What does Ephesians 6:6 mean when it says “eye-service”?

In Ephesians 6:6, what does it imply when it refers to “eye-service”?

Paul wrote that workers should “obey their earthly masters with fear and trembling, with a sincere heart, as you would Christ, not by the way of eye-service, as people-pleasers, but as bondservants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart, rendering service with a good will as to the Lord and not to man,” and that “whatever good anyone does, this he will receive back from the Lord, whether he is a bondservant or is (Ephesians 6:5–8, ESV).

In Ephesians 5 and 6, Paul lays forth a comprehensive teaching on how to live in peace with those we hold closest to us. There were letters written to husbands and wives (Ephesians 5:22–33), children and parents (Ephesians 6:1-4), and slaves and masters (Ephesians 6:5–9). The last part of the document is not limited to the obligations of slave masters and slaves but also includes those of employees and their superiors.

Paul emphasized the importance of a two-way street of submission in these partnerships, with each believer submitting to the other in obedience and Christlike love and care. Christians are to treat one another as if they were working together for the Lord in all their interactions. In his letters to the workforce, Paul often employed a peculiar term. He cautioned them against doing anything “by way of eye-service.” An employee who gives the appearance of hard work when the supervisor is there is said to “perform by way of eye-service.”

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“Eye-service” refers to acting in a way that is purely aesthetic for the sake of a human master. Meaning we only put an effort to please others while they are looking at us. Scripture commands us to serve and obey our superiors at all times, not just when they’re looking. Our genuine drive comes from a reverence and awe for the Lord, as well as a desire to please Him above all else. Paul’s words are in this form in the New Living Translation: “As slaves of Christ, do the will of God with all your heart. Put forth your best effort, as though your labor were for the Lord rather than for other people. Don’t forget that we’ll all receive our just due from the Lord (Ephesians 6:6–8, NLT).

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Also, “Slaves, obey your earthly lords in everything,” was a command Paul gave his readers. Make an effort to impress them whenever possible, not just while they’re looking. Do them good out of awe for the Lord and service to him (Colossians 3:22, NLT).

One of the major tasks of a Christian’s life is to seek “to determine what is agreeable to the Lord” (Ephesians 5:10, ESV). We stop attempting to get what we want out of life and, like the apostle Paul, we start living for God alone. Christ’s servant I would not be if my primary motivation was to win the approval of others (Galatians 1:10, NLT). Paul did not worry about the advice, opinions, or acceptance of others as he spread the gospel as a minister of God’s mercy (Galatians 1:15–16; 1 Thessalonians 2:4). He cared exclusively about God’s approval.

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Work is a mission field, whether we are ministers, church employees, or employees of a secular business. To accomplish the bare minimum required to keep one’s employment is to only put up a show for human observers. In contrast, as Paul put it, “a person with a transformed heart seeks honor from God, not from humans” if we have truly experienced “a change of heart generated by the Spirit” (Romans 2:29, NLT).

Christians are urged to dig further. For Christians, “real and genuine worship” is giving one’s body “as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God” (Romans 12:1). (Romans 12:1). A Christian with the appropriate outlook and work ethic, who doesn’t merely give “eye-service” but wants to please the Lord at all times, will stand out as a shining example of a dedicated worker, bringing honor to God and glory to himself (1 Corinthians 6:20; 10:31; Philippians 1:20).

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