Ephesians 6:5-9 “According to the Flesh”

God gave practical guidance to Christians who were slaves laboring under the Roman system, “Bondservants, be obedient to those who are your masters according to the flesh, with fear and trembling, in sincerity of heart, as to Christ.”  (Ephesians 6:5)  The phrase that stands out to me is  “according to the flesh.”  It seems like this is an admission that the system was corrupt.  We live in a fallen and sinful world.  In God’s perfect design, there would be no such thing as “bondservants” and “masters”.  Human beings are created in the image and likeness of God and therefore have inherent dignity and worth.  We were designed and created to be free (like our Creator).  The thought of one human being owning another is an abomination.  And, yet, in the ancient Roman world, it was a reality.  It was a “fleshly,” sinful, ugly, corrupt reality.  And so, the Apostle Paul urges Christians to make the best of the reality in which they lived.  Christian slaves were encouraged to serve their masters faithfully and cheerfully.  Surrounded by sinful corruption, they were to take the high road and do what is right.  Instead of focusing on the obvious oppression that was all around them, they were to look to the future.  “Knowing that whatever good anyone does, he will receive the same from the Lord.”  (Ephesians 6:8)  You can endure the temporary injustices of our fallen world knowing that God will eternally reward you for doing what is right.  So, you may not be particularly excited about working at McDonalds for minimum wage and being admonished by your 18-year-old boss.  But, as a Christian, you can work diligently, honestly, and sincerely, knowing that you are working for the Lord, not for the corrupt institutions of man.  You might watch your inferior co-workers get promoted past you because they cheat and lie and flatter the boss.  But, you are not working for earthly recognition, you are earning eternal rewards!  You should be faithful to your masters “according to the flesh,” but your real allegiance is to your Heavenly Master.