Our labor's way Col. 3 22-25
In the celebration of Labor Day tomorrow, I would like to share with you a message I have entitled, Our Labor’s Way. Most of us at some point have had or will have a job with a boss and co-workers. And if you are like most people you will love your boss and your job or you will hate them.
It reminds me of a story of a man in a hot air balloon who realized he was lost. He reduced altitude and spotted a woman below. He descended a bit more and shouted, "Excuse me, can you help me? I promised a friend I would meet him an hour ago, but I don’t know where I am." The woman below replied, "You’re in a hot air balloon hovering approximately 30 feet above the ground. You’re between 40 and 41 degrees north latitude and between 59 and 60 degrees west longitude." "You must be an engineer," said the balloonist. I am," replied the woman, "How did you know?"
"Well," answered the balloonist, "everything you told me is, technically correct, but I’ve no idea what to make of your information, and the fact is I’m still lost. Frankly, you’ve not been much help at all. If anything, you’ve delayed my trip."
The woman below responded, "You must be in Management."
"I am," replied the balloonist, "but how did you know?"
"Well," said the woman, "you don’t know where you are or where you’re going. You have risen to where you are due to a large quantity of hot air. You made a promise, which you’ve no idea how to keep, and you expect people beneath you to solve your problems. The fact is you are in exactly the same position you were in before we met, but now, somehow, it’s my fault."
Each day across the USA 50,000 people quit their jobs. In a recent survey of workers across the USA, nearly 85% said that they could work harder at their job. More than half claimed they could double their effectiveness "if (they) wanted to." Workers are bombarded with e-mail, cell phone calls, and voice mails. Recently, the average time spent on a computer was almost 16 hours a week vs. 9.5 hours a decade ago. 46 e-mails a day is now typical. In ‘94, 82% of workers accomplished at least half their daily planned work; now only 50% do so. Then 40% of workers called themselves successful vs. just 28% today. (Reuters 2/22/06)
Work today isn’t what it used to be.
Most people go to work and tolerate it. Many go to work and hate it! Wouldn’t you like to go to work and love it? You can and Paul teaches us some wonderful truths about that in chapter 3 of the book of Colossians.
Paul the author of Colossians is addressing the new believers in Christ whom are from a Jewish and Gentile background. Since they are being attacked with the heresy of Gnosticism, Paul wants them to see that Christ is Supreme above all creation and He is Sufficient for all salvation. In Chapter 1, Paul addresses the deity of Christ as Lord of all things including creation and the church. In chapter 2, Paul addresses the sufficiency of Christ alone for Salvation above all world philosophy, false worship and legalism.
As we join Paul in Colossians chapter 3, we see he is challenging the Colossians to “put off” their old nature of sin and to “put on” their new life in Christ as a new creature, within a new community, and with a new character and commitment. He concludes his thought here with v. 17, “and whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus.”
Then Paul turns his attention in vs. 18 to Christ as Lord of Relationships. I would imagine that in Paul’s mind, he is asking the Colossians, “if Christ is your Lord, is he Lord in your relationships?” He narrows his attention to three specific groups and I imagine his questions would be, “Is Christ the Lord of your marriage? Is Christ the Lord of your Family? Is Christ Lord of your Work? It is this last subject that we will focus on today by asking, Is Christ the Lord of your Work?
Let’s read Colossians 3:22-25
Work is something we all do. Since the ripe age of 16 years old or even younger, we began to draw a paycheck from the “bossman.” As of July 2008, over 154 million American make up the employed civilians in our country. 83 million of those employed are men and 71 million of those employed are women.
But work is really more than where we are employed, work is any action that we do for ourselves or for someone else’s benefit. It is true that the verses we just read have to do with our relationships as Christians to our jobs. But in verse 17, Paul is addressing the Christian’s character in general when he says, “and whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus.” So as we discuss the truths of this passage today, do not assign these traits to just paid work. Instead, all our work should be motivated by the Lordship of Jesus Christ in our lives. So if Christ is our Lord, we should see these 7 qualities in our work…
Our Work in Christ should be…
1. Submissive v. 22 Slaves, in all things obey those who are your masters on earth
Obey in all things- Paul tells us to demonstrate our submission by obeying our bosses. He even broadens our obedience to “in all things” or in every area. This is an attitude that Paul is addressing to all three groups as he tells
· wives “to be subject to their husbands”,
· children to be “obedient to their parents”
· slaves to “obey in all things.”
It is an attitude that any true Christian has adopted into their lives, for Paul refers to us as slaves of Christ. If we are slaves to Christ, we understand submission and we should model it with the world daily as we live. What else does God’s word say about submission to our employers.
