For a more detailed discussion of verses 18-22, please see my commentary on Paul’s parallel passage in Ephesians:
“18 Wives, be in subjection to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord.”
“subjection” (Gr. hupotasso – 5293)
Literally to place under in an orderly fashion, to submit to, to yield to, to subordinate, to cooperate, is a military term “to rank under.”
“fitting” (Gr. aneko – 433)
That which is proper, one’s duty, that which is right to do, obligation.
“19 Husbands, love your wives, and do not be bitter toward them.”
“bitter” (Gr. pikraino – 4087)
To make bitter, bitter resentment toward, to exasperate, to become angry or harsh toward.
Refers to that which was once sweet, to that which has become sour. Refers to the husband’s attitude toward, and response to, and treatment of his wife.
“20 Children, obey your parents in all things, for this is well-pleasing in the Lord.”
“in the Lord.”
Pleasing “in” the Lord, refers to that which is in the will of God or that which is in harmony with God, thus, that which is pleasing to Him.
“21 Fathers, do not provoke your children, lest they become discouraged.”
“provoke” (Gr. erethizo – 2042)
To provoke to anger, to stir up, to excite, to stimulate, to arouse, to make resentful.
“discouraged” (Gr. athumeo – 120)
To lose heart, to become despondent, to become broken in spirit, to lose motivation, to feel like giving up, to lose one’s enthusiasm.
“22 Slaves, obey in all things those who are your masters according to the flesh, not with eye-service, as men-pleasers, but in singleness of heart, fearing the Lord.”
“not with eye-service”
Not just while the boss is watching.
We’re not to work and please only when the boss is watching, but at all times, as unto the Lord.
Has the idea of pleasing man, rather than God.
“singleness of heart” (Gr. haplotes – 572)
Singleness of purpose, sincerity, simplicity, personal honesty and integrity, free from hypocrisy, not self-seeking, without a hidden agenda.
“fearing the Lord”
Out of honor and reverent devotion to the Lord.
“23 Whatever you do, work heartily, as unto the Lord, and not unto men;”
“heartily” (Gr. psuche – 5590)
Literally from the soul. From the heart.
Whatever we do by way of occupation, whatever we do in life, we’re to do it from the heart, but not simply from the heart, but “as unto the Lord;” in contrast to doing it “unto men.” In everything we do, we’re to be led by a true heart before God, a heart that is always pursuing the will of God, a heart that is always seeking to please the Lord.
If we do our jobs for the Lord and for His glory, it will ensure our greatest effort, and the Lord will honor and bless our efforts for Him. When we strive for excellence for the purpose of honoring the name of Christ, it will lead to greater and greater achievements. In achieving for God’s glory, it provides a good witness to the world. Christians should be known as the most conscientious and hardest workers of all employees.
“24 knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance; you serve the Lord Christ.”
Our motivation for working in this world is not to be for the temporary rewards of this life, but for the eternal rewards that we have in Christ. Our reward for “a job well done,” in this life, and as servants of Christ, is our eternal inheritance, and all that is included in that inheritance. We don’t have the full picture of what our rewards will be in Glory, but we do know that whatever God does, He does it right, is always perfect. Thus our eternal rewards is something to be desired, and something to look forward to. There is nothing in this life that can compare to the value of these eternal rewards.
This world is not our home, we’re only passing through. It’s our opportunity to lay up treasures in Heaven, as Jesus said:
“but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consumes, and where thieves do not break in or steal.” (Matt 6:20)
Life in this world, and the achievements of this world, is not our end, but is merely preparatory for the next life. Everything we do should be with eternity in view.
Someone once said:
“Only one life will soon be past, and only what’s done for Christ will last.”
“25 But he who does wrong will be repaid for the wrong that he has done, and there is no partiality.”
As workers and servants of Christ, we’re to be faithful in all things. If we are unfaithful on the job, if we loaf, if we steal from our employers, if we don’t come in on time, if we stay home for personal pleasure, etc., then we will receive the consequences for such deplorable behavior. It doesn’t matter that we belong to Christ; if we’re irresponsible, we will pay a price for it. God will allow us to be dealt with by our employers as anyone else. Furthermore, if we don’t repent and approach our work “heartily” and honorably, we will suffer the loss of eternal rewards.
“4:1 Masters, render to your slaves that which is just and fair, knowing that you also have a Master in heaven.”
Christian employers also have a responsibility to conduct themselves and their businesses as unto the Lord. Whatever is required of the Christian employee, is required of the Christian employer. We all have the same “Master in Heaven,” and we’re all accountable to Him. Thus Christian employers are to treat their employees with respect and kindness and fairness. Every employee should see a difference in the way a Christian employer treats their employees, in contrast to how a non-Christian may treat their employees. They should stand out. They should conduct themselves in a manner that would provide a reason for their employees to respect them and want to work hard for them. Not only does that glorify Christ, but it also benefits the employer’s business. It fulfills God’s laws that say “we reap what we sow” (Gal 6:7), and “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble” (1 Pe 5:5).