We are to view our work not simply as the means of providing for our needs, but as a part of God’s will for our lives.

Servants, be subject to your masters with all respect, not only to the good and gentle but also to the unjust. For this is a gracious thing, when, mindful of God, one endures sorrows while suffering unjustly. For what credit is it if, when you sin and are beaten for it, you endure? But if when you do good and suffer for, it you endure, this is a gracious thing in the sight of God. For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps

Endure suffering? You might be thinking something along the lines of, “You’ve got to be kidding. You don’t know my boss. He tries to squeeze every last bit of work out of us for as little pay as possible. And no matter how hard we work or how well we do, the only reward we get is criticism and more work.” That may be the case, but if you think your situation is so bad Peter’s admonition couldn’t possibly apply to you, realize that compared to some of his original readers, you are actually in a much better situation. Some of the believers to whom Peter was writing were slaves who were at the mercy of their owners because they had virtually no rights in society. Yet, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, Peter calls on these servants to do good even if they suffer for it.

It’s not that Peter is telling us to be doormats or masochists. Rather, his concern is to tell us how to respond rightly to unjust treatment. The fact of the matter is that because we live in a fallen world twisted by sin, it is inevitable that we will encounter injustice even in the best of circumstances. This is particularly true as believers called to do things God’s way in a world in revolt against God. This admonition is but the workplace application of the command to keep our conduct honorable among the Gentiles so that even if they malign us as evildoers, they may see our good deeds and glorify God when Christ returns.

The main idea he wants us to have is to be mindful of God. By this, he means that our willingness to endure suffering must come from our commitment to pleasing God. No matter what our situation, our goal in all that we do must be to glorify God. In Paul’s words, 

“Slaves, obey your earthly masters with fear and trembling, with a sincere heart, as you would Christ, not by way of eye-service, as people-pleasers, but as servants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart, rendering service with a good will as to the Lord and not to man, knowing that whatever good anyone does, this he will receive back from the Lord, whether he is a slave or free.”

We are to view our work not simply as the means of providing for our needs, but as a part of God’s will for our lives. Our jobs are one of the major ways by which God intends for us to serve him. That means that we must do our best in our work, not simply for the sake of getting promoted or keeping our job, but to please our God who placed us in that work environment. 

Notice also that our commitment to God must impact our attitude toward our bosses. Peter and Paul are both emphatic that we must show them respect. Now I know that we’ve all had bosses whom we had trouble respecting either because they lacked integrity, intelligence, or both. Nonetheless, we are to respect them for the Lord’s sake because God, in his gracious wisdom and providence, has put them over us in the same way that he put an emperor like Nero on the throne of Rome. We may not understand why he did this, but we demonstrate our faith in God and our commitment to him by respecting the person he put over us. 

This doesn’t mean that we are to obey our boss when he instructs us to do something that we know is wrong. Notice that we are to always do good, even if we suffer for it. In fact, if we are committed to doing good regardless of the situation, we will very likely suffer, sooner or later.  And when we bear this suffering for the sake of doing good, God is honored. This is not to say that God is some kind of sadist who takes perverse delight in our suffering. Notice that God is not pleased when you suffer for your own wrongdoing. It is not the suffering per se that pleases him. Rather, it is the commitment to doing what is right even in the face of opposition and pain that honors him. It demonstrates your love for God in that your devotion to obeying him outweighs your desire for personal comfort. 

Peter broadens the principle from doing good even if we suffer for it in the workplace to doing good and being willing to suffer for doing good in general by pointing out that our model and example, Jesus Christ, also suffered for doing good. In fact, Peter emphasizes to his fellow believers that Christ suffered specifically for them (and by extension, for those of us who have genuinely trusted in Jesus) so that they might follow his example of righteous suffering. It’s not so much an appeal to gratitude, as it is a call to recognize that suffering is a part of our calling from God. Notice that he says, “to this you have been called.” As Paul put it in Phil. 1:29, “For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ, you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake, engaged in the same conflict that you saw I had and now hear that I still have.” God’s call to salvation is a call to suffer for the sake of Christ. As the Lutheran theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer once said, “When Christ calls a man, he calls him to come and die.”

I know this is hard to swallow; we all would rather take the easy path, but our salvation must transform our loyalties and values and because the Christian life is lived out in the world, which is opposed to our King and his standards, it is inevitable that we will face opposition. 

This raises a question doesn’t it? If our commitment to Christ has not cost us anything, could it be that we’ve made so many compromises that the world considers us to be on its side? It doesn’t have to be the case, but it certainly behooves us to examine the way we live our lives. On the other hand, are you suffering for doing what is right and pleasing to Christ? Then take heart and stand fast that the tested genuineness of your faith may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.

Topics: Christian Living