Editor’s note: The purpose of this series is to walk through the book of Titus and learn what the Lord would have to teach us through this great book.

titusheader2Titus 2:9-10, “Bondservants are to be submissive to their own masters in everything; they are to be well-pleasing, not argumentative, not pilfering, but showing all good faith, so that in everything they may adorn the doctrine of God our Savior.”

We all work for someone. If you are self-employed, your employers are your customers. Even the President of the United States works for someone, namely the people who elected that individual to the highest office in the land. Scripture is not silent on how employees are to relate to their employer. While there are jokes and memes galore that poke fun at the typical love/hate relationship that often exists in the workplace, while funny, these sources of comedy do not represent God’s plan for employees and how they should relate to their employer.

In Titus 2:9-10, the Apostle Paul provides us with some very clear guidance on how employees should treat their employer. Now some may skip over these two verses thinking Paul was only talking to first century slaves. This is somewhat understandable given the use of the word slave or bondservant as well as the term master. While the workplace and the duties we are often given can at times seem like slavery and we often use phrases such as “slave to the grind” in reference to the work week, Paul is providing guidance to more than just the slaves in his day.

As we take a look at this passage, it is first helpful to examine the word often translated as slave or bondservant. It is the Greek noun doulos which refers to one in a servile state. With that said, this term also can be defined in a broader sense as “one who gives himself up to another’s will; those whose service is used by Christ in extending and advancing his cause among men.” It is this second possible definition that is most applicable to us today. As employees, we have committed ourselves to the mission and vision of our employer. We follow the guidance and instructions given by our employer. Furthermore, if we take an even higher level perspective, as believers, we are to be about the mission of God – that of declaring the message of redemption through the shed blood of Jesus. Even in the seemingly mundane doldrums of the daily work grind, we can be about declaring the gospel.

As employees, we are called to be submissive. Now this is a very touchy term for many because it involves giving control. In the workplace, we are to be submissive to what Paul describes as our masters. We have already noted the broader idea of the term servant, so when it comes to what is meant by the word master, we also must take a broader perspective. The Greek word used is despotēs meaning “master or Lord”. A quick glance at this Greek word may give some cause to think of the word despot. Admittedly some employers can seem like a despot and in fact, in some cases this type of employer may be what Paul has in mind. After all, it is much easier to be submissive to a loving boss who treats his employers well than it is to be submissive to a boss who seems to be out to get us.

With that said, as believers, we serve God. He is Lord of Lord’s. It is His will to which we must be submissive. If we apply this to the workplace, we are to serve our employer in a manner that recognizes their status as “lord” even if we find them difficult to be around or their orders to be distasteful. Paul provides us with some specific aspects of what this submissive approach looks like in practice. He notes we are to be well-pleasing, not argumentative, not pilfering, and showing good faith.

Avoiding an argumentative attitude is rather self-explanatory yet very difficult for many, myself included. It is very easy to constantly question the decisions made by your employer and to talk behind their back. We are called to avoid such behavior and to instead be well-pleasing. Donald Guthrie notes “the word used here for please (euarestos) is an exclusively Pauline word, apart from Hebrews 13:21, in the New Testament, but is elsewhere always used of what is pleasing to God.”[1] This means that when applied to the workplace, we should be cognizant of the schizophrenic approach of saying we love God and want to please Him while at the same time not doing the same for our employers. If we say we love God and want to please Him but are at the same time doing everything we can to subvert the authority of our employers, then we have to ask ourselves if are we truly following the biblical command to love God and to love others.

We are also informed by Paul that we are to not pilfer. At first glance this may seem to strictly refer to stealing from your employer. Many will claim they do not steal money, take things from the office, however, think about how many of us steal from our employer by leaving work five minutes early while claiming a full work day on our timesheet? If we look at the term used by Paul in Titus 2:10, I think we can find a bit more is noted in the term pilfer than the taking of something physical from our employer. Paul uses the Greek verb nosphizō which has the meaning of “separate or divide”. Paul tell us we are to not be argumentative with our employer. What is the true purpose of being argumentative, back biting, or gossiping? It is intended to cause division. Thus, when Paul says we are to not pilfer, he has more in mind than leaving work early or taking something physical from our employer. The water cooler gossip about the boss also qualifies as pilfering.

Paul concludes his discussion on employee/employer relationships by noting the underlying reason why employees should be submissive, well-pleasing, not argumentative, and not pilfering. In doing or avoiding such things, ultimately we are showing all good faith because we are living out the gospel or as Paul so wonderfully puts it, we are adorning ourselves with theology. Given we spend most of our waking hours each week in the workplace, it is highly important we refrain from neglecting this important mission field.

Think about the multitude of people we come in contact with every day at our respective jobs. How we treat our fellow employees and furthermore, how we interact with our employers can go a long way in sharing the Word of God with those around us in the office. A kind word, working hard on a project without grumbling and complaining, treating supervisors with respect even when you may disagree with their methodology – these are actions that reveal the gospel to others. In Matthew 5:16, Jesus commands us to “let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.” Part of letting your light shine is how you behave in the workplace.

Mark Dever helpfully concludes our discussion:

“Most first-century slaves would have had non-Christian masters, just as most of us today have non-Christian employers. Have you ever thought about God caring for your employers? Have you ever considered God’s desire for his gospel to be attractive to them? And have you ever thought about God wanting to use you to reach them? The way you work may be one of the most powerful witnesses God uses to reach them.”[2]

References:
[1] Donald Guthrie, The Pastoral Epistles: An Introduction and Commentary (Grand Rapids: Wm B Eerdmands Publishing Company, 1990), 208.
[2] Mark Dever, The Message of the New Testament (Wheaton: Crossway Books, 2005), 389.