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Wednesday, May 04, 2011

Glorifying God at Work

Urge bondslaves to be subject to their own masters in everything, to be well-pleasing, not argumentative, not pilfering, but showing all good faith so that they will adorn the doctrine of God our Savior in every respect (Titus 2:9-10).
Bondslaves. Nowadays that's you and I, your everyday worker, "workin' for the man." So Paul tells Titus to urge working people to "be subject to their masters", to be "well-pleasing", to avoid argumentation and theft, to show good faith. The reason Paul offers, however, is interesting and, in fact the point I am aiming at. If God's working people will do these things on the job, "they will adorn the doctrine of God." Adorn the doctrine of God? What does that mean?

The question here, in fact, is the question I've heard so many times. "I know, I know, I'm supposed to do everything to the glory of God. So how exactly do I do that at work?" Paul has offered practical things here, but it is the motivation, the intent behind it that is so very interesting. We are to act in such a way that we adorn the doctrine of God.

To adorn something is to decorate or beautify something. You might, for instance, have a nice house that you adorn with flowers. A woman would adorn herself with jewelry or a nice hairdo. To adorn is to "make more pleasing or attractive." That is, the thing which is being adorned is already beautiful, already pleasing, already attractive. In fact, The thing being adorned is the main thing. All you do when you adorn it is to dress it up, to draw positive attention to it, to make it catch their attention and draw them to it.

And so we are told that by working well for our employers, by not arguing, by being well-pleasing, by not stealing, by showing good faith, we will make the Gospel more attractive to others. This presupposes, of course, that people at work know that you're a Christian. But assuming that, according to Paul we have the ability and obligation to work in such a way that people will say, "That guy ... he's a Christian ... do you suppose that he works like that because of his Christianity?" We are to be the hardest workers, the cheerful ones when things are unpleasant, the odd ones who don't take pens or printer paper, the ones who aren't goofing off between breaks. And when we work with that attitude, we are going to draw attention not to us, but to "the doctrine of God" -- the Gospel. That is how we glorify God with our work.

23 comments:

von said...

Bondslaves. Nowadays that's you and I, your everyday worker, "workin' for the man."

Well, no, it isn't. While I am all in favor of glorifying God in everything we do, there is no Biblical evidence that we ordinary wage earners fall under the category of 'bondslaves' who must 'be subject to their own masters in everything".

You will recall that Biblical slaves could even be given a wife by their masters.

Other than that good post.

Stan said...

The rational conclusion from your objection would be "There are no 'bondslaves' anymore, so this text is not applicable to ... anyone anymore." I'm sure you don't think that, just as I'm pretty sure you don't think I was actually equating "bondslaves" with "employees". My point was not "we're slaves", but "we need to be serving as they did."

von said...

"There are no 'bondslaves' anymore

But there are. We are. To Christ. It is to Him that we obey obedience 'in everything'. (and it must be said elsewhere in the world there are still slaves. Indeed we have them in the US, we just don't call them that: and is a very unBiblical form of slavery.)

There are plenty of passages that teach us how to behave to our employers; I don't think we need to steal one that applies specificaly to slaves.

Stan said...

Would you say that my exhortation to workers in the way they should behave toward their employers (in the way that bondslaves were to behave toward their masters) was in error? (If not, it seems like the whole objection is moot.)

von said...

As you know I like to be very clear in my Scriptural exegesis. Some of this passage applies generally: being well-pleaseing, not argumentative, etc.

But the passage begins with an injunction that is found only for certain Scriptural relationships. the phrase 'obey in everything' is only seen as applying to our relationship to God/Christ, the child's relationship to their parents, a wife's relationship to her husband, and, as here, a slave's relationship to his master.

As I see it these relationships are those which God sees as reflecting, the most accurately, some aspect of our relationship with Him. He is our husband, our Father, and our master. He is not our 'employer'. We do not have a light and transient, merely economic relationship with Him.

Stan said...

Seems like -- as I suppose you initially indicated -- that it's a pretty slim objection. Not that anything I said we should be doing was in error, but that I failed to fully develop and fully explain all the details and ramifications. But I wonder, while I'm quite sure that we, as bondslaves of Christ, are to be obedient in everything, is there actually a human relationship in which that is true? If a father orders his daughter into prostitution, is she obligated morally to obey? Is a wife mandated to commit adultery if her husband commands? If a bondslave was ordered to commit murder, was he obligated to do so? I'm not entirely sure, but I think your position is "Yes" to all of these. How that can be, I cannot fathom.

von said...

I said that Paul, in Scripture, inerrantly and sufficiently speaks of several relationships where the subordinate is to obey their superior 'in everything'.

It would be an interesting post, and an interesting discussion, exactly what God means by 'in everything' for these relationships.

But my point is that 'employer' is not one of those relationships; while 'slave' (the focus of these verses) is.

That's my point.

Stan said...

And my point was not that employees must obey employers in everything.

So ... I'll look forward to the explanation and discussion on your blog offering a biblical rationale that would support children-to-parents, wives-to-husbands, and slaves-to-masters being obedient in everything including the commands to sin.

von said...

