Employer -- Employee
by Homer Hailey
in The Preceptor, Vol. 1, No. 12, Oct. 1952.
In this, the Christian dispensation, God does not set forth one form of civil government as being above another. He does, however, lay down definite principles which are to govern the conduct of any kind of government and principles which are to govern the relation of government to people, and people to government under any prevailing system. The same can be said of slavery: The Bible does not condemn slavery in so many words, yet all honest and enlightened people recognize that the Bible has been instrumental in abolishing slavery from almost every point of the earth. The very spirit of Christ's teaching and the great principles which are to govern men in their relation one to another are contrary to the spirit of making one man the slave of another. The influence of this teaching has tended to abolish the practice. Likewise it can be affirmed that the Bible does not endorse the capitalistic economic system above any other, but it does lay down principles which should govern men under it or any other system.
As has been pointed out, the Christian is in the world but not of the world. While in the world it becomes his obligation to earn a livelihood. This he may do in one of several capacities: either as an employer of others in a business of his own, or as an employee working for another, or as an independent worker working for himself. There is no question but what America today is passing through a great industrial and social revolution. Bloodless, to be sure; but a revolution none the less. Before all and including all in some way, there is the question of the relation of an employer to his employee, and of the employee the the employer. The older pattern of so many working for themselves in a small business is fast passing away This has raised the problem introduced, that of employer-employee relationships, and vice versa. In this article it shall not be my purpose to discuss labor problems and labor disputes as such, but to investigate and present something of what the Bible says about the relation of the two: the employer to his employee and the employee to his employer.
First, let this point be made clear: What the New Testament says on the subject it says to Christians, to those who have confessed Jesus Christ as Lord, obeyed the gospel, and who are seeking to make His standard of conduct the standard of their own lives. Until an individual has submitted himself to Christ's guidance and oversight, Christ's laws given for His kingdom cannot claim authority over that one. I do affirm, however, that Christ's way is the only way out of the moral, social and spiritual chaos of today. When men, both employers and employees, will accept the Christ as Lord and King, bow the knee to His divine sovereignty, and submit to His government of life and righteousness, they will act differently toward one another. When Christ's laws are respected as the law of God Himself, then what the New Testament has said on the great issue now confronting the people will be respected by both, and as a result difficulties will be solved. Do the men of both groups today, employers and employees, claim to be Christians? Then let each demonstrate his claims by his respect for god's law in the matter at hand.
Let us begin with a statement made by Jesus, laying down a general principle which should govern men in all their relations with other men: "All things therefore whatsoever ye would that men should do unto you, even so do ye also unto them: for this is the law and the prophets" (Matthew 7:12).
This statement needs little if any explanation; what it needs is practice by all. It simply means that one should treat the other man, not as he treats you, but as you would have him treat you. Most of us know how we should like to have another treat us: that is the way we should treat him. Applied to the employer, it would mean that any employer is to put himself in the place of his employee, consider how he would like to be treated in that place, then treat the employee accordingly. Applied to the employee, it means that the employee is to put himself in the place of his employer, consider how he would want to be treated by those working for him, and treat him accordingly. The difficulty is not in understanding what Jesus taught, nor in recognizing the right of the teaching, but it is in bringing ourselves to do it. Is not this correct? One may say, "Yes, but the other fellow doesn't treat me right." Suppose he does not, does that lessen your obligation in the matter? None at all. As a Christian i am to follow Christ, doing the thing that is right regardless of how the other man acts. Remember, they did not treat Jesus right, but that did not change one iota the course of His conduct.
Employee -- Employer Relation
Next, we pass to what the Holy Spirit, through the apostles, has said in a specific way on this subject. Writing to the church at Ephesus Paul said: "Servants (which we would interpret today, 'employee'), be obedient unto them that according to the flesh are your masters (employers), with fear and trembling, in singleness of your heart, as unto Christ; not in the way of eye-service, as men-pleasers; but as servants of Christ; doing the will of God from the heart; with good will doing service, as unto the Lord, and not unto men; knowing that whatsoever good thing each one doeth, the same shall he receive again from the Lord, whether he be bond or free" (Ephesians 6:5-8). Remember, as has been stated, that what the apostles wrote in these epistles they were writing to Christians. If the reader is a Christian they apply to him. If not, but he expects to become one, they will then apply to him.
The point made by the apostle is this: on the ground of serving Christ the Christian is to do right in His service as an employee. He does right because he belongs to Christ and is working as unto Christ and not unto men. The apostle promises further that whatever good thing the Christian does, though it should not be recognized by his master or employer, will be recognized and rewarded by the Lord. Here is a test of faith to the Christian.
Further, the same apostle said: "Servants, obey in all things
them that are your masters (employers) according to the flesh;
not with eye-service, as men-pleasers, but in singleness of heart
fearing the Lord; whatsoever ye do, work heartily, as unto the
Lord, and not unto men; know that from the Lord ye shall receive the
recompense of the inheritance: ye serve the Lord
Christ" (Colossians 3:22-25). This principle makes the Christian's relation to
Christ the ground on which his conduct is determined.
