Servants, be obedient to them that are your masters according to the flesh, with fear and trembling, in singleness of your heart…
Servants, etc. There are two thoughts underlying these verses.
1. The existence of social distinction, s amongst men. There are masters and servants, rulers and subjects. These distinctions are no accidental phases of society, they grow out of the constitution of things. Diversity in the temperaments, tastes, capacities, and circumstances of men give rise to masters and servants.
2. The one spirit which is to govern men of all distinctions. The rich and the poor, the sovereign and his subject, the master and the servant, are under an obligation to be animated by the same moral spirit, and controlled by the same moral consideration. "All in all things should do the will of God from the heart."
I. THE DUTY OF SERVANTS. The duty of servants, of course, is obedience. "Be obedient to them that are your masters." But the obedience is here characterized.
1. It is obedience in bodily matters. "According to the flesh." Their service is limited to secular concerns, things that have reference to the material and temporal interests of their masters. They were to give their muscles, and their limbs, and their contriving faculties, but not their souls. "Consciences and souls were made to be the Lord's alone."
2. It is obedience honestly rendered. "With fear and trembling, in singleness of your heart" - "not with eye-service." These expressions mean that there should be no duplicity, no double-dealing, but downright honesty in everything. A servant is bound to be honest towards his employer. He has no right to be lazy or wasteful. He has contracted to give, on certain stipulated conditions, his energies and time to promote the secular interests of his master.
3. It is obedience inspired with the religious spirit. They are to regard themselves in everything as the servants of Christ, and are bound to do the "will of God from the heart." In everything the authority of Christ must be held as supreme. Whatsoever is done in word or deed should be done all to the glory of God.
4. It is obedience which, if truly rendered, will be rewarded of God. "Knowing that whatsoever good thing any man doeth, the same shall he receive of the Lord. whether he be bond or free." The faithful servant may feel that the wages he receives from his earthly master are unjustly inadequate. Yet the great Master will award to him at last an ample compensation. Whatsoever good thing he has done, however trivial, shall meet its reward at last. The good thing must be rewarded. Goodness carries evermore its own reward.
II. THE DUTY OF MASTERS. The way in which masters should exercise their authority is here indicated.
1. They are to exercise it religiously. "Ye masters, do the same things unto them." "The same things," as we have said, do not mean the same work, but the same spiritual attributes. Servants are to be honest and respect the will of God in all; the masters are here bound to do "the same things." Both are to be under the domination of the same moral spirit.
2. They are to exercise it magnanimously. "Forbearing threatening." Though the servant may by accident, or, what is worse, by intent, by omission, or by commission, try severely the temper of his master, his master should forbear threatening. He should show his right to be a master by governing his own soul. The man who takes fire at every offence, whose eyes flash with rage, and lips mutter threats, is too little a creature to be a master. He has no license from Heaven to rule either children, servants, or citizens, who is not magnanimous in soul.
3. They are to exercise it responsibly. "Knowing that your Master also is in heaven." They are amenable to God for the way in which they use their authority. The master has the same Lord as the servant, and they must stand at last together at the great tribunal. To that Master all social distinctions vanish in the presence of moral character. "Neither is there respect of persons with him." - D.T.
Parallel VersesKJV: Servants, be obedient to them that are your masters according to the flesh, with fear and trembling, in singleness of your heart, as unto Christ;