How funny you are.

What I said was, and what I stand by, is:
I said that Paul, in Scripture, inerrantly and sufficiently speaks of several relationships where the subordinate is to obey their superior 'in everything'.

It would be an interesting post, and an interesting discussion, exactly what God means by 'in everything' for these relationships.


And I said:

Bondslaves. Nowadays that's you and I, your everyday worker, "workin' for the man."

Well, no, it isn't.


Thus a) We aren't the modern equivelant of bondslaves in our relationships 'at work', we are employees (which they had, and Scripture speaks to) and b) God speaks of us obeying certain authorities 'in everything' and it would be an interesting discussion as to what He, God, means by that.

I don't need a 'Biblical rationale'... we have the Biblical text.

Eph 5:24 Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in every thing.

Col 3:22 Servants, obey in all things your masters according to the flesh; not with eyeservice, as menpleasers; but in singleness of heart, fearing God:

Col 3:20 Children, obey your parents in all things: for this is well pleasing unto the Lord.

von said...

And it's not quite what you are looking for, but this post might be a good start:

http://vonstakes.blogspot.com/2006/10/reply-to-richon-human-authority.html

Stan said...

Clear enough. Thanks. So from your understanding of obedience "in everything", daughters ordered by their fathers into prostitution would be violating God's command if they refused, wives commanded by their husbands to commit adultery would be sinning if they did not, and slaves who failed to commit murder at the command of their masters would be falling short of God's commands. And, since you have it in clear, biblical terms, there is no further need for "biblical rationale". All clear. Thanks.

von said...

Stan,

You keep repeating your own words, and ignoring mine. I said, and say, nothing about prostitution. I haven't even attempted an exegesis of what 'in everything' means (here, anyway, I have discussed it elsewhere).

What I am saying is that there are several relationships in Scripture where God tells the person to obey their authority 'in everything'. Employer/Employee is not one of them.

von said...

And, quite frankly, I think you are reading 'in everything' backwards. I do not think it is focused on the thing but on the person: ie the person is not allowed to hold some area of their life that is private and personal and where they 'rule'. All areas of their life are under their authority... every 'thing'.

Obeying God rather than an authority is a form of obedience, not a form of disobedience. A ruler or authority who requires disobedience to God has cut off the branch they themselves are on.

Now, mind you, many people use this second issue to actually disobey in the first style. Scripture is full of very difficult and very problematic obedience; much less full of rewarded and praised disobedience. For every one Daniels there are a hundred Esther's... even in Daniels life.

Stan said...

Okay, well, as seems to be the case far too many times with far too many people, apparently we're talking past each other. You said that children, wives, and slaves must obey their specific authority "in everything". I asked about the commands to sin. You said, "I said that Paul, in Scripture, inerrantly and sufficiently speaks of several relationships where the subordinate is to obey their superior 'in everything'." I went along with that, then, and said, "I'll look forward to the explanation and discussion on your blog offering a biblical rationale that would support children-to-parents, wives-to-husbands, and slaves-to-masters being obedient in everything including the commands to sin." You berated me for it. "I don't need a 'Biblical rationale'... we have the Biblical text." Now you're telling me that I'm ignoring your words.

The question I asked was indeed about prostitution or adultery or murder. The question I asked was about the correct obligation of one under authority when the authority commands clear sin. Your statement was "in everything" and I was wondering what you meant by it. That was the question. Does "everything" include sin? (I've already agreed with you (comment at 9:37) that employees are not obligated to obey employers in everything.) Obviously I'm not clear at all what you mean by "in everything" when you tell me that "A ruler or authority who requires disobedience to God has cut off the branch they themselves are on" (which would seem to suggest that a father, husband, or master of slaves is not to be obeyed "in everything" if that "everything" includes direct disobedience to God). I'm not at all clear what you're saying ... which was the intent of the question.

von said...

So, just to clarify, the question isn't what I (Von) mean by 'in everything' but what Paul/God means by 'in everything'.

G3956
πᾶς
pas
pas
Including all the forms of declension; apparently a primary word; all, any, every, the whole: - all (manner of, means) alway (-s), any (one), X daily, + ever, every (one, way), as many as, + no (-thing), X throughly, whatsoever, whole, whosoever.


Calvin states:
But for what purpose does he employ a term of universality? I answer again, that it is to shew, that obedience must be rendered not merely to just commands, but also to such as are unreasonable. (460) For many make themselves compliant with the wishes of their parents only where the command is not grievous or inconvenient. But, on the other hand, this one thing ought to be considered by children — that whoever may be their parents, they have been allotted to them by the providence of God, who by his appointment makes children subject to their parents.
In all things, therefore, that they may not refuse anything, however difficult or disagreeable — in all things, that in things indifferent they may give deference to the station which their parents occupy — in all things, that they may not put themselves on a footing of equality with their parents, in the way of questioning and debating, or disputing, it being always understood that conscience is not to be infringed upon.


and Gill states:

in all things; not in things sinful, which are contrary to the law of God, and Gospel of Christ; in things repugnant to the duties of religion, the ordinances of the Gospel, and the doctrines of Christ, parents are to be neglected and disobeyed. God is to be regarded, and not men; but in all things good and lawful, and in all things that are of an indifferent nature, which may, or may not be done, in these things the will of earthly parents is to be attended to; of which there is a considerable instance in the Rechabites, see Jer_35:6 and even they are to be obeyed in things that are hard and difficult to be complied with, and which are disagreeable to flesh and blood, as the cases of Isaac and Jephthah's daughter show.

