His creation. 

Specifically our text that we read today is focusing on the idea of servants and masters.  It is a text that is easily transferrable to our understanding of employees and bosses.  In our text, Paul says, “Slaves, obey your earthly masters with fear and trembling, with a sincere heart, as you would Christ.”  In the words of Martin Luther, “whatever you do, and whether you live under the bondage of men or as a manager of affairs, refer it to me, and do it in no other name than that you are sure in faith that I alone am served in this.” [1]  Simply put, it is easy to work in our jobs simply for the paycheck, or simply from the motive of paying the bills in order to survive.  However, understanding this idea of vocation, when you go to work (provided that your vocation is just) you are working in a divine calling. Therefore, your concern is not to merely get a paycheck but your services and work that you do are to be done in the fear and name of God.  Listen to Luther on this subject,

You can see in every station of life how each person in his calling should do the work committed to him and practice the work of love. A servant, for example, who works and neither sees nor thinks any farther than this: My master gives me my wages and that’s why I serve him; otherwise I have no regard for him. He does not have a pure heart or intention, for he works only to obtain a bit of bread. When this ceases his service also ceases. But if he were good and a Christian, this is what he would say: I’m not going to work because my master pays me or does not pay me, or because he is good or bad; but rather because the Word of God is there and it tells me: Servants, be obedient to your masters, as to Christ [Eph. 6:5]. Then it issues of itself from the heart, which has laid hold on the Word and esteems it, and he says: All right, I will serve my master and take my wages, but the chief reason why I do so will be that in this way I shall be serving my dear God and Lord Christ, who has commanded me to do this and I know that this is well pleasing to him. There you see a true work performed out of a pure heart.[2]

What this means my friends is that Christians and non-Christians work side by side and often times in the same job, doing the same exact thing.  But for you and me, we work in the context of faith. We can know that the ordinary jobs of life, the mundane tasks of the job are charged with meaning. We know that our vocations do not save us nor do they contribute at all to our salvation, but our vocations are works that we get to walk in. We live in the shadow of Jesus’ cross which means that our jobs are avenues for us that we work in, thus avenues that we are doing good works for our neighbor. 

Practically, what this means is that we need not be ashamed at being called to a vocation where God blesses through very tangible ways. Waiting on tables, digging foundations, hauling away garbage and so forth are wonderful jobs that God has prepared in advance for people to walk in, so that God might serve his creation.   Furthermore, we also know that God is working through less labor intensive jobs such as desk jobs to bless his creation.

Practically speaking, when your alarm goes off in the morning you are not simply performing a job for a paycheck, rather you are walking in a divine calling, doing good works that have been prepared in advance for you to walk in.  When you go to your jobs, God has given meaning to your jobs, that you are not merely performing the job for a paycheck but are doing the job in the shadow of the Cross, knowing that God is blessing others through your calling. 

God is at work my friends in your jobs, blessing and serving your neighbor.  On Monday, as you go to work, take comfort that you are not only in God’s will, but God is working through you to serve this community, country and world.  What a divine and awesome vocation you have been given! 

[1] Luther, M. (1999). Luther's Works, vol. 9: Lectures on Deuteronomy (J. J. Pelikan, H. C. Oswald & H. T. Lehmann, Ed.) (Dt 6:13). Saint Louis: Concordia Publishing House.
[2] Luther, M.Vol. 51: (270–271).

Additional Source: Gene Edward Veith, God At Work