One wonders how many millions (actually more like billions) of dollars are spent annually on evangelistic campaigns. Yet Approximately 90 percent of all people surveyed as to how it was that they came to know Jesus Christ pointed to a personal witness, a friend, a relative, somebody whose life impacted their life. Less than ten percent of the people who come to Christ come because of something other than a personal witness. All the mass media, television, radio, all the mass evangelistic methods, all the crusades, all the musical concerts intended with evangelistic emphasis that move across this country, only make 10% of the annual converts to Christ.
Obviously our personal witness is vitally important in the cause of the Kingdom of Christ.
And this is why this chapter of Titus is so important. Remember, as we noted in the first week of the series, verse 10 informs us that when we choose to live a life of Godly values rather than worldly values, one of the spin-off effects is that “the teaching about God our Saviour” is “made attractive”. Conversely if we confess Christ with our mouths but live by worldly values we cause unbelievers to “malign the word of God” (v.5).
If 90% of world evangelization depends on the personal witness of Christians, we had better make sure that our personal lives as Christians reinforce our message. God is a saving God. And He saved us from sin to a life of holiness. The way you proclaim that is by living it. Godly character in the world is the greatest evangelistic strategy. We are, Paul says in Philippians 2:14-15, to shine as lights in the world in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation. And frankly, unless there is that kind of credibility and integrity in the life of believers, the world is not going to buy our mass marketed message.
And then today’s verses are so important because most children spend more waking time in school than anywhere else … and most people spend more time at work than anywhere else … and today’s message is addressed to “slaves”.
“Slaves” or “ho duloi” in Greek are literally “those bound to render service, whether voluntary or forced.” I think that applies to children at school, students at University … and it definitely applies to employees at work.
In society, at the time of Titus, virtually the entire working force were slaves. Masters did not really work. They may have directed affairs, but the slaves did all the real work. Slaves were not only the labourers, they were the teachers, cooks, house-keepers, even administrators, healthcare workers, etc. It was essentially the first-century equivalent of an employer-employee relationship. Yes, of course it was much more than that and much worse than that in some instances … and it developed into something absolutely horrendous as time went by. But our nearest modern-day equivalent is our commitment to an employer or boss of whatever kind – that’s why I say I think we can apply all of the values we’re going to talk about today to a child’s relationship to their teachers or a student to their lecturer, as well as an employee to their employer.
Here are the Godly values we are to live by particularly in those relationships, in order to reinforce our efforts to bring our employers, teachers and lecturers into the Kingdom of God.
1. Submission (v.9)
We saw this principle in our week on married people too – we are to place ourselves under in order to serve – because that is the way of Jesus. Submission is a commendable thing because Christ submitted, even when it caused difficulty for Him.
This is the first, and for some the most uncomfortable principle of being a Spirit-filled worker. God has created an ordered Universe and a natural order where some are in positions of leadership and others in positions of following, and where those in “followership” positions do not always like or agree with the decisions of those in leadership. So all around the world in different nations, cultures and people groups there is a universal problem: Employees grumble against their bosses … those in ministry grumble against those who are over them in the Lord … those working for themselves will grumble about the clients who make demands, etc. Children will grumble about their teachers.
Why is that? I guess it’s because we somehow want to be the master of our own destiny … we don’t want to be told what to do or how to do it … we want to be in control … and having to follow someone else robs us of that control of our own destiny. So this question of being a Spirit-filled worker can be a tricky situation.
The Lord’s instruction is, however, that if we want to be Spirit-filled, godly workers we are to “be subject to our masters” (Titus 2:9) … to “obey our earthly masters with respect and fear.” (Ephesians 6:5) The two original Greek words used in this command are “phobos” and “tromos”. “Phobos” means quite literally “fear” while “tromos” means “quaking with fear”. So a better translation would be the one presented by the NKJV: “obey your earthly masters with fear and trembling”. The NIV is a bit too polite.
But now we have a problem of interpretation, don’t we? The Bible clearly tells us that the fear of man is a snare. It also tells us that God has not given us a spirit of fear … but of power, love and a sound mind. So how can it then turn around and tell us to tremble with fear before our earthly masters? Answer: It doesn’t. It says obey your earthly masters with fear and trembling … not obey him out of fear and trembling.
Your boss may be a tyrant, an ogre, an unjust person, or even a total incompetent … but no Christian is commanded to be a spineless wimp toward the boss. We are commanded to be obedient to his instructions because we fear … not him … but because we fear the Lord! Remember the Word says that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. Christians are to fear no-one but God.
God has placed us where we are as a scholar under teachers … as teachers under a headmaster … as headmasters under a Governing Body. God has placed us where we are as workers under a manager … as managers under directors or a CEO … as CEO’s under a Board. God has placed us where we are as members of a Church under leaders … as leaders under pastors and ministers … as pastors and ministers under bishops, etc. We have prayed, “Give us this day our daily bread” and God has answered us and is using that person who is over us as part of the structure that is providing for us. And God has told us to allow those people who are over us to lead us … therefore … we obey those who are over us because we fear the Lord … not them.
