Today's Little Lift
by Jim Bullington
“When the cat's away the _____ _____ ____.” Can you complete the blanks in this common saying? There are other cliches that describe the phenomena that sparked this proverb. We all have seen it and, if we are honest, we have been one of the playful mice at one time or another. Our devotional today will take a look at the underlying issue with “playful mice” and what God has to say about such behavior.
We introduce our study with four verses, all of which will be dealt with during this week. Our focus today, however, will be only on the first of these verses. “Bondservants, obey in all things your masters according to the flesh, not with eyeservice, as men-pleasers, but in sincerity of heart, fearing God. And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance; for you serve the Lord Christ. But he who does wrong will be repaid for what he has done, and there is no partiality.” (Colossians 3.22-25).
The idea of “playful mice” is connected with the rare biblical word “eyeservice.” As to the word itself, it is found but one other time; there it was also Paul who penned an almost identical verse (see Ephesians 6.6). In its context, the prohibited practice of rendering eyeservice is directed at bondservants; they are not to obey their masters with eyeservice as men-pleasers, but in sincerity of heart, fearing God. Of course, if anyone would ever be justified in obeying only when the boss is looking it would be a slave. However, the specific direction to the believing slaves of the first century was not to render such service. They had to understand that their final and highest obligation was not to their earthly master, but to God. That is why Paul states that their service as a servant ought to be rendered “fearing God.” While the master might punish the slave in a harsh physical manner, God's punishment for halfhearted service and insincerity of heart was a punishment of eternal duration.
What is really in play here is duplicity, i.e. acting one way while the boss is looking and another way when he is not. The principle surely extends to all similar activities including employee/employer relationships. Notice also that the concept of eyeservice is closely connected with being “men-pleasers.” This word, like eyeservice, is also found but two times in the scriptures (Colossians 3.22 & Ephesians 6.6). To be guilty of this trespass, one must value the appraisal of man more than the appraisal of God. Ananias and Sapphira were guilty of this sin when they lied to the church concerning the price of some property they sold (see Acts 5.1-11). In so doing, they took the next step of “men-pleasers;” they bowed to public opinion over the opinion of God. They were men-pleasers and in the same connection guilty of doing eyeservice (serving only for the accolades they could receive from their peers). They did not serve in sincerity, nor were they “fearing God” in their deeds.
The bottom line for us is a tough one; it applies not only to worship, but it also applies to every aspect of our lives. Certainly, we are aware that God demands that we worship Him in spirit and in truth (see John 4.24), but that is not enough; He demands that we deal with all men in sincerity! This is a far cry from what we might want to believe, and far too often it is miles away from what we practice. Duplicity simply has no business finding lodging in the heart of the believer any more that hypocritical actions have a place in our actions.
Our God is an awesome and powerful God. As one friend of mine often says, “I don't play with God!” Mice may play when the cat's away, but in keeping with this figure, “the cat's coming back!”
1. What is a bondservant? How did he differ from the slave with which we are familiar in our current vocabulary?
2. If bondservants were expected to serve in sincerity of heart and not be menpleasers, what does that say for other relationships such as employee and supervisor?
3. When Ananias and Sapphira lied concerning their gift, to whom did Peter say they had lied? How does this relate to the meaning of today's focus text?
4. How does eyeservice relate to being men-pleasers? How could one lead to the other?
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