Tuesday, 6 February 2018
Let as many bondservants as are under the yoke count their own masters worthy of all honor, so that the name of God and His doctrine may not be blasphemed. 1 Timothy 6:1
Among other things, Paul has been speaking about the requirements for, and duties and responsibilities of, ministers in the church. He has then talked about the treatment of those in the church such as the “older man,” “older women,” and “younger women.” He then turned to the treatment of, and expected conduct of, the widows. After that, he mentioned the honor expected to be granted to elders. He has methodically written about these many categories, but there is yet another category which existed openly in Roman society, which has existed in societies since then, and which – though highly frowned on by the world at large – is still on-going in parts of the world today. It is the issue of “bondservants,” or “slaves.”
As there is not such a category in most of the world today, one could then say, “Well, this no longer applies, and so I can overlook this portion of Scripture.” However, this would not be wise. We may not have bonded servants in the world today, but we have employees in companies, hired hands on ranches, and on and on. Though not a one-to-one comparison, the precepts should still be applied to those who are under “masters,” whether bonded servants, or “lowly” paid employees.
Paul says, “as many bondservants are under the yoke.” This means those who are obligated to masters. The word “yoke” shows that this is a difficult, and a disagreeable position in which the bondservant finds himself. A yoke is generally considered in this light, although it can simply be a symbol of authority without difficulty as well (see Matthew 11:30). The believing slave is specifically being addressed here, but let us in our minds also consider an employee in this capacity for the moral purposes which are laid out. Paul says that they are to “count their own masters worthy of all honor.”
In our minds, a slave is one who should attempt to get his freedom from his cruel master – the one who has no right to rule over another in such an undignified way. Such a slave should be able to rebel, speak against, and vilify his owner. But Paul says otherwise. Instead of such a negative state towards his owner, he is to actually do the opposite, counting him worthy of all honor.
And in a comparable sense, today it is fashionable to rage against the employers. How unfair they are! They make more than the peon workers and are to be rebelled against, spoken against, and vilified, but Paul would argue against this as well. He would tell the employee that he owes special honor to his employer. The word “count” gives the sense of making a sure, conscious judgment concerning the matter; it is to be the leading thought in what is being considered. And there is a reason for this. It is “so that the name of God and His doctrine may not be blasphemed.”
A believer is to be honoring of the master (or the employer) because he bears the name of Christ. In acting in a disobedient and disrespectful manner, it is Christ who will then be reviled by the owner (or employer). Anyone who can’t see this, doesn’t understand the nature of humanity who inevitably looks to the highest authority of a particular matter as the one who is ultimately responsible for unappreciated conduct. For example, when a nation has an argument with another nation, it is the leader who is reviled, thus he stands representative of all below him who are implicitly reviled at the same time.
And so it is to be understood that when a slave (employee) who is a believer acts in a manner which is unsuited to his position below the master (employer), it is the Lord, and the teaching of the Lord, who will receive the blame. “Oh that ‘Christian’ is such a bad slave (employee). That Jesus whom he follows is not good, and His teachings are contemptible!” This is what Paul means with his words. This should never be the case. Instead, the master (employer) should say, “Graham is such a marvelous soul. I have never had such a faithful person under my charge, and it is truly a wonderful reflection on his faith, and on Jesus. I need to find out more about this wonderful religion he believes in.”
Life application: Our actions as believers reflect directly on the Lord we serve. Let us attempt to remember this at all times, and to act in a manner which will bring Him, and His glorious gospel, much acclaim.
Lord God, help us as believers to remember that You are who we represent. Our actions will always be judged in relation to You. When we act like fools, then Christianity, and our Lord who leads the faith, will be reviled. When we act as faithful followers of Christ, then people may still hate You and our faith, but they will not be able to bring discredit upon You in the process. Grant us wisdom to remember this always. Amen.