Reflection for Today ▶️ ⏩ ⏹️
Servants, be obedient to them that are your masters according to the flesh, with fear and trembling, in singleness of your heart, as unto Christ; Not with eyeservice, as menpleasers; but as the servants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart;
— Ephesians 6:5-6
I enjoy the two compound terms eyeservice and menpleasers which are both original KJV translations of the Hebrew terms. Other translations are more prosaic, e.g. Obey them not only to win their favor when their eye is on you (NIV) or not only while being watched, and in order to please them (NRSV). It reminds me why I greatly prefer reading the King James version of the Bible: it is pure poetry from start to finish, and I imagine for that reason it is closer in spirit to the original texts. While many other translations attempt to explain scripture in their chosen use of words or phraseology, the KJV simply offers it as gift, and allows us to understand it each in our own way.1 I trust my soul more than some anonymous academic translator.
We have our own compound terms today for menpleasers, one being 'yes-men' most of the others being too crude and explicit to have a place in these reflections. I'm not sure we have a modern compound term for eyeservice, although we certainly have the behaviour. It shows up in the workplace all too often. It shows up when workers are disengaged with their work, only appearing to care when the boss is watching them, and with children at school, only appearing to care when the teacher is watching them. Being seen to be busy is the default behaviour in most schools, businesses and other organisations today. We receive rewards for busyness, punishments for contemplative thinking, which receives the derogatory label, "daydreaming". So disconnected are we from each other that creative thinking is mistaken for laziness, while frantic activity equated with productivity. The truth is closer to the direct opposite of this.
In the age of knowledge work, almost all the best creativity occurs in the mind, not the hands. Watch out for your own eyeservice, and have courage in your creative daydreaming, your logical processing. We are thinking, emotional, spiritual beings before we are action-oriented doers. We need both, generally in that order, and probably with a roughly 80/20% balance towards contemplation.
1 This is not to say that the KJV had no agenda. History.com's KJV entry tells us "In 1604, England's King James I authorized a new translation of the Bible aimed at settling some thorny religious differences in his kingdom—and solidifying his own power." Still, the elegance of the translation puts the KJV Bible up amongst the greatest works of literature of the last millennium.