Lesson 17—Honoring God in the Workplace
Scripture: 1 Peter 2:18-20
Lesson Goal: To grow in our understanding of God’s authority in the workplace.
By knowledgeable estimates, somewhere between 33% and 50% of the population of the Roman Empire were slaves. William Barclay estimates that there were over 60 million slaves during the time the New Testament was written. For this reason, the New Testament has much to say to slaves. Many times it uses the language and vocabulary familiar to slaves’ lives.
See 1 Corinthians 7:21-22, Colossians 3:22 and 4:1, 1Timothy 6:1-2, and the entire book of Philemon, which is written to a slave.
The first question one may ask is: Why did the writers of the New Testament not directly address the abolishment of slavery? It was with great wisdom that the writers wrote without attacking the practice of slavery, for that would have led to unimaginable bloodshed and possibly the loss of many lives. The writers were faithful to their writing assignments under the divine inspiration of God. The great Christian principles found their way from the pages of Scripture to the depths of human hearts. Men began to understand the principles set forth by Scripture regarding the equality of men in the sight of God. They began to understand the true and ultimate meaning of brotherhood.
(Verse 18) The Greek word oiketai, is taken from the root word meaning “house.” The word in this context means household servant and is only found in three other places in the NT (Luke 16:13, Acts 10:7, Romans 14:4). This is not the usual New Testament word for slave, doulos.
We must remember that although the percentage of slaves among the population was high, the percentage among Christians was even higher.
“be submissive,” be subject, realizing and recognizing authority because you honor God by doing this.
“with all fear,” respect
“not only to the good and gentle by also to the harsh” (verse 18b)—It is a wonderful blessing to work for a God-honoring boss who loves Jesus and is filled with the Spirit of God. But what if our boss is a godless boss? We are instructed that we are still to show him respect. By doing this, we glorify God and give a witness for Jesus Christ.
Christians (true believers) reveal the praise of God by actions and attitudes in the labor and working relationships of life. Peter instructs us that whether “good and gentle” or “harsh,” we are to demonstrate what is expected of one who is a follower of Jesus Christ. Through our attitudes, actions and reactions people are drawn to Jesus Christ.
➢ Have you ever been given the opportunity to witness for Christ or show the love of Christ to coworkers, a supervisor or boss? Explain.
➢ Have you ever responded in a less than godly manner to an employer or employee?
(Verses 19-20) In Peter’s time, as well as today, suffering unjust treatment may come as a result of doing what is right. Those who suffer faithfully but unjustly as a result of honoring God bring glory and praise to Him.
One great truth Peter wishes to convey is this: If we suffer, let us suffer because we do that which is right. Doing the right thing honors God!
“endures”—to bear up. This kind of response from the believer calls for a moment-by-moment ministry of the Holy Spirit in our hearts. This kind of behavior, attitude and spirit calls for the supernatural Holy Spirit touch of God. See Matthew 5:39.
(Verse 20) Peter draws a contrast between suffering when we deserve it and suffering when we do not deserve it.
➢ Have you ever truly suffered because you followed Jesus Christ? If so, explain in detail.
➢ Have you ever suffered as a result of your disobedience to God? If so, explain in detail.
Let’s look at a biblical example in the life of David. Read Psalm 6:6, 32:3-4; Psalm 41:8, 22:1, 32:3-8; Psalm 69:1-4. “These sufferings stemmed from a series of sins in his life” (Phillips).
➢ In your own words, write a few sentences summarizing David’s suffering.
Earlier in David’s life he had suffered in a different way. He had done well and right and suffered for it. He speaks of those times in Psalm chapter 3 through the thirty-fourth verse of chapter 5. There is a different tone and note to these verses. Saul became jealous of David. As a result of this jealousy, for several years David suffered as a fugitive hunted like a partridge on a hill (see 1 Samuel 26:20), with Saul and his hounds on his tracks. Yet, never once did David retaliate or speak evil of Saul. David suffered for doing good and right, but that suffering earned him the title “a man after God’s own heart” (1 Samuel 13:14 and Acts 13:22).
Questions for Life Focus
List some ways a believer can show Jesus Christ to an ungodly boss?
How can a believer find strength to deal with a boss who treats everyone harshly?
Give Scripture to support your answer.
What advice would you give a brother or sister who finds themselves mistreated at the hands of those in authority in the workplace? Explain and give Scripture to support your answer.
David had opportunity to retaliate against Saul, but did not. Have you ever taken retaliation into your own hands?