Over the last 40+ years, I’ve worked for countless employers and managers. It’s a little difficult for me to figure out when I actually started working. When I was a teenager, I worked on various fruit farms picking apples while spending Friday and Saturday nights working at Spencer Speedway in Williamson, NY. My first full-time job was working on a dairy farm in Cortland, NY in 1984. Over the decades, my career grew from being a farmhand to a business executive in manufacturing who employed hundreds of people. And yet, through those many years, I always had a boss to whom I was accountable, even while being a boss to very many people myself. Even now, as a pastor and elder at First Baptist Powell, I am still accountable to our Senior Pastor.

The reality is that virtually everyone who is part of the working world has a boss or a manager to whom they are accountable. Even those who are self-employed can have similar (not exact) managerial relationships with a customer or client. And if you’re a Christian, the Bible has much to say regarding our manner towards our manager, regardless of their style or effectiveness as a boss. The Apostle Peter gave Christians the Lord’s instruction in his 1st epistle nearly 2,000 years ago.


“Servants, be subject to your masters with all respect, not only to the good and gentle but also to the unjust.”


1 Peter 2:18



The Lord’s instruction here is very plain, but Christians naturally respond in one of two ways; either we like the instruction, or we don’t. And whether we like it or not usually depends on how we view our boss in comparison to the verse. Is our boss “good and gentle?” Or is he or she unjust? If we have a good boss who deals with us fairly and gently, then we freely subject ourselves to their authority. However, if we have a boss who tends to be unfair and/or harsh, then we tend not to respect them and only give them partial authority over us.

And yet, notice that the Lord’s command through Peter does not allow for partiality in respecting or subjecting ourselves to our managers. It is very clear that we’re to show poor managers the same high respect as if they were a good manager. The question is why? Why should Christians show the same level of high respect to all types of managers? Why should we subject ourselves to poor treatment received from an unjust or harsh boss as we would a kind and generous one? The next three verses give us the reasons why:


“For this is a gracious thing, when, mindful of God, one endures sorrows while suffering unjustly. For what credit is it if, when you sin and are beaten for it, you endure? But if when you do good and suffer for it you endure, this is a gracious thing in the sight of God. For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps.”


1 Peter 2:19-21



Peter calls subjecting ourselves to a harsh manager and consequently enduring suffering a “gracious thing.” How can this be a gracious thing? And who receives the benefit of this grace? On the surface, we might expect the recipient of grace is the manager that we are submitting to. However, that’s not what Peter communicates in this paragraph of Chapter 2. We need to look deeper. By submitting to our managers (good or bad), yes, they receive grace as we are gracious toward them, but we are the recipients of a much deeper grace. Our Heavenly Father extends his grace to us in our humble submission. Here are three takeaways from the whole paragraph (1 Peter 2:18-25) that communicate why this is a gracious thing:


1. By subjecting ourselves to our managers with all respect (good or bad), we emulate
Christ in his suffering. Verses 22-24 describe the sufferings that Jesus went through on our behalf. Verse 22 says that his suffering was left for us as an example, so that we might follow in his footsteps. By submitting to our managers, respecting their authority over us, we are demonstrating the Gospel of Jesus Christ to them (especially if their treatment is unfair). In fact, verse 21 says that we have been called to this specific suffering. We may not like it, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t value in it.

2. By subjecting ourselves to our managers, we emulate Christ in his ultimate trust of the Father. Jesus suffered in obedience to the will of his Heavenly Father who had a purpose in Jesus’ suffering and ultimately in his death. By submitting to our managers, even those who treat us unfairly, we are ultimately trusting the Father in our suffering in the same way that Christ did and in the outcome. Here again, we are demonstrating the Gospel of Jesus Christ to our manager and also our coworkers. Onlookers see us being gracious in our suffering and that opens opportunities to share the faith that we have in the Lord with them. It is because of our Lord’s sovereignty over our situation that we can demonstrate inner peace and contentment that points our coworkers to Him.

3. By being obedient to the command to subject ourselves to our managers, we learn to not wander into self-pity, but fully trust the Lord as he provides for us every day. In fact, our trust in Him becomes exponentially more intimate. We see the purpose of our suffering under harsh managers in that we are learning how “to die to sin and live in righteousness” (vs 24). The Lord shares his intended result in the last verse of the paragraph (vs 25) – to transform us from straying sheep to one who has returned to our Shepherd and Overseer of our souls.


And here is where we find that deeper grace that I mentioned earlier. Our manager will
experience grace from us as we behave graciously towards them. However, we’re the ones who are being transformed from sinfulness to righteousness. We are in the process of being drawn into deeper dependence on the Lord of the Universe in every circumstance. We learn what it really means for him to be the Shepherd and Overseer in every aspect of our life. When we realize God’s intended result in this instruction is glorious transformation, then we will understand that this truly is “a gracious thing.”

But there’s a key to success here in this paragraph that can be easily overlooked. If we try to obey this command under our own initiative or within our own abilities, we are certain to become weary and eventually fail. Instead, Peter gives us the key to success with one small phrase embedded in verse 19. He writes that submitting to our employer is a gracious thing only when we are “mindful of God”. In other words, the only way that we can continually show “all respect” to our manager is when our minds are focused on the Lord. A deepening relationship with God is the motivation for our obedience and he provides the power and grace through the Holy Spirit to overcome. Submission to our managers will be a “gracious thing” if we keep our minds focused on God and the purposes that he clearly states in the paragraph. I hope this encourages you.

As a closing thought, one might ask, “are you saying that I shouldn’t switch jobs or seek better employment so that I can receive more grace”? My answer is “No!” I’m not at all saying that you shouldn’t seek a better work environment. The Lord uses all kinds of situations and opportunities to develop a deeper dependence on Him, including transitioning to new employment. What I am saying is that whatever our duration is with a particular employer (even while seeking another) we should be submissive to our managers by giving them all our respect – keeping our eyes focused on Jesus – and receiving the grace that deepens our dependence on Him while we’re employed there. And then seek the Lord in prayer while waiting for him to provide a better opportunity.

Thanks for reading.