These verses once saved my marriage. Okay, that may be an overstatement, but they certainly brought me to a new understanding of my role as a Christian wife. Maybe the following fairy tale will ring familiar to some of you!
Long, long ago and not so far away, there lived a man and wife with two small children. The husband worked and paid the majority of the bills. The wife stayed home and homeschooled her preschoolers, tried unsuccessfully to keep a spotless house, cook meals from scratch, care for the yard, and juggle the family schedule. She began to feel overwhelmed and underappreciated. No form of communication, nagging, or cajoling could convince the husband to do what the wife felt was his share of the housework. One evening the topic resulted in an argument that culminated in the husband jumping in his Honda Odyssey on a quest to put some space between the spouses. While he was gone the wife cooled down and prayed, asking God to give her guidance. This scripture came to her along with the realization that if slaves were to obey their masters with sincerity, how much more should she do things for her loving husband with a kind heart. Whatever work was done around the house should be done as if for Christ, not as a list of chores or even as an attempt to please people, including my, I mean her, husband.
The word for slave or bondservant is doulous. It can also mean one who is devoted to another to the disregard of one's own interests. Working from previous verses, Paul has built quite the case for submission to others, regarding the interests of others above our own needs. In our society we are conditioned to want the latest things, feel that we deserve a big house and new car, and fight for as much recognition as possible. It is natural to feel this way. But as believers we live in the realm of the supernatural. Through the power of Christ we do good works without even the left hand know what the right is doing. We desire to build the kingdom of God rather than our own earthly kingdoms. We strive for humility over praise. We see others through the eyes of God rather than what they can do for us physically or emotionally. A wise person once said, “If you serve others for the reward of gaining their admiration and gratitude, then your reward will be fleeting and ultimately dissatisfying. If you serve others for the reward of bringing pleasure to your Father God's heart as you work side by side with him, then you will gain eternal rewards.”
The supreme test of service is this: For whom am I doing this? Much that we call service to Christ is not such at all....If we are doing this for Christ, we shall not care for human reward or even recognition. Our work must again be tested by three propositions: Is it work from God, as given us to do from Him; for God, as finding in Him its secret of power; and with God, as only a part of His work in which we engage as co-workers with Him. - A. T. Pierson