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Οἱ δοῦλοι, ὑπακούετε τοῖς κατὰ σάρκα κυρίοις μετὰ φόβου καὶ τρόμου ἐν ἁπλότητι τῆς καρδίας ὑμῶν ὡς τῷ Χριστῷ, μὴ κατ᾽ ὀφθαλμοδουλίαν ὡς ἀνθρωπάρεσκοι ἀλλ᾽ ὡς δοῦλοι Χριστοῦ ποιοῦντες τὸ θέλημα τοῦ θεοῦ ἐκ ψυχῆς, μετ᾽ εὐνοίας δουλεύοντες ὡς τῷ κυρίῳ καὶ οὐκ ἀνθρώποις, εἰδότες ὅτι ἕκαστος ἐάν τι ποιήσῃ ἀγαθόν, τοῦτο κομίσεται παρὰ κυρίου εἴτε δοῦλος εἴτε ἐλεύθερος. Slaves, obey according to the fleshly lords with fear and trembling in sincerity of your heart as to Christ, not with eye-service as people-pleasers but as servants of Christ doing the will of God from the soul, with a good attitude serving as a slave as to the Lord and not to men, knowing that each one if he might do what is good, this he will receive from the Lord whether a slave or a free man.
After having addressed husband and wife relationships, and parents and children relationships, Paul now turns to the relationship between masters and slaves. As before, the non-authoritative party is not addressed first. Paul instructs the slaves to obey the lords (masters) in accordance with the flesh, which is to say, “Slaves, obey your earthly masters . . .” He instructs slaves to obey with fear and trembling. This phrase highlights that the obedience is to be rendered with respect for the masters. Furthermore, slaves are to obey with sincerity of the heart. This word, ἁπλότητι, “sincerity,” literally means “singleness.” Slaves are to have a single purpose, not a dual intention with ulterior motives; they are to be sincere when they serve their masters, because such service is rendered as service to Christ. They are not to perform eye-service. Eye-service, ὀφθαλμοδουλίαν, marks insincere service or service rendered for the sake of making a good impression while the master is watching. Paul instructs the slaves not to render service in this manner. Those who perform eye-service are only people-pleasers. Paul says not to be a people-pleaser, but instead serve Christ and so please God. Slaves are to serve Christ, which is God’s will. By serving Christ, slaves are doing God’s will. But they are to do this will from the soul. This phrase, ἐκ ψυχῆς, “from the soul,” is a reference to one’s inner inclination. Not only are they to obey their masters with sincerity of their hearts, but they are also to serve Christ and do the will of the Lord being motivated from the inside. Christian slaves are to be motivated not by external factors, such as eye-service, but from internal conditions, such as a sincere heart seeking to serve, honor, and respect Christ. We can translate ἐκ ψυχῆς to be “wholeheartedly,” but remember that it really emphasizes the will of the inner center of a person. Not only should slaves obey with a sincere heart, and serve and do the will of God wholeheartedly, but they are also to serve with a good attitude. Still, their service is rendered as though it were to the Lord and not to men. Furthermore, slaves are to know that every one that does what is good will receive the same from the Lord whether a slave or a free person.
Note the use of the participles in this section. The first thought of the sentence is, “Obey your earthly masters with fear and trembling with a sincere heart.” Our first participle, ποιοῦντες, appearing close in proximity to δοῦλοι, is actually related to the main verb, ὑπακούετε. It is functioning as a participle of means (“. . . obey . . . as slaves of Christ by doing the will of God wholeheartedly . . .”). The second participle, δουλεύοντες, is likewise a participle of means (“. . . obey . . . as slaves of Christ . . . by serving with a good attitude . . .”). Obedience with fear and trembling and with a sincere heart is therefore defined as doing the will of God and serving with a good attitude. But why were they to obey? The third participle, εἰδότες, functions as a causal participle. It gives the cause or reason for the obedience (“. . . obey . . . because you know that . . .”). The slaves can obey their earthly masters because they know that the Master will reward them for the good that they do.
Slaves, obey your earthly masters with fear and trembling with sincerity from your heart as to Christ, not for the purpose of eye-service as people-pleasers but as slaves of Christ, by doing the will of God wholeheartedly, by serving as slaves with a good attitude as to the Lord and not to men, because you know that each one, if what he does is good, will receive the same from the Lord whether he is a slave or a free person.
Slavery in America is not very common, if it exists at all. Perhaps prostitutes could be called slaves. In reality, this portion of Ephesians does not have much of a direct application for Americans as did its exhortations for wives, husbands, children, and parents. However, many of us feel like slaves on the job. It is important that when we work for our employers that we obey them as though we are serving Christ. We can respect our employers and obey them with a sincere heart. We do not obey them so as to win favor with men, but so that we can please God. We should not go above and beyond our job description for the mere sake of pleasing our bosses, but instead, we ought to seek to honor Christ in the way we behave and conduct ourselves at work, so that even our job becomes a spiritual activity. We should work with a good attitude, not fulfilling our tasks begrudgingly as though we have to do them, but with a newfound motivation as though we were doing them for the Lord. The Lord has promised to repay us for the good that we do, and therefore we can obey our employers. Be diligent to obey the demands and requests of your jobs. Fill out the forms, file the worksheets, enter the data into the computer, sort products, create spreadsheets, cut the lawns, wash the cars, and flip the burgers as though it were your spiritual act of devotion to Christ. Whatever your task is on the job, do not forget that your labor is ultimately done for Christ, so do it sincerely, wholeheartedly, and with a good attitude, for the job you do while here on earth is not done for men but for the Lord.