Being a people-pleaser can be exhausting. What one soon learns is that the more you try to please people, or even a certain person, the less successful at that venture you become! The Christian faith was never devised by God to be lived on the surface, seeking to please people with “eye-service.”
This word for people-pleaser that the apostle Paul uses in Ephesians 6:6, “eye-service,” is only used this once in all of the New Testament. “Eye-service” is a good translation of ophthalmodoulian, which is a compound word made up of two words put together—eye + service. What does this mean?
“Eye-service” has the basic and root idea of doing only what pleases other people, “it is labor when the master is present, but relaxing and laziness as soon as he is gone” (Rogers & Rogers, The New Linguistic and Exegetical Key to the Greek New Testament, 1998, p. 446). It literally carries the idea of service under the master’s eye. One writer expresses it this way: “…For the master’s eye usually stimulates to greater diligence; his absence, on the other hand, renders sluggish.”
Paul does not address the systemic issue of slavery as to whether it is moral or not. Instead, the gospel demands that those servants who are Christians care about the quality of their work. They are not to be shirkers, claiming that their new life of grace gives them freedom to do whatever they want. Rather, they are to work as to the Lord Jesus Christ. The risen Lord is their true Master!
A lot of lessons are imbedded in this admonition that can apply to us nearly 2,000 years later. We work for the Lord, not our bosses. This means “eye-service” is not an option. We work hard regardless of who is watching. This kind of work ethic is what commends the gospel to those who do not know Jesus. Our sincere, hard-working, authentic lifestyle of living and being accountable to Jesus, the higher moral ground, will commend the good news to those who are not Christians. May God give us the daily motivation to live like this all of the time!
In Christian love, Curtis