His life is a Christ-centered life, with every act of his behavior
rising out of a consideration of that relationship. The Christian
works at his job as unto the Lord, striving to please the Lord,
not seeking the glory of men in that which he does, but the praise and favor of the Lord whom he serves.
And now a word from Peter on this point: "Servants (i.e. slaves, but today it would be those working for another), be in subjection to your masters with all fear; not only to the good and gentle, but also to the froward (i.e., the wilfully contrary). For this is acceptable, if for conscience toward God a man endureth griefs, suffering wrongfully. For what glory is it, if, when ye sin, and are buffeted for it, ye shall take it patiently? but if, when ye do well, and suffer for it, ye shall take it patiently, this is acceptable with God. For hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, that ye should follow His steps; Who did no sin, neither was guile found in His mouth: Who, when He was reviled, reviled not again; when He suffered, threatened not; but committed Himself to Him that judgeth righteously" (I Peter 2:18-23). Here the apostle sets forth Jesus as the example of suffering when wrongfully treated, appealing to those as slaves in the service of another to suffer wrong. Christ conquered as a result of His conduct; His own spirit and standard is the only thing by which present day conditions may be corrected. Today the Christian may resign from a position but he cannot retaliate when mistreated.
Someone may be ready to argue that such a way as herein set forth by Christ and the apostles is a way of weakness, the way of the sissy. Such is a mistaken view. This is the way of courage and conviction; conviction that certain principles are right and ultimately will win. The price of such a conviction may be humiliation and shame for the moment, but ultimately they prove victorious. History has demonstrated that the way of selfishness and self-will bring only sorrow, suffering and regret; but the way of humility, sacrifice and right-doing will bring an ultimate reward, rich in joy, peace and victory.
Employer -- Employee Relation
Thus far we have considered only one side of the study: that of the servant or employee who respects Christ as Lord and His Way as the right way. Let us now see what the Scriptures teach concerning the master, the employer. Paul writes, "And, ye masters (employers), do the same things unto them, and forbear threatening; knowing that He that is both their Master and yours is in heaven, and there is not respect of persons with Him" (Ephesians 6:9). Look at that again: "And, ye masters, do the same things unto them." Therefore what Paul said to the servant, the employee, in the preceding verses was now made to apply equally to the employer. They also, with good will, were to do service as unto the Lord. They, also, are to render to their employees as unto the Lord. Now note, the apostle declares: "There is not respect of persons with Him" (i.e., the Lord, Who is the Master of each). The apostle continues, "Masters, render unto your servants that which is just and equal; know that ye also have a Master in heaven." (Colossians 4:1). Here the obligation is laid upon the master, the employer, to render unto the employee that which is just and equal. These statements all rest upon the Word of Jesus for their foundation. "All things therefore whatsoever ye would that men should do unto you, even so do ye also unto them" (Matthew 7:12).
What can one find wrong with instruction such as this? As this teaching of the Bible ultimately outlawed slavery. If adhered to today, it will settle our present-day labor disputes. Do you reply, "It is too idealistic?" But is it? It would not have been worthy of God had He not presented an ideal worth striving toward. No, it is not too idealistic; but it is that which can be attained only as each individual makes it his own goal.
Possibly some employer is saying, "But my employees are not Christians; were they Christians we could work these principles." Suppose they are not, are you? If you claim to be a Christian, then your obligation is clearly marked, regardless of what the other may or may not be. Possibly some employee is saying the same of his employer. Suppose he is not a Christian, if you are, then your course likewise is clear. It is up to the Christian to follow the teaching of Christ regardless of how another may act, or what the immediate consequences to him may be. Christ recognized right and followed it, even though it cost Him His life.
It may be that neither is a Christian. In that case, Christ's
principles would not be respected by either. What, then, becomes the way to proceed? Let us see how Christ proceeded toward each:
Christ's primary task was that of revealing the
Father and His Will in an effort to change the hearts of men. He
sent out the apostles, not simply to correct the existing standards of men
and to settle their differences, but to change the
hearts of men by converting them to Himself. A conversion to Christ meant an about face, involving submission to His standard and His laws as the guiding principles of life. This is more than mere church membership, the joining of some denomination; it is, as Christ stated it to Nicodemus, a new birth from above. Men born again respect the principles of human relationships as set forth by Jesus, and later by the Holy Spirit.
It is as Jeremiah declared in the long ago: "O Jehovah, I know that the way of man is not in himself; it is not in man that walketh to direct his own steps" (Jeremiah 10:23). Because it is not in man to direct his own steps, God has made known to him through Jesus Christ His Son what is the right way. It is only by following HIm and His teaching that we can enjoy those right relationships here. Jesus declared, "Ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free" (John 8:32). But what is truth, the truth by which we shall be made free? Jesus said in His prayer to the Father, "Thy word is truth" (John 17:17). God's Word as revealed by Christ, through the Holy Spirit, is the truth by which men shall be made free.
Surely, in this enlightened land where Bibles are to be found on every hand, we all recognize that His Will has been made known through Christ. In the revelation of that will God has set forth the right relation that should exist between employer and employee. Our plea is that each reader who is not a Christian shall become one, and that as a Christian he be governed by Christ's teaching in this and all other relationships of life.