If we think it is difficult in some job situations today, can you imagine being a slave in the first century?
Historians estimate that 70 percent of the Roman population was slaves; thus the churches had a significant mix of owners, freemen, and slaves.
These social differences inspired many of the New Testament church instructions. For all who have “put on Christ, there is no longer Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male or female. For you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Gal 3:28).
As the church gathered, social distinctions disappeared before Christ, but not necessarily back in society. Misunderstandings and presumptions forced Paul to give instructions to the churches (as today’s text). Paul had to clarify how they should think about each other in the church and in society, as well as in their new standing before Christ.
Regardless of the culture, the “masters,” or modern–day managers, bosses, or superiors, are commanded to “always and continually . . . [be] regarded as worthy of all honor.” This is an even greater issue than a slave’s personal feelings. The whole reputation of the gospel is at stake.
How a believer behaves at work and the attitude he shows, even as a slave, has a powerful impact on superiors, as it speaks to the credibility of the gospel and the power of God to have changed such a person. What kind of God would teach laziness, bad attitudes, insubordination, rebellion, and disrespect of superiors?
Superiors will always protect a subordinate who respects or honors them (e.g., protecting them from rumors and listening well to fulfill whatever is asked). Even when such a superior is not “worthy” of such honor, he must be treated with honor as a fellow human being (Titus 3:1–-2); out of a newfound love of God, the superior is to be served as though one were serving Christ Himself.
Every believer bears the responsibility for the reputation of Christ by how he treats others, especially his superiors.
“Lord, if leaders need respect and significance, please give me the grace to give them what they inwardly need with sincerity for the honor of Your name.”