This Sunday, I had the privilege of attending our church, Good News, where our Senior pastor, Vasile Filat preached an amazing sermon about being a leader according to God’s will from the book of Ephesians. I was blessed by this sermon and wanted to share it with you.
We are all leaders in some way or another, even if we do not own a business or run an organization. Even among children, when they play games, we find leaders. Within the family there are leaders; the father leads the family, the mother leads the children, and even among the children, usually by birth order, the children lead each other. As disciples of Jesus Christ, we are all called to make disciples, which makes us all either leaders or future leaders.
The text that we studied was very short. In fact, it was just one verse, Ephesians 6:9.
And masters, treat your slaves the same way, without threatening them, because you know that both their Master and yours is in heaven, and there is no favoritism with Him.
I. God addresses the masters
We no longer live in a system where there are masters and slaves but we do live in a system where there are leaders and followers. We all have authority figures over us and we are or will be authority figures over others. God teaches us how to serve (in the previous verses) as followers and here, God teaches us how to lead the people who honor us. This message is for all of us. God teaches us how to be bosses at work, leaders in our homes, and leaders in the community.
II. Treat your followers in the same way
The question is, “in what way?”. The answer can be found in the previous verses. The conjunction “and” at the beginning of the verse connects this verse to the previous statement.
Slaves, obey your human masters with fear and trembling, in the sincerity of your heart, as to Christ. 6 Don’t work only while being watched, in order to please men, but as slaves of Christ, do Gods will from your heart. 7 Serve with a good attitude, as to the Lord and not to men, 8 knowing that whatever good each one does, slave or free, he will receive this back from the Lord. (Ephesians 6)
- Treat your employees with respect. Do not treat them as being inferior to you. This is important; especially when we understand that the masters during the time that this was written viewed their slaves as “talking animals”. The masters who were believers were to treat their servants with respect. As a boss, I must respect my workers and not abuse them. As a leader, I must respect my followers and not abuse them, or abuse my position over them.
- Be sincere with your followers and open your heart up to them. Many times, as leaders, we feel that our followers do not need to get to close to us because they may learn things that could be detrimental to our name. This is a bad way of thinking. As a leader, I am to open up my soul to my followers. Jesus did this with His disciples and He wants us to do the same. As a boss at work, if I am a follower of Christ, then I am to build good relationships with my workers, first to share the Gospel and also to know how to serve them. This may seem strange in our modern culture but that is why we do it for the Lord and not for people. This is our service to the Lord.
- Serve your followers. God calls His leaders to be servants. Servant leadership is not that popular these days. Most people want to be leaders so that they can be served while Jesus, on the other hand, came to serve and not be served. All of the great leaders of the Bible are servant-leaders. I have written on a few of them and you can read them here.
III. Biblical examples
3 Reaching out His hand He touched him, saying, I am willing; be made clean. Immediately his disease was healed. 4 Then Jesus told him, See that you don’t tell anyone; but go, show yourself to the priest, and offer the gift that Moses prescribed, as a testimony to them. 5 When He entered Capernaum, a centurion came to Him, pleading with Him, 6 Lord, my servant is lying at home paralyzed, in terrible agony! 7 I will come and heal him, He told him. 8 Lord, the centurion replied, I am not worthy to have You come under my roof. But only say the word, and my servant will be cured. 9 For I too am a man under authority, having soldiers under my command. I say to this one, Go! and he goes; and to another, Come! and he comes; and to my slave, Do this! and he does it. 10 Hearing this, Jesus was amazed and said to those following Him, I assure you: I have not found anyone in Israel with so great a faith! 11 I tell you that many will come from east and west, and recline at the table with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven. 12 But the sons of the kingdom will be thrown into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. 13 Then Jesus told the centurion, Go. As you have believed, let it be done for you. And his servant was cured that very moment. (Matthew 8)
Here is an example of a leader (a pagan leader) who loved and served his servants. His servant (talking animal) was on his death bed and this man left his daily activities to find Jesus. Jesus healed him on the spot because of the man’s faith. This centurion gives us a great example of God’s plan. He had authority figures over him and he himself had authority over others. He served his authority figures as well as served his servants. He cared about people. On the other hand, the servant probably treated his master like Ephesians 6 teaches the servants. They had a great relationship because they both lived the way that God desires.
1 Before the Passover Festival, Jesus knew that His hour had come to depart from this world to the Father. Having loved His own who were in the world, He loved them to the end. 2 Now by the time of supper, the Devil had already put it into the heart of Judas, Simon Iscariots son, to betray Him. 3 Jesus knew that the Father had given everything into His hands, that He had come from God, and that He was going back to God. 4 So He got up from supper, laid aside His robe, took a towel, and tied it around Himself. 5 Next, He poured water into a basin and began to wash His disciples feet and to dry them with the towel tied around Him. 6 He came to Simon Peter, who asked Him, Lord, are You going to wash my feet? 7 Jesus answered him, What I’m doing you don’t understand now, but afterward you will know. 8 You will never wash my feet — ever! Peter said. Jesus replied, If I don’t wash you, you have no part with Me. 9 Simon Peter said to Him, Lord, not only my feet, but also my hands and my head. 10 One who has bathed, Jesus told him, doesn’t need to wash anything except his feet, but he is completely clean. You are clean, but not all of you. 11 For He knew who would betray Him. This is why He said, You are not all clean. 12 When Jesus had washed their feet and put on His robe, He reclined again and said to them, Do you know what I have done for you? 13 You call Me Teacher and Lord. This is well said, for I am. 14 So if I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. 15 For I have given you an example that you also should do just as I have done for you. (John 13)
When the disciples entered the house, as a rule, before sitting down on the floor to eat, the one with the lowest position was to wash everyone’s feet. Each disciple thought to himself, “that is not my job, there are others lower than I am in rank”. With this mindset, no one took up the towel and water basin. When Jesus stood and disrobed, they all realized what was happening and were rebuked. Jesus goes to the leader, Peter, first. Peter resisted because he understood that he should have taken the towel and basin. After Jesus, the leader, washed their feet, He then told them to serve each other and others, if they are genuine leaders. It was a lesson that none of them ever forgot and it is a great lesson for all leaders today. We, as followers of Christ, are called to be servant leaders.
IV. Without threatening them
This is a problem, especially in the business world. People respond better to an encouraging rebuke than to threats yet many times, leaders are tempted to threaten to get results. If you are a spiritual leader, threatening to take a position or other forms of threats do not work. In fact, the Old Testament also speaks of this idea.
You are not to rule over them harshly but fear your God. (Leviticus 25:43)
Being harsh is not the answer when your employees do not perform. This does not mean that you do not confront and rebuke them but, it means that you do it in an encouraging way, not to destroy them. Also, a servant leader will not abuse his position in order to take advantage of his followers.
V. His motivation
The Lord is watching him in all situations and he will have to give an account to God for the way that he used his position of leadership. He knows that he may be able to get away with abusing his power and position here on this earth but, one day, he will stand before the Judge who is not partial. Will he be taken advantage of? Of course. Will that stop him from serving his workers? No. He will be blessed by his workers if he puts this into practice. Boaz was a leader/master like this and was well respected by his workers. He and his business prospered greatly.
What kind of leader are you? Are you a servant leader or a leader who wants to be served?