On the Job
Servants, be submissive to your masters with all fear, not only to the good and gentle, but also to the harsh. For this is commendable, if because of conscience toward God one endures grief, suffering wrongfully. For what credit is it if, when you are beaten for your faults, you take it patiently? But when you do good and suffer, if you take it patiently, this is commendable before God. For to this you were called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps: “Who committed no sin, Nor was deceit found in His mouth”; who, when He was reviled, did not revile in return; when He suffered, He did not threaten, but committed Himself to Him who judges righteously; who Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, having died to sins, might live for righteousness—by whose stripes you were healed. For you were like sheep going astray, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls. (1 Peter 2:18–25)
In Peter’s day, slavery was a common way of life. In this passage, Peter is not talking about the general notion of slaves; rather, the word he used here refers to household or domestic servants (Luke 16:1; Romans 14:4). Servants and slaves were common in the early church era and they originally made up a large percentage of the church. Often they received undeserved punishment at the hands of their masters. In today’s economy, this could be likened to employee/employer relations. Peter challenged Christian servants to live their lives in submission to their masters (bosses). This required not only their outward submission, but an inward respect even for those who treated them harshly. In this passage, Peter provides two reasons why these servants should patiently endure personal injustice. Patiently enduring oppression finds favor with God Peter provides us with a fundamental principle for life—especially in the work environment. The Christian exhibits a commendable motivation if he endures grief while suffering wrongfully because of his conscious awareness of God. Credit is not given to the believer, however, if the Christian suffers because of personal wrong-doing. Respectful submission to one’s master when suffering undeservedly—take it patiently—is commendable before God. Patiently enduring oppression follows Jesus Christ’s example Christ was the perfect example of enduring while undergoing unjust suffering. Peter says, “For this you were called…” Christians are called to follow in the footsteps of Jesus. Since Christ suffered on our behalf we should endure any suffering in the same manner in which He did. Peter quotes Isaiah 53:9, “And they made His grave with the wicked— But with the rich at His death, Because He had done no violence, Nor was any deceit in His mouth.” Jesus committed no sin before or even during His suffering (2 Corinthians 5:21; Hebrews 4:15; 1 John 3:5). He was completely innocent…Who committed no sin, Nor was deceit found in His mouth. He is to be our example. When He was reviled, He did not revile in turn. He did not retaliate…He made no threats. Instead, He suffered in silence and He committed Himself to God, the righteous judge. He bore our sins so that we could die to our sin and we could live a life of righteousness. Peter points out our past condition—we were like sheep going astray. This is an abstraction of Isaiah 53:5-6: But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; The chastisement for our peace was upon Him, And by His stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; We have turned, every one, to his own way; And the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all. Christ suffered so Christians could follow His example—both in suffering and in righteous living. By His stripes you were healed. Because of Christ’s sacrifice…His suffer…on our behalf, the way was made for us to be reconciled to God. We were once separated from God and as a result, we were enemies of God. However, we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life. And not only that, but also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received the reconciliation (Romans 5:10-11). The outcome of our submission We are now reconciled to God through our faith in the finished work of Jesus Christ. We have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of our souls. Peter has defined our commendable conduct as submission in the various realms in which we live—just prior to this passage, Peter called for submission to the authority of government; now he calls us to live in submission to the authority of a boss in the workplace. We don’t have legal slavery in our country anymore. Most of us work for someone else. We have a boss. It is our duty to patiently endure our boss especially when we are treated unfairly. Here are some practical ways we can demonstrate submissiveness in the workplace:
- Exhibit a teachable rather than defensive spirit when being corrected or instructed.
- Stop complaining about your boss or putting him down behind his back—stop others from doing so when they are exhibiting such behavior.
- Faithfully carry out your boss’s instructions even when you disagree with the validity of his thinking.
- Pray that God would prosper your boss—spiritually and financially (I have always thought it was necessary for the employee to ensure their boss’s success).
- Work diligently and faithfully all the time—not just when the boss is watching
- Demonstrate your respect for your boss in the tone of your voice, your body language, etc.
If you do these things, your will gain the appreciation of your boss, you will reduce the stress in your life, and most importantly, you will please God.