Yakety Yak—Don’t Talk Back! – Titus 2:9

by Pastor Ricky Kurth

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A wealthy man had a servant who just wasn’t working out.  The man was slower than a dusty turtle.  So one day the man told him, “Unless your work picks up, I’m going to have to get another servant.”  The servant replied, “That’d be awesome!  I could use a little help around here.”

In Bible days the Roman Empire was filled with servants and masters, many of whom were saved and attended the churches the apostle Paul had established.  This led him to write to Titus:

“Exhort servants to be obedient unto their own masters, and to please them well in all things; not answering again” (Titus 2:9).

This advice was probably much needed in Pauline churches like the one in Crete where Titus was stationed, for servants who knew Pauline doctrine were sure to know that “in Christ… there is neither bond nor free” (Gal. 3:26-28).  If you were a servant who got saved in those days, wouldn’t you think that this meant you didn’t have to obey your master?

The problem with that kind of thinking is that Paul went on to say that in Christ “there is neither male nor female” (v. 28).  Well, if the fact that there is neither bond nor free in Christ means servants don’t have to obey their masters, then the fact that there is also neither male nor female in Christ would mean wives don’t have to obey their husbands.  And if wives stop obeying their husbands, the very fabric of society begins to unravel—as we are seeing in our own day!

And God is not in the business of overturning society.  God is in the business of making society better by reinforcing respect for authority in all areas of life.  That’s why Paul exhorts wives to be subject to their husbands (Eph. 5:24), and tells all of us to obey the law (Rom. 13:1-7).

Now in saying these things Paul was not implying that servants and wives were somehow inferior to masters and husbands.  When the Lord Jesus was twelve years old (Luke 2:42) He was “subject” unto His parents (v. 51), but He was not inferior to Joseph and Mary.  If anything, He was superior to them.  He was God in the flesh!  So obeying them didn’t make Him inferior.  It just showed He knew that God told children: “Honour thy father and thy mother” (Ex. 20:12).  And it didn’t make servants inferior to their masters to obey Paul’s command to “be obedient to them that are your masters” (Eph. 6:5), and “please them well in all things” (Tit. 2:9).

Now to please someone well means to just delight them.  God predicted the Lord would be a man “in whom My soul delighteth” (Isa. 42:1). But in quoting that verse, Matthew translated the word “delighteth” as “well pleased” (Mt. 12:18).  So in saying servants should please their masters well, Paul was saying they should go above and beyond the call of duty by just obeying them.  He was saying a servant should make himself someone who is an absolute delight to his master.

And don’t forget, this is not all dry, dusty advice for people of a bygone era.  What Paul says to servants is advice that we can apply to employees in our own day.  If you are gainfully employed, you should be obedient to your boss, of course.  But if you want to be Pauline and go above and beyond the call of duty, you will want to make yourself a sheer delight to your employer.  Christians who serve their boss like that bring joy to the drudgery of everyday life at work.  Just think of what would happen if all of God’s people were to adopt this godly attitude.  Imagine the testimony that this would be to how Christianity can brighten the world in every area of life.

When Paul adds that servants should serve their masters by “not answering again,” that’s a Bible phrase that only appears here.  But as the Coasters sang many years ago, when parents tell children what to do and hear any “yakety yak” in response, they usually say: “Don’t talk back!” That’s what Paul was telling servants to do, to obey their masters with no backtalk.  Nothing is less delightful than a servant who gives his master lip!  So why not determine here and now that you will please your boss well in all things instead.  You’ll be eternally glad you did.

To the Reader:

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