Have you ever experienced challenges with a boss where you were not seeing eye to eye? Paul’s words in Colossians 3 were a huge source of guidance and comfort during a number of work situations early in my work life.
Slaves, obey your earthly masters in everything; and do it, not only when their eye is on you and to win their favor, 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 favoritism. (Colossians 3:22-25)
In my 20s, I worked at a grocery store, a gym, a couple social work jobs, and in a couple ministry settings. These words from Paul have developed me as a follower of Jesus and in my ability to honor Christ in my work situations.
How we respond to work challenges, particularly in our relationship with our boss or employer, is a visible way we can tell whether we have put on the “new wardrobe of Jesus.”
As we consider this passage, it’s important for us to remember that during the first century, “slaves” were not like slaves in 19th century Britain or America. The slavery of the New Testament represented a civil structure where people had employment and the benefit of necessities of life. Most were prisoners of war, and apart from the status of slave would usually have been killed. While not having the same rights as those who owned them, they did have rights. Jewish law, from the time of Moses, set out standards for how slaves were to be treated. Additionally, where the brutal slavery of the 19th century lasted the slave’s entire life, the slaves of the 1st century had the opportunity to become free after a certain amount of time.
So, in considering 1st century slavery, it gives us a picture of a relationship where one person is in authority and the other person is under that authority. In our modern world, one very common application is for those of us that are in an employer–employee relationship.
Three principles in Colossians 3:22-25 give us insights for daily life, as we live under the authority of employers and other leaders:
- Our standard for excellence is not, ultimately, to please our employer, but flows from sincerity of heart and worship of God (v. 22).
- Our wholehearted effort draws motivation from serving the Lord Jesus and the reward He alone gives.
- When we misstep in our work, we can expect the negative circumstances to fall our way, just as they would fall on anyone else.
I can remember specific circumstance in my work life over the years, where these words kept me trusting God, working hard, and ultimately serving Him, even when each day at work posed challenges. I trust it will do the same for you.
– Are you facing a situation at work that needs the application of these principles?
– Pause and pray for your boss and yourself, that you might serve the Lord Jesus in your work in such a way that your employer would see the difference that Jesus can make in a person’s life.