Slaves, obey your earthly masters with respect and fear, and with sincerity of heart, just as you would obey Christ. Obey them not only to win their favor when their eye is on you, but as slaves of Christ, doing the will of God from your heart. Serve wholeheartedly, as if you were serving the Lord, not people…Eph. 6:5-7
Obeying as a slave of Jesus, not to earn favor but because I already have it, and doing the will of God from my heart – wholeheartedly! – as if I am serving the Lord and not people…this is practically unfathomable to me. I totally serve people and here is how I am certain of that: when I do not feel the pleasure of people, or the interest or delight or swelling cheers (ideally with a few wet eyes in such deep admiration and love), I become disheartened, disoriented and extremely dismayed. As much as I roll my eyes at large public displays of righteousness (works of charity done on stage or on television or blogs, for example, or done with loud condemnation of others who aren’t doing the same exact thing), I would not hesitate to run on stage to be applauded and revered if the opportunity was ever offered.
The bad news is that “their eye” (these masters to whom I am enslaved) is not always on me. If I make my choices to act and speak and live before the eyes of others for opinion polls, it is a tiresome, frustrating, inconsistent endeavor indeed. If my driving motivation is public honor or respect or even tangible, measurable and specific changes of behavior and attitude in the people around me, I will equally grow disheartened and discouraged. This is surely what has begun to happen to me.
Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven. Matt. 6:1
This verse, on first read, sounds kind of mean. In fact, it holds the truth of the person and work of Jesus and the abundant life He offers. My deep need to be validated, assured, joined, and so on by others in the particular ways God has called me indicate a greater trust in the “rightness” of my life as determined by others than the righteousness declared based upon Jesus. In other words, it isn’t that my desire for public righteousness forfeits my Father’s reward but rather indicates I have not really accepted it to begin with. In more other words, if He (and His approval, declaration of righteousness, love and intimacy) is in fact “more than enough” like I often sing, what need have I of any other approval, declaration of right-ness, communication of love and admiration, etc.? Apart from Jesus, my behavior works for reward. In Jesus, His reward compels my behavior. When I am struggling, striving and searching for a reward, it is pretty obvious that my faith has once again developed amnesia.
Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. Matt. 6:19-21
My children won the lottery in terms of Christmas gifts this year. As I may have mentioned, it felt almost ridiculous to me. But you might not be surprised to learn that even in the days following Christmas, there were things they saw when we were out and about that they would BEG me to buy for them. REALLY!? I responded in agitation and very little compassion. Yet I am no different. I have been given Ephesians 1 yet I mope about not having plastic trinkets from Richard’s Variety Store. I have been numbered among the saints (biblically all of the redeemed, not those who are now statues in Europe) and yet I whine about not being numbered among that local small group or this particular club.
I remember in Young Life singing, “Lord, you are more precious than silver. Lord, you are more costly than gold. Lord you are more beautiful than diamonds and nothing I desire compares with you.” What if in 2012, by the grace of His work in me, that could begin to become a true sentiment of my heart? What if even in this coming calendar year I could begin to sing that song with integrity? What if even in this reflection, He has begun the work to make it so? What Good News indeed.
For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name. I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen. Eph. 3:15-21