In this series of letters I am taking it for granted that you are each zealously striving to please God above all things.
Such, of course, is always the true Christian spirit. Nevertheless there is a continual danger lest this pure and lofty desire should be clouded or lowered in its aim through the deceitfulness of the heart or the devices of the adversary. Hence the importance of being careful to cultivate proper motives.
Now one of the most powerful motives for piety and godliness is to have the fear of God before your eyes in every action, however insignificant it may appear. This is the principle applied by the apostle Paul as a corrective against eye service.
Addressing the bond-servants in Colosse who believed in Christ, he says, "Servants, obey in all things your masters according to the flesh; not with eye-service, as men-pleasers; but in singleness of heart, fearing God." (Col. 3:22).
Some idea of the cruelties which Roman slaves had to endure from their lords may be gathered from the following extract: — "The bondsman was viewed less as a human being, subject to arbitrary dominion, than as an inferior animal, dependent wholly on the will of his owner. The master possessed the uncontrolled power of life and death over his slave. He might, and frequently did, kill, mutilate, and torture his slaves, for any or for no offence, so that slaves were sometimes crucified from mere caprice." You can easily understand that the profession of Christianity by any of the slaves would be made a reason by their inhuman owners for yet greater barbarities, if possible.
But mark the counsels of grace under these exceptionally bitter circumstances. They are not to plan and plot to cast off their shackles and assert their rights. They are not to give way to sour, sullen, and vindictive feelings, but to become, on the contrary, patterns of faithful and diligent service. They are to be the more scrupulous to obey their lords in every particular. They are to throw their whole hearts into their work, doing it as unto the supreme Lord and not unto man. They are to avoid being punctilious merely in what meets the master's eye and slovenly in everything else. Such inconsistent conduct may befit men-pleasers, but it is a disgrace to Christians who are God-pleasers. Even in the extreme case of slavery, unrighteousness in the master would not excuse unrighteousness in the servant.
What do we find then is given as a safeguard against this men-pleasing eye-service? The elevating and ennobling thought that we serve the Lord Christ. Our work is for the eye of the Lord in heaven, not alone for the eye of the master on earth. Suppose it to be the common drudgery of the most menial of slaves, it should, nevertheless, be done for the Lord of all.
How it brightens and beautifies the daily round of duty to be looking for the approval of Christ! What a difference it makes in posting a ledger, or in planing a cross-grained plank, or in mastering the conjugation of a difficult verb, to realise that our loving and patient Lord stands at the elbow to mark our efforts and to reward our diligence.
It preserves, too, against the not uncommon fault which the apostle calls "eye-service." The Christian who is earnestly endeavouring to please the Lord will display as much activity and fidelity behind his employer's back as before his face. He will not idle his time because his master is away, or the foreman is in the next room. Neither will he put an extra polish on the boots he makes, because the soles consist largely of brown paper.
You may say these are trivial matters; but allow me to remind you that there is hardly one of the inspired Epistles that does not enforce Christian consistency in such practical details of life; for it is by these ordinary matters that the world judges the believer, and where loyalty to Christ is seen thoroughly to permeate the whole conduct of a Christian it becomes a weightier testimony than the logical argument or the impassioned discourse.
Moreover you cannot all be deep thinkers or powerful speakers, but you can all be faithful and consistent livers. And this responsibility you cannot escape; for Christ "died for all, that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto Him which died for them, and rose again" (2 Cor. 5:15)
Let us then not seek to please men, nor to please ourselves, but to please Christ. May it be true of us that:
"Not to ourselves again,
Not to the flesh we live;
Not to the world henceforth shall we
Our strength, our being give.
No longer is our life
A thing unused or vain;
To us, even here, to live is Christ,
To us to die is gain.
Not to ourselves we live,
Not to ourselves we die;
Unto the Lord we die or live;
With Whom we sit on high."
"Let us never for one moment forget that it is our high privilege to be divinely guided in the most minute details of our daily life. Alas! for the one who is not so guided. He will have many a stumble, many a fall, many a sorrowful experience. If we are not guided by our Father's eye, we shall be like the horse or the mule which have no understanding, whose mouth must be held in with bit and bridle — like the horse, impetuously rushing where he ought not, or the mule obstinately refusing to go where he ought. How blessed to move from day to day, in the path marked out for us by our Father's eye; the path of holy obedience, the path in which the meek and lowly will ever be found." — C. H. Mackintosh.
"Teach me, my God and King,
In all things Thee to see,
And what I do in anything,
To do it as for Thee.
A servant with this clause
Makes drudgery divine:
Who sweeps a room, as for Thy laws,
Makes that and th' action fine."