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Colossians 3:18-4:1 (Part 3)



Slaves, obey your earthly masters in everything; and do it, not only when their eye is on you and to win their favour, but with sincerity of heart and reverence for the Lord. Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving. Anyone who does wrong will be repaid for his wrong, and there is no favouritism.


Masters, provide your slaves with what is right and fair, because you know that you also have a Master in heaven. (3:22-4:1)

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This portion plunges us into entirely foreign territory. Unlike Paul’s first century world, we don’t live in a culture that endorses slavery. But interestingly, the seeds of understanding that eventually resulted in slavery’s abolition are found in Paul’s own writings (and indeed throughout the scriptures), abolition being established in the western world by the Christian devotion of William Wilberforce (in early 19th century Britain). But that’s another story.


Even so, this passage speaks still. Although we don’t have slavery, the application spills easily into today’s workplace, speaking to both employees and bosses. Let’s reflect.


Here’s the main point for employees: Give it your all. The word “obey” is perhaps stronger than we would usually apply to today’s workplace, but the point is clear: align yourself with your boss’ purposes, plans and directives. Follow through, fully, with what he or she requires of you. Don’t slough off. Don’t cut corners. Don’t hold back. Give it your all. Paul specifically puts his finger on an issue that applied to slaves back then as much as it does to employees today, namely working hard when the boss is watching and “not-so-much” when they’re elsewhere. Don’t do that, Paul says. Instead, work “with sincerity of heart,” an attitude that will carry us even if our boss happens to be less than adequate in ability, or more than usually trying in temperament. Give it your all.


But further, understand you are not working primarily for your boss, or for the company, but for the Lord himself. “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men … It is the Lord Christ you are serving.”What a transformative perspective. There are much higher stakes involved than simply earning a paycheque. We’re working for the Lord – an entirely sobering thought. But also, deeply motivating. The workplace becomes a context in which love for Jesus can be expressed, indeed poured out. Yes, the gathered church is an opportunity to honour the Lord with “heart and hands and voices.” But so, too, is the workplace. Work is worship. We are to engage in it out of “reverence for the Lord.”


Similarly, for those who serve as boss. “Whatever you do” applies equally to them, but with a further reality. The Lord himself is the model. So, those who are bosses, supervisors, managers, shift coordinators, department heads, or CEOs must keep eyes on him. Certainly, this means treating employees equally and fairly, without favouritism. But it also means providing support and encouragement, clear communication and directives, resources for the required tasks, adequate pay given on time, and a listening ear when needed. Your own reporting structure is to a Master in heaven – follow his lead and serve him well.


So, when you next head into work, be reminded. Lift your sights. You’re entering holy ground.

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Lord Jesus, you know everything about my work. The joys, the challenges, the responsibilities, and the tensions. I put it all before you, choosing to honour you in it all. Fill me with your presence to do the work you have called me into. For your glory. Amen.

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Reflect: If you are in the workforce, whether as employee or boss, what are one or two ways in which you could better express your devotion to Christ? Ask him for his strength to do so. If you are not currently in the workforce, think of two or three who are – pray for the Lord to be honoured in their work.

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