“Masters, treat your slaves in the same way. Don’t threaten them; remember, you both have the same Master in heaven, and He has no favourites.”
Ephesians 6:9 NLT
In this verse we replace the words “Masters” with “Employers”, and “slaves” with “employees”. It then makes more sense in our society today. When we do this we receive a picture of the ideal workplace, of how it should be. Harmonious attitudes dictate an environment where, as far as possible, the business aims and goals of the owner are achieved. Thankfully today, our working environments are governed by laws and regulations, and the dangerous practices of previous years, with their long hours and disregard for worker health, are behind us. Though, having said that, my next door neighbour died prematurely through a cancerous lung condition called mesothelioma, probably gained when he was a carpenter working with asbestos. And the next village has a number of retired coal miners, their lives blighted by a variety of lung conditions. So we don’t have to return to Victorian days to see the effects of a poor working environment.
But life for the workers hasn’t always been bad. In the 18th and 19th Centuries there were several entrepreneurial philanthropists who employed people and tried to better their lot, in an otherwise savage society, in the process. Near where I live is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, called New Lanark. A textile mill established in the late 18th Century but now preserved so that visitors can get a glimpse of life in that period in history. But the outstanding feature is how the owners tried to provide work, food and education for people who otherwise would have been scratching a subsistence living. A fortunate work force well-treated, by the standards of their day, by their employers.
Sadly there were many examples of workers being badly treated in history. And not just workers – life in general in previous times was often brutal and difficult. Life expectancy low. Infant mortality rates high. We need to remember those historical days as a reminder of what life was like and how it has shaped our societies today. Not days to be erased or periods of history to be cancelled, as some try to do.
So employers are encouraged to treat their employees well because everyone, regardless of their status in life, has the same God, the same Father, in Heaven. And Paul reminds us that God has no favourites. Just because one person is wealthier than another doesn’t imply that God blesses that person more than the other. One day we will all have to give an account for our lives, to God.