I will divide this portion of the chapter into five parts:
1. The duties of children to parents;
2. The duties of parents to children;
3. The duties of servants to masters;
4. The duties of masters to servants;
5. Exhortation to all believers.
I. (Vs. 1-3.) This verse refers mainly to unmarried children who are yet living at home with their parents. There is an honour, respect and reverence that is due to our parents all the days of our lives. Children at home are under the authority of parents as God's ministers and representatives, and they are to be respected and obeyed with a sincere and willing obedience as if their words and wishes were the words of God himself. Of course, "in the Lord" would rule out obeying our parents in evil activities which are contrary to the Word of God.
This honouring of our parents touches several areas. It goes beyond loving them, obeying their commands, overlooking their infirmities and speaking respectfully of and to them. They are to be honoured in our thoughts and attitudes. They are to be cared for in their old age. This is the first commandment that carries with it a promise (as indicated in v.3 and Exod. 20:12).
II. (Vs. 4.) Fathers are named because they are the heads of the families and are apt to be too severe (mothers are sometimes too indulgent); but both parents are intended, for both are responsible for the general welfare and behaviour of the children. Children can be alienated from parents, from Christian doctrine and from the church by unwise and unreasonable discipline. "Spare the rod and spoil the child" does not mean that children are to be beaten. The rod of discipline can be exercised in other and more effectual ways. Public rebuke, harsh language and passionate rages and tantrums are to be avoided. Refusing them proper recreation and wholesome fellowship with other children will discourse them. They are not adults and should not be expected to think, behave, nor even to reason like adults. Adult problems and misunderstandings, especially church difficulties, should never be discussed in the presence of children. They should be protected as much as possible from the trials of a difficult world until they are more mature.
III. (Vs. 5-8.) Servants or workers, be obedient to those who are your superiors in things pertaining to the flesh. If you work for a person or you are under a foreman or a boss, do what you are told to do, do what you are paid to do, do what you are hired to do without complaining and quarrelling, but with respect and humility. Serve your superiors in singleness of heart, that is, cheerfully, readily and with full effort, as if you were serving Christ himself, for all of our deeds are to be done for the glory of Christ.
There are some workers who pretend to work with great diligence and industry when the boss is present (in order to impress him); then when no one is watching, they loaf and neglect their work. This is evil? We should work as diligently in his absence as in his presence; for believers have an eye to pleasing and glorifying God, not just winning the approval of men.
Working with "good will... as to the Lord" is working with a good attitude, going beyond what we are told or expected to do, thankful that we have the health to work and a job with which to support our families and with concern for our superior's business and success.
Know this: that whatever a man does out of a right motive and principle of his heart for the glory of Christ, he will be blessed of God, whether he is a master or s servant!
IV. (Vs. 9.) Masters, bosses and superiors, perform the duties and responsibilities toward your work as you would have your servants do theirs (the same way, with charity and humanity, as unto the Lord). Treat your servants as you would be treated. Pay them well, speak firmly but respectfully to them, remembering that you have a Master in heaven who deals with men as they deal with others. Your riches, power and position mean nothing to him; for he gives to all men the strength and possessions they have (1 Sam. 2:6,7). A good master is as difficult to find as a good servant.
(Vs. 10.) This begins the conclusion of Paul's exhortation on the duties of believers to others. He addresses them all and says, "Finally, brethren, be strong in the Lord."
1. The things which are commanded are impossible to perform without God's strength and grace.
2. We need his strength and power to overcome our enemies, our flesh and Satan. We need his strength to adorn the doctrine of Christ with holiness and integrity.
3. Though we are weak and can do nothing of ourselves, his grace is sufficient for all things.