Stan said...

Okay, I've run into a collision between your "everything" and Gill's understanding that "everything" does not include sin. I get that "my convenience" and "it's not reasonable to me" and any sort of "I just don't want to" doesn't work. "Everything" covers those. But Gill plainly states what I believe -- that the command to obey in matters that are sinful is contrary to the law of God. But when Gill and I make an exception -- you don't obey when it is contrary to God's commands -- then you do so against the definition of the word you offered: "all, any, every, the whole: - all (manner of, means) alway (-s), any (one), X daily, + ever, every (one, way), as many as, + no (-thing), X throughly, whatsoever, whole, whosoever." That is, we are taking an exception to "everything" when we say that there is any condition under which someone need not obey. So is "everything" actually "almost entirely everything"?

von said...

Stan,

Where on Earth are you getting my (Von's) 'everything'? I have never posted what I believe. What I did post, above, was the strongs definition of the Greek word that Paul used.

Von

Stan said...

Right. And what I referred to as "your 'everything'" was that definition (which I essentially quoted). That definition doesn't seem to leave room for "except".

von said...

The definition I quotes was the strong's definition for the Greek word Paul used. It is used extremely frequently in the NT, including in a verse such as:
2Jn 1:9 WhosoeverG3956 transgresseth,G3845 andG2532 abidethG3306 notG3361 inG1722 theG3588 doctrineG1322 of Christ,G5547 hathG2192 notG3756 God.G2316 He that abidethG3306 inG1722 theG3588 doctrineG1322 of Christ,G5547 heG3778 hathG2192 bothG2532 theG3588 FatherG3962 andG2532 theG3588 Son.G5207

My own interepretation of this all would include at least two things:
1) That it is a refutation of the concept of 'liberty' found in the 'quivering daughters' post on betrothal (http://christianbetrothal.blogspot.com/search/label/qdaughters%20discussion)... the idea that there are whole areas of 'liberty' or 'privacy' or 'individualism' that God excludes from obedience. I believe that Paul is deliberately refuting that concept: stating that all areas of our life are under authority: God's authority and, under Him, the authorities he lays down.
2) The concept of jurisdictions. Each of these authorities has their 'jurisdiction'. We obey them in all things that are within their jurisdiction. Thus when the apostles were called before the council they came, and suffered punishment, but refused to 'obey men' when they left their jurisdiction and commanded against preaching Christ.

So, fundamentally, I see 'all things' as being a fundamental contradiction to 'keep some areas of your life to yourself'. It is not meant to concentrate so much on the all *things', but on the 'Slaves...all'.

The daughter who, respectfully, refuses to act the prostitute is not, hopefully, doing it because that is 'their own, personal, private, area of liberty'... but because their body belongs to their husband (to be). We would quickly discover this difference if the father assigned her a husband. The daughter who accepts 'all things' will gladly accept the husband. The daughter who is reserving liberty to herself will scornfully reject 'her father's choice'.

Stan said...

"So, fundamentally, I see 'all things' as being a fundamental contradiction to 'keep some areas of your life to yourself'."

No argument there at all. None. We don't get to keep some areas privately controlled. So, let's see if I understand you correctly. You are saying that God places certain people in authority over certain people (specifically husbands over wives, fathers over children, masters over slaves) who have the right to exercise that authority without the option of the one under that authority denying them their authority. The only exception would be when that authority would attempt to operate outside of the bounds of its rightful place. For instance, a husband is not authorized by God to tell his wife to commit adultery. At that point, he has stepped beyond the bounds of his legal (as in God-given) authority and walked into God's area of authority. As such, she would be obligated to the higher authority -- God.

Is that about right?

von said...

Except for your particular example, yes.

In the area you mention, the wife's sexuality, he would be violating his own jurisdiction: since according to I Cor 7:3-5 her body belongs to him, and him alone... not to any other husband. Some things, tho they are yours, cannot be given away (see the Jewish land laws).

A cleaner example would be a husband or father who asks his wife or son to steal. Stealing involves something (the goods concerned) that lay outside that man's jurisdiction.

Stan said...

Okay, but I got the general principle right, right?

von said...

I think we are tracking together as far as our understanding, yes.

The problem I have with the general way of putting it (unless they ask you to sin) is that something might well be a sin if you were to do it yourself, but not a sin if you are commanded to do it. Numbers 30 gives one example of that, and I would add the marriage of Esther, the marriage of Hosea, etc.