Now I heard a great explanation of that concept of fearing the Lord … I think it’s correct. When we fear the Lord we are not living afraid of the God who loves us … but we are afraid of displeasing Him … we are afraid of losing the full measure of His presence … of losing His favour. In order to please God we live in submission to our earthly masters … we treat them with respect and honour because God has somehow deemed fit to allow us to be working under their leadership … and so we trust God’s judgment and we obey the person over us.
2. Excellence (v.9)
The verse says that we should try to please our “masters”; viz. our manager … our leader … our teacher, etc.
Ephesians 6:7 tells us to serve as though we were serving the Lord, not men. This explains that our attitude of excellence ought to be motivated by the belief that we are doing this job for Jesus and Jesus only.
If we ever find that we work more diligently when the boss is around than when he’s not … or if we slack off when no-one is watching … or if we choose not to go the extra mile unless someone is going to notice … then we are falling short of the attitude required of us. Ephesians 6:6 says clearly, “Do not only obey your master when his eyes are on you but, like slaves of Christ, doing the will of God from your heart.” The parallel passage in Colossians adds: “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not men.”
We are to do our work to the absolute best of our ability even if no-one else is going to notice because JESUS always notices. So we are not to have the attitude of the employees whose boss put a notice up on the notice-board: “In case of fire, flee with the same reckless abandon you do each day at quitting time.” Rather we are to have the attitude that sees all our work as being for the Lord.
About 300 years ago Sir Christopher Wren was the architect building St. Paul’s Cathedral. He took a walk among the workers one day (most of whom had no idea who he was). He asked a few men, “What are you doing?”
One replied, “Anyone can see I’m cutting stone.”
Another replied, “I’m earning five shillings a day.”
The third replied, “I am helping Sir Christopher Wren build a great cathedral to the glory of God.”
A very significant way we can bring honour to God, which we all too often overlook, is by working hard at everything we do. Martin Luther expressed this when he said: “The maid who sweeps her kitchen is doing the will of God just as much as the monk who prays – not because she may sing a hymn as she sweeps, but because God loves clean floors. The Christian shoemaker does his Christian duty not by putting little crosses on the shoes, but by making good shoes, because God loves good craftsmanship.”
As William Bennet said in his Book of Virtues: “There are no menial jobs, only menial attitudes.
Our attitude to our work must be to do our absolute best. Not like the employee of whom it was said: “This man is depriving some village somewhere of its idiot!” … or the one of whom it was reported: “She sets low personal standards and then consistently fails to meet them.”
3. Not talking back (v.9)
The Greek word, “antilegos”, actually means to talk against. So the gist of this instruction is that we are not to be verbally rebellious. We are not to speak rebelliously to our superior or about our superior to others.
Of course we are free to air our views boldly and with conviction in the proper forum at work. We are not to be quiet mice who never say what we think or venture our opinions. But the point here is that once the decision is made and the instruction is given we are not to be a people who “mutter” like the Israelites muttered against Moses in the desert. We are called to be committed to the decisions made and the task at hand. The Christian should be known for his or her verbal respect for authority. Remember this is so that the Gospel will be “adorned”.
The Christian is to be very clear that we are not called to give instructions to our superior or to master the task of what is called “upward delegation” – where we subtly or overtly take charge and make sure that the boss feels constant pressure to do things our way. We are not to mouth off, talk back, argue, rebel, oppose any requirement, but rather we are to honour our superiors with our speech.
4. Honesty (v.10)
The NIV translates the phrase, “not to steal from them.” The word is about “not pilfering” … you think that’s an old fashioned word, but I found an even older one for us to impress our friends with … when you go home tonight use this word in casual conversation to impress your friends and relations … “peculating”.
The Greek word means “to separate” and it’s a euphemism for sneaky stealing or stealthy thievery. It’s about “separating” things of value from the boss’s possession. So godly workers / students / scholars do not indulge in sneaky stealing.
That means no stealing homework … no subtle cheating on tests or assignments … no plagiarism.
It means no using my employer’s time and money for my own personal gain, my own personal errands or correspondence. A more relevant one to us perhaps is this – it means not using my employer’s or school’s data bundle for personal emails, facebook messages and tweets, or their time for slacking off to check personal messages, browse the web, etc.
Our honesty must be beyond question. We must not cheat or lie to cover our tracks. We must also not create false impressions of busy-ness or hard work … or work harder or better when we know someone is looking than we do when no-one’s around.
We do not lie to our employer, nor do we lie for our employer, because if we can lie for them we can also lie to them!!
Strictly speaking, the word means trustworthiness and reliability. As we can see from the connecting word “but” that introduces the phrase “to show that they can be fully trusted”, this is actually still about honesty. We are to live with such honesty at work that our employers, teachers, lecturers come to realise that we are absolutely trustworthy.