To Employers & Employees

Midweek Lent 6 – Ephesians 6:6-9

Go into a restaurant, or retail store, or any other place of business, and you will soon feel it.  It can sometimes hit you as soon as you walk in the door; but if not, definitely by the time you have any kind of human interaction.  Some would chalk it up to the person having a different sort of day; others would say you came at just the right time; but when it happens not just once, but every time you enter, you know it is more than a one off chance encounter; you know it is the complete and total vibe of the work place.

You can tell who hates their job so much that they do not spend a second longer there then they have to; and you can tell who loves their job so much that they would even be willing to work for free if need be.

What causes such a disparity in the attitude of employees?  Why do some love their job and some hate it?  Where is the breakdown in the system that causes such a situation?

It starts at the top.  Good employees are a reflection of a good employer, and bad employees are a reflection of a bad employer.

Employers who treat their employees fairly and personally, employers who do not just pay their employees, but go out of their way to make sure that the pay is commensurate with the work being done, employers who respect the needs of family time and work time, these are employers who will find that their employees are going to love their jobs, as opposed to loathing them.

By contrast, employers who treat their employees unfairly and disrespectfully; employers who barely pay their employees a decent wage; employers who demand more and more work, and do not respect any personal time at all; these are the employers who will find their employees watching the clock, praying that time would skip over several hours, to get them to freedom.

The same is true with employees.  Employees who work hard and strive to be honest in their dealings, will be looked upon with favor.  Those employees who are lazy and who steal will be looked upon with disdain by their employers.

It sounds like common sense; it sounds like the most basic of business management instructions.  It sounds like the first lesson to be taught in employee and employer etiquette.  And yet, it is in fact Biblical.

It seems so unusual that we should turn to Scripture for the basics of business management and labor unions.  In a world where we have separated everything in our lives out into compartments, why should our faith interfere with our work?

And yet, your baptism does not stop calling you to live a holy life just because you have moved up the corporate ladder; nor does your baptism not apply anymore because you are at the bottom of the flow chart in a company.

Your baptism calls on you, as a business owner or manager to care for your employees, to make sure they are provided for, to ensure that they are not abused or in distress; for they are in fact your brothers and sisters in Christ, and you find yourself on equal footing before your Father who is in heaven.

Your baptism calls on you, as a worker or hired hand, whether full time or part time, to work hard for those over you, to care for them, to strive to improve their standing in life; for they are in fact your brothers and sisters in Christ, and you find yourself on equal footing before your Father who is in heaven.

Does Scripture mandate a 40 hour work week, or a $10 minimum wage?  Does Scripture speak to stocks and bonds and shareholders?  Does Scripture even speak to flow charts and tenure and unions?  Does Scripture say anything about holidays off or how long of a lunch break one should receive?

No; Scripture speaks to none of these things.

And yet, at the same time, Scripture speaks to all of these things: Scripture directs employers not to steal from their employees in terms of time or in terms of wages or even in terms of life.  Employees are likewise instructed not to steal from their employers in terms of time or money or property.

Both employer and employee find themselves held accountable not by each other, but by the one who suffered and died for each.  Christ Jesus stands over both, and rules and governs according to His will; and He stands over both and announces the absolution to both for when they fail to fulfill their vocations in accordance with their baptism.

We like to think that there is an area of life where we can turn off our baptism; where we can set it aside and not be concerned with it for a few hours; and yet, even in the work place, even where one sits in a plush office and another stands on the factory floor, there is no escaping one’s baptism and call to live as a holy child of God.

Philemon discovers this himself upon receiving a letter from St. Paul.  His servant Onesimus had sinned grievously and subsequently run away, upon which he met Paul, heard the Gospel and was baptized.

Paul writes that the relationship between Philemon and Onesimus has changed, no longer are they just master and servant, but they are now brothers in Christ.

Does that entitle Onesimus to special treatment?  No.  Does it make Philemon a better person?  Not necessarily.  But it means that they stand before the same throne of grace and receive gifts of mercy from their Father in heaven.

Are you the boss?  Are you the worker?  In the eyes of the world you are as different as night and day; but in the eyes of your Father in heaven, you are both ones for whom Christ Jesus died for.

Your baptism does not stop at the door; live your life in the board room and the break room, in the office and in the fields, in the private jet and in the car pool lane as one who is baptized into Christ.

About revschmidt

An LCMS Pastor in North-Central Kansas
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