“Serve wholeheartedly, as if you were serving the Lord,
not men, because you know that the Lord will reward everyone
for whatever good he does, whether he is slave or free.”
Thoughts… What is your attitude toward work? What does your attitude tell your co-workers, your supervisor, or if you are a boss, your employees about you? Do you go about your job as if Jesus were your boss?
If who we are as God’s chosen people is to show up in our work—and it should—then there are some important qualities that ought to characterize how we go about our jobs. Paul speaks to four of these qualities:
The very first thing that must characterize you is that you’ve got to consistently demonstrate right actions. Verse 5 says, “Slaves, obey your earthly masters…”
The operative word here in this verse is obey. Grammatically, it’s in the present tense, indicating uninterrupted action. What’s the point? Obedience isn’t only to occur when the desire is there or when an employer is fair, generous and reasonable. Believers are to obey their earthly masters in everything and at all times, except when they’re told to do something that would violate God’s higher law.
When Paul wrote these words, one-third of the Roman Empire was enslaved. It was a social and economic way of life. There were doctors, lawyers, teachers and musicians who were slaves. But most were menial laborers who were nothing more than human tools. They had no standing or rights. As the Gospel reached many of these slaves, they began to question if they needed to be subject to a cruel, unfair earthly master now that they had been freed by Christ and were submitted to God. Paul’s answer was that through the message of grace being lived out through these slaves, the pure love of God would begin to transform Roman society…and it ultimately did. Authentic Christianity killed slavery with love, respect, honor and dignity. In the upside-down logic of God’s kingdom, obedience always rules the day!
So whether the boss is kind or cruel, believer or pagan, we are to be obedient because it is God’s will. When you submit to your boss’ authority, it’s a literal and powerful witness of your submission to a higher authority and it releases God’s power to work on your behalf.
Second, you’ve got to display a right attitude. Verse 5 continues by challenging us to do our work, “…with respect and fear, and sincerity of heart…”
It’s one thing to grit our teeth and obey. God wants it to come from the heart. The idea of fear is not of cowering fright and intimidation, but the honor for the position, if not the person you work for. The attitude of sincerity refers to genuineness and thoroughness. Attitude shows up in reverence, authenticity and diligence.
Third, you are work with the right motives. The last part of verse 5 says, “Just as you would obey Christ.” Verses 7-8 go on to say, “Serve wholeheartedly, as if you were serving the Lord, not men, because you know that the Lord will reward everyone for whatever good he does, whether he is slave or free.”
What should motivate your work? In truth, you are serving the Lord. You don’t work for Intel or Boeing or McDonalds. You work for Jesus. That in itself should be motivation to make you the best employee around.
What motivates you? Pay? Recognition? Position? Rita Mae Brown rightly states, “I believe you are your work. Don’t trade the stuff of your life, time, for nothing more than dollars. That’s a rotten bargain.” As a Christian, it should be love, gratitude and obedience to Christ!
Fourth, you are to display right character in your work. Verse 6 tells us, “Obey them not only to win their favor when their eye is on you, but like slaves of Christ, doing the will of God from your heart.”
Someone has said character is who you are in the dark. It is who you are when no one’s looking.
Howard A. Stein wrote in Reader’s Digest of a retired friend who became interested in the construction of an addition to a shopping mall. Everyday he’d watch its progress, and he was especially impressed by the conscientiousness of a heavy equipment operator. One day he had a chance to tell this worker how much he’d enjoyed watching his scrupulous and skilled work. The worker was astonished and said, “You’re mean you’re not the supervisor?”
Character—especially Christian character—is who you are when no one’s watching. Yet Someone is always watching! And He is depending on you to represent Him well. In a companion passage, Paul wrote in Colossians 3:22-24,
“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.”
In truth, Jesus is your boss! And He is watching. And He cares. And someday, He will reward you for the kind of work you are doing today. So what difference is that going to make in your work from here on out?
Prayer… Lord, I pray that the people I work with will see the Lord I work for in the way that I work today…and every day for the rest of my life.
One More Thing… “There is always the danger that we may just do the work for the sake of the work. This is where the respect and the love and the devotion come in—that we do it to God, to Christ, and that’s why we try to do it as beautifully as possible.” —Mother Teresa