Under the Yoke

1 Timothy 6:1-2

Call to “Help Stamp Out Slavery” one that resonates with Americans. After all, didn’t we fight two wars for sake of freedom from slavery? American Revolution, fought to deliver from slavery under King George III, oppressive practices sanctioned by Parliament. Annual celebration of that event coming right up! War Between the States, fought over issue of slavery as practiced in American South. Everybody deserves to be free, independent, just like we all are. If there’s slavery left anywhere – human trafficking, sex slavery, child slavery – of course we must wipe it out. Where do we sign up? That’s what the Bible says, right?

It’s important to recognize: more than one kind of slavery. Slavery to substances, government, desire, business owners, debt, religion, list goes on. Might think those are modern ills, unknown in Bible times. Not true – have been around since the Fall; all have roots in original slavery, slavery to sin. Keep finger here, turn to Rom. 6:16-22 (read). In zeal to eradicate evils of slavery, must not become so focused on man’s evil that we forget need for Gospel. Ultimate target must be sin’s slavery, other evils are important but that is of first importance. Second, in zeal for freedom and independence, must not neglect truth that Christian is slave to God, duty-bound to pursue righteousness leading to holiness and eternal life.

Regarding slavery as practiced in Bible times, broad difference of opinion on what actually looked like – was it the evil institution we picture? even worse? simply parallel to modern employer/employee relationship? Answer probably “yes”, in some measure to each, depending on time and place. Whatever the exact circumstances, was situation best described by example from Jesus’ ministry: Matt. 8:5-9(read). “I say to …my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.” Bible doesn’t forbid slavery but does regulate it – instructs both masters and servants how to behave toward one another.

If you are in situation where someone says to you “Do this,” and you do it, text has application to you. Will consider those under the yoke of unbelieving masters, of believing masters, and the best Master.

A. unbelieving masters v.1

masters of v.1 not identified as “unbelieving”; however, distinguished from “believing masters” v.2

differing spiritual condition didn’t justify slave running away, deserting unbelieving master

in fact, doesn’t warrant any slacking off either in attitude or action

in first century, especially in southern Europe, majority of slave-owners probably pagan Gentiles

not so much different from today: majority of employers, supervisors in workplace are unbelievers, you all know that from experience

distinctions that matter in the world carry no weight in the church – Gal 3:26-28

“There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”

if slave in the world met qualifications, could serve with no reservation as elder or deacon in church

could not allow recognition and service as leader in church spur attitude of resentment or superiority toward master

same true for employee/unbelieving employer; children/unbelieving parents; wife/unbelieving husband

what is required – treat them with honor

must remember: God in his providence ordained that master would be master, slave would be slave

to dishonor master calls God and his ordering of things into question

master deserves honor and respect because of his position and responsibility

true of employer/employee relationship – boss is the boss because God so ordered it, should be treated honorably

why – so God will not be dishonored

do your work in such a way that the Gospel is adorned by your labor

look beyond the end of the task, of the shift, of the career to eternity – will life in heaven be different because of how you’ve done your job here on earth?

have reputation for top quality workmanship, good attitude, regardless of what is expected

unbelieving employer/fellow employees see God’s power at work in you, are drawn to God by your example and witness

B. believing masters v.2

might think – boy, if only could trade in pagan boss/employer for a Christian; then would have it made

challenge you!! – why? Why do you think that way? Is that how Jesus would think about your boss? your job? your circumstances?

maybe already have a “believing master” – same challenge: do you think about him or her the way Jesus would?

what is forbidden – wrong attitude

challenge for Timothy and Ephesus church – maintain right relationships after conversion

becoming Christian raises the bar, doesn’t lower it – attitude toward master and performance must be pleasing to Christ

don’t treat boss like equal in workplace just because he’s a brother, presume you have inside track, advantages other slaves don’t have

don’t take advantage of boss, expect him to cut you slack – overlook poor work, sketchy attendance, long lunch breaks – because he’s a brother

to do so shows you think of your brother less highly than you ought

what is required – loving generous service

whether master/slave or employer/employee, one serving often acts out of sense of duty

have duty to do right thing; to earn paycheck so it isn’t welfare/charity; honor terms of contract; carry out assignment to satisfy parent or teacher

duty not dirty word – concept found in Scripture, in fact plays into story of Ruth and Boaz, duty of a kinsman-redeemer (Ruth 3:13)

but,… Christian laboring under direction of another Christian should serve even better

more generous with time and energy and attention and diligence

spontaneously going above and beyond the minimum, even the average or acceptable

why – he’s your brother (he ain’t heavy)

Christian serving a brother or sister is motivated by both duty and love

look beyond the immediate – the personal relationship and work being done; consider ultimate goal

two believers should both be laboring to build Christ’s kingdom, investing in heaven remember Jesus’ investment advice:

Matt. 6:19-20“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal.”

even song from 60’s got it pretty right:

So on we go / His welfare is of my concern / No burden is he to bear / We’ll get there / For I know / He would not encumber me / He ain’t heavy, he’s my brother

C. the best MasterMatt. 11:28-30

perhaps you’re wishing you’d stayed at home this morning – if that’s what I’m supposed to think, the way I’m supposed to act in workplace, in classroom, in setting where someone says to you “Do this,” and you do it, I’m done for, don’t stand a chance

you’re right: fulfilling instructions in v.1-2 impossible, whether for unbelieving or believing master ….unless…

every moment lived in dependence on and service to the best Master, Lord Jesus

HE understands what it means to be servant – Servant of Isaiah’s prophecies, servant who washed disciples feet – “did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many” (Matt. 20:28)

our Lord Jesus both model Servant and ideal Master – both gracious in his expectations and lavish in his supply

often go to supply closet, what you need most is missing – someone took the last one, new ones haven’t arrived yet

never happen when going to Christ for supply

Eph. 3:16-19that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man, that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height; to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.”

the invitation – all who labor and are heavy laden

are you loaded down with burdens – health concerns; uncertainty at work; loved ones who need the Savior; sinful habits you just can’t break; family / friends who persist in doing it all wrong; financial troubles; fear; depression

invitation is for you – come to Lord Jesus – not go here, there, come

take his yoke – let Jesus bear your burden, you bear his yoke, get in step with Christ

the one inviting – gentle and lowly in heart

not a harsh but gentle master, one who is sympathetic to our limitations, our infirmities

the terms – an easy yoke, a light burden

Lord Jesus takes lion’s share of the load, sets manageable pace, follows right road – our job to keep in step

so long as we don’t fight yoke it’s pleasant and manageable, the load isn’t heavy or burdensome

the promised blessing – rest for your souls

rest for bodies is pretty easy to come by – nap in the recliner, seat in the shade, good sleep in bed

rest for souls, that’s another story – only found in saving relationship with Christ himself

“Oh, for grace to be always coming to Jesus, and to be constantly inviting others to do the same! Always free, yet always bearing his yoke; always having the rest once given, yet always finding more: this is the experience of those who come to Jesus always, and for everything. Blessed heritage; and it is ours if we are really his!” Charles Spurgeon

Come to Christ, the Lamb of God, just as you are; find all you need in him without reserve or limit. Find the rest for your soul only he can supply, that he graciously and lavishly pours out on his brothers and sisters.

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