XII. Kingdom Kids and Heaven on the Ephesians Job (6:1-9)


XII. Kingdom Kids and Heaven on the Job (6:1-9)

6:1-3 The saga of a nation is the saga of its families magnified. Our culture is reaping the devastation of family disintegration. We need Paul’s timeless words for children and parents. Children play their own role in God’s kingdom agenda: they are to obey and honor their parents (6:1-2). In action and attitude, they are to submit to their parents’ legitimate authority because their obedience is in the Lord. In other words, children are to respond to parents out of their response to God because parents are to lead them in the ways of God. Doing so is right (6:1), Paul says, because it reflects God’s righteous character. Unless parents contradict God, children are to obey them.

Children must also “honor” their parents, showing respect and holding them in high regard. When adult children leave the home and are no longer dependent on their parents for provision and protection, they are not obligated to obey them. Nevertheless, no one outgrows the requirement to honor mother and father. This is the first commandment with a promise (6:2). If children want things to go well for them and want to have a long life (i.e., live out their fully ordained days) (6:3), it is absolutely critical that they respond properly to their parents. Thus, however many years they live, they will experience the life and blessings God has for them.

6:4 Then Paul turns to fathers. As the head, the leader of the family, a father has primary responsibility for raising his children. Of course, mothers are not excluded from responsibility; children are called to obey and honor both (6:1-2). But the father has ultimate responsibility. In ancient Roman households, men had great authority over their children. They could even decide whether their newborns were to live or die. But Paul would have no such misuse of authority. He says in effect, “This is what to do, Christian men. Bring up your children (i.e., raise them righteously).”

He tells fathers, Don’t stir up anger in your children. In other words, don’t correct your kids in such a way that they become embittered. Be an encourager, not a discourager. Praise them and make sure they know you are proud to be their dad. Furthermore, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord. To bring up children is to nurture and care for them. “The training and instruction” of which Paul speaks has to do with teaching and discipline. Thus, fathers who have been given the primary biblical role for childrearing (see Gen 18:19) should teach kids God’s divine guidelines on their own level and break it down in such a way that they can grasp it. We must give them age-appropriate discipline—not in anger, but in love. Discipline isn’t the same thing as venting. God disciplines us in love in order to correct our behavior (Heb 12:5-6). We owe our children the same.

6:5-9 Paul continues with commands for slaves and masters. When God created Adam, he gave him a job: to work and watch over the garden (Gen 2:15). Work, then, came before the fall. But when Adam sinned, work—like a lot of things—became corrupted. One corruption of work is slavery.

Most of what we know of slavery (especially American antebellum slavery) is condemned in the Bible: human beings were not to be kidnapped and sold (Exod 21:16); slaves were not to be abused (Exod 21:26-27); fugitive slaves were not to be returned to their masters (Deut 23:15-16).

In a Roman culture infused with an unrighteous institution of slavery, Paul writes to tell a church how to live with a heavenly perspective. We can apply Paul’s principles here to our own workplaces. God wants to be an integral part of your daily nine-to-five. For Christian employees and employers to access their heavenly blessings, they must bring a heavenly perspective to bear on the job.

To slaves, he says, obey your human masters . . . serve . . . as to the Lord (6:5, 7). Ultimately, each of us works for the Lord in all we do. So to serve Christ in your job, obey your employer as long as he doesn’t ask you to disobey Christ (work “as to the Lord,” 6:7). Furthermore, you must work respectfully (with fear and trembling, 6:5), sincerely (in the sincerity of your heart, 6:5), and with a good attitude (6:7). Don’t work only while being watched (6:6). Because whether or not the boss is around, God is always watching. And even if your boss doesn’t appreciate your efforts or is unfair, your work will never go unnoticed or be in vain. Whatever good each one does . . . he will receive this back from the Lord (6:8). You work for an unseen employer who sees all and will reward you.

Masters, treat your slaves the same way. Why? Because both their Master and yours is in heaven. So, even if you’re the boss, you’re under divine authority too. Employees may be under you in position, but they are equal to you in value. They bear the image of God, so honor their dignity. And treat all your employees with equity, consistently applying righteous standards to them. Don’t play favorites because there is no favoritism with [God] (6:9).