"Bondservants, obey in everything those who are your earthly masters; not by way of eye-service as people-pleasers, but with sincerity of heart fearing the Lord. Whatever you do, work heartedly as for the Lord, and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ." Colossians 3:22-24
In the beginning, God created. Put another way, he was at work. In all his creating, orchestrating, and designing, he fashioned man to function much as He does. And so, we work too. We bag groceries, we manage projects, we wash the car, we lead meetings, we build bridges, we change diapers (yes, dad… you can do that too. Stop being a baby). We take out the trash, we fix the showerhead, we balance budgets, we write reports, we do the dishes (…yes). Did I miss anything? Of course. Almost everything.
Work is part of us because we are made in the image of God. And yet, since the fall, work has not necessarily been easy or always satisfying (Gen. 3:17-19). Work is good, but work is hard. Work can reward much, but it also requires much. We are made to work, but work can be altogether frustrating.
Believers that are honest would say that such frustrations don’t go away simply because one believes in Jesus. The State of the Global Workplace 2022 report by Gallup found that only 21% of employees are engaged at work, and 33% consider their well-being to be thriving. What that means? It means 8 out of 10 people aren’t enthusiastic about their work, don’t like to work, and don’t think their work matters. It also means that two-thirds of people are drowning in the frustrations of life’s toils. And my guess, even as Christians, we often fall into those groups.
The antidote to these frustrations isn’t simply to work harder or try more or give up. In Colossians 3:22-24, the apostle Paul would have us see that a change in how we think of work only comes from a submission to the Lordship of Jesus.
In other words, if you claim that Jesus is Lord of your life, your work will look different because of it.
Let’s look at how Paul discusses the topic in these few verses:
Heed Your Master
One big hold up at work might be your boss, your supervisor, or whoever’s in charge and whatever you call them. But that’s not how it should be in God’s economy. You honor Christ as you honor your master. You serve Him well by serving your earthly authorities diligently. This is the principle that Paul gives as it comes to faithful labor. "Bondservants, obey in everything those who are your earthly masters” (Col. 3:22).
I can hear you now. "You just don't know my boss, though. You don't know the criticism I get every single day. You don't understand the lack of appreciation for all that I do. I'm overworked, and severely underpaid." Is this not the natural mindset? We are inclined to obey insofar as it benefits me or, at the very least, if I feel like it. We will do the job insofar as it pays enough, we are treated well enough, and we recognized enough.
Paul directs us to behave differently. The first step toward being a worker who honors God is to heed this command: obey your earthly master in everything. Of course, Paul is not talking about obedience or allegiance at the cost of sinning against God. This isn’t about supporting LGBTQIA+ events or gossip at the water cooler (do they have those anymore?). What Paul is saying is this: Were you asked to run the spreadsheet again? Do it. Were you tasked with finding a solution to someone else’s mistake? Do it. Were you asked to make another presentation that might be ignored because Wordle is a lot of fun? Do it. In everything, do what you’ve been tasked to do.
Honor Your Lord
Next, he says, "Not by way of eye-service, as people-pleasers, but with sincerity of heart, fearing the Lord." This is someone who not only looks to obey and do the job when the authority is present, but even when no one is watching. He’s like the ants Solomon used to observe and learn from. “Without having any chief, officer, or ruler, she prepares her bread in the summer and gathers her food in harvest” (Prov. 6:7-8). It’s not that this kind of worker doesn’t want micromanagement; he doesn’t need it.
If the only motivation for you to work are the watchful eyes of a coworker or boss, it reveals a need for approval, a craving for respect, and an infatuation with self. You care to please others because of how it will benefit you. Working for the eyes is not compatible with working from the heart. And it demonstrates an utter ignorance towards the omnipresent One who desires for you to do your best as a reflection of His glory.
Those who work from the heart do so because they have been given a new one.
Where Christ has produced sincere faith, there will inevitably be found precious fruit. Christians then no longer live to please men, but to please God (Gal. 1:10).
Thus, the best and purest way to honor any earthly master is to submit, revere, and honor the Heavenly Master.
Seldom do we think of how our work reflects our submission to Christ as Lord. But here’s the reality: Disgruntled workers have a bigger issue than just a bad attitude. When we serve in such a way, we bring reproach upon the God who called us to do that work. The Christian’s charge is simple: work with sincerity of heart, fearing the Lord, and give it your all. Confess that Jesus is Lord, in word and in deed (Col. 3:17).
Inherit Your Reward
Understanding Paul rightly, it is less relevant what we do, and much more relevant who we do it for. And if that is true of the work, it is also true of the reward. Everything we do, “we work at heartily as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord, you will receive the inheritance as your reward” (Col. 3:23-24).
What does that mean for us? It means that our work is a fresh and everyday reminder of the glorious gospel we have believed. When we work as unto the Lord, the paycheck that comes this week and is gone by next week, fleeting words of praise, the promotion that was long overdue, the time off finally approved, none of these rewards will ultimately satisfy. Those things are all temporal and they aren’t what get us up in the morning to do the work.
We do whatever is before us because God has promised us something infinitely better in His Son. He has promised us an inheritance, one that is imperishable (1 Pet. 1:4).
Nothing can damage this inheritance. It is unfading and it will never lose its value. What's more, it is kept in heaven for us (1 Pet. 1:4-7). We did nothing to earn it and we cannot do anything to keep it. God did that work through His beloved Son. All our labor, sweat, efforts, and toil do nothing to merit that inheritance, yet every act of service unto Christ assures us that we belong to Him and what is His will forever belong to us.
In Philippians 2:12-13, Paul writes, “Therefore, my beloved as you have always obeyed so now not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you both to will and to work for his good pleasure.” The God who worked all things into being in the beginning is the same God who is working through His Son to make all things new. One way to evidence that new creation taking place in your life is to work heartily at all that you do as God continues to work in you. Let your work reflect the glory of your Lord and the joy it is to serve Him.