Masters, do the same to them, and stop your threatening, knowing that he who is both their Master and yours is in heaven, and that there is no partiality with him. (Ephesians 6:9).
Paul shifts his exhortations for the workplace from the slaves to the masters, from the working class to management. “Do the same to them,” he says. He had just written to the slaves to respectfully obey their masters, as to the Lord. Masters are to do the same. But how can a master obey their servants? How does a leader obey the laborers?
Paul does not envision upsetting of the workplace structure, but the workplace attitudes. He does not see the slaves demanding the submission of the masters, or, in our setting, the workers requiring the submission of management. However, Paul envisioned care and concern flowing from those in leadership positions. He saw care so strong it becomes a way for leaders to become servants, helping those they manage.
The Christian leader is to, continually, seek the welfare of those they lead. They open their mouths to praise those who work under them, for no one has ever been praised enough for their work. They affirm their workers, knowing affirmation helps staff stay on their mission more effectively. They train their workers, knowing a growing team is a happy team. They are direct with their workers, knowing innuendo and manipulation are not effective means to confront problems. They are clear with their workers, knowing muddled directions and foggy orders are a recipe for organizational disappointment and mission creep. They are impartial with their workers, knowing how the sin of partiality has no proper place in the body of Christ and is unhelpful in the work arena as well. Finally, they pay their workers, knowing each worker is there to eat of the produce of their hands.
Paul tells each master to lead without with a specific attitude: threatening. If the time for disciplinary measures comes, the good Christian leader knows how to get on with it, but during the regular course of work life, they do not resort to empty threats. Rather than create an environment of fear, they create a culture of joy and grace and safety, like the one Christ has provided for them.
However, they are also to lead with a specific piece of knowledge in their minds: that Jesus shows no partiality. “He who is both their Master and yours is in heaven, and there is no partiality with Him,” Paul writes. He means Christ is unimpressed with all our human titles. God will not be partial to an owner-operator over an ordinary employee. He loves us all and longs we treat one another with equality and respect.
In Paul's day, the concepts he promulgated for Christian slaves and masters were revolutionary. The harmony of Christian workplaces would've stood out for their beauty and loveliness in the midst of a brutal world with harsh working conditions. But his exhortations are not lost to history, past times and places; they are applicable today. When Christian workers and employers collaborate together for the character of Christ to influence their modern workplace, something new and beautiful is again seen and celebrated. All this puts the mission back into our work, and for that, we rejoice.