Submission Deters the Blasphemy of God 1 Tim. 6:1
1 All who are under the yoke as slaves are to regard their own masters as worthy of all honor so that the name of God and our doctrine will not be spoken against.
Having a submissive attitude at work gives the people around us a clear picture of who Christ is and how we submit to Him. We are showing people Christ so we do not give them a reason to attack our Lord and King.
Submission Leads Others to God Titus 2:9-10
9 Urge bondslaves to be subject to their own masters in everything, to be well-pleasing, not argumentative, 10 not pilfering, but showing all good faith so that they will adorn the doctrine of God our Savior in every respect.
Submission Honors Fellow Believers 1 Tim. 6:2
2 Those who have believers as their masters must not be disrespectful to them because they are brethren, but must serve them all the more, because those who partake of the benefit are believers and beloved. Teach and preach these principles.
Submission Pleases God 1 Peter 2:18,20 (NASB95)
18 Servants, be submissive to your masters with all respect, not only to those who are good and gentle, but also to those who are unreasonable… But if when you do what is right and suffer for it you patiently endure it, this finds favor with God.
Example of Submission-David’s submission
David was to be king. But for the moment, David was under King Saul. And Saul became jealous and enraged because Israel became more fond of David than their king. So he sought out to kill David and instead of fighting back, David fled. But in one instance in a cave, David could have taken the life of Saul but instead, he just cut off the corner of his robe. As Saul was leaving, David called out to Saul and humbly confessed,
“Why do you listen to the words of men, saying, ‘Behold, David seeks to harm you’? Behold, this day your eyes have seen that the Lord had given you today into my hand in the cave, and some said to kill you, but my eye had pity on you; and I said, ‘I will not stretch out my hand against my lord, for he is the Lord’s anointed.’ Now, my father, see! Indeed, see the edge of your robe in my hand! For in that I cut off the edge of your robe and did not kill you, know and perceive that there is no evil or rebellion in my hands, and I have not sinned against you, though you are lying in wait for my life to take it.
Having an attitude of submission is being like Christ. Christ modeled submission like no other and we should strive to model it in our working lives as well. Do you have that attitude of submission?
The second quality is that our work in the Lord should be
2. Properly Motivated v. 22 not with external service, as those who merely please men, but with sincerity of heart, fearing the Lord.
There are two motivations for our work in Christ. Paul wants us to see a wrong motivation for work and a right motivation.
Wrong motivation- Superficiality v. 22b
The wrong motivation for our work is to work with impure motives and a wrong focus. One wrong motivation is what Paul calls “eye service.” In another light, it is called deception. It is when we try and get away with working only when the boss is looking and slacking the rest of the time.
I picture a number of office workers near their cubicles standing around talking over coffee until the boss walks in and then they scurry like cockroaches when you turn on the kitchen light. Job 24:31 says, “His eyes are upon the ways of man and He sees all his steps.” God sees all things whether the boss is around or not. He can see when we are working and when we are golfing. He can see us when we put in the extra hours and he sees us asleep under our desk.
Another wrong motivation for our work is to work with an incorrect focus. Paul uses the phrase “men pleasers”- This problem lies in our hearts because we focus sometimes on pleasing man to earn his approval and respect when we should be striving to please God who already approves us and grants us respect.
Man Pleasing is a part of our Old Nature
Gal. 1:10- 10 For am I now seeking the favor of men, or of God? Or am I striving to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a bond-servant of Christ.
Paul is clarifying that pleasing men is not a quality of the new nature of a Christian. Now let’s look at the right motivation to work in the Lord.
“but with sincerity of heart, fearing the Lord.”
Right motivation- Sincerity
The right motivation is with sincerity of heart, fearing or honoring God. What Paul means is we are to have our hearts focused on one thing alone when we work at anything-pleasing God. Our purpose should be to please Him and Him alone. Let’s look at an illustration of someone who demonstrated this.
King Hezekiah –In 2 Chronicles chapter 31, King Hezekiah did not follow in the footsteps of his Father as King of Judah. He initiated great spiritual reformation in the lives of the Jews. They reopened the temple for worship, they tore down the Baal alters and they renewed their allegiance to God. In the end of their the reformation, the Bible says Hezekiah “did throughout all Judah; and he did what was good, right and true before the Lord his God. 21 Every work which he began in the service of the house of God in law and in commandment, seeking his God, he did with all his heart and prospered.”
No matter how good or bad your job may be, it will not matter if you turn your focus to serve God over man. Your joy will come from Him and he will always be proud of your efforts. Like Michael Phelps in these previous Olympics as he stood on the platform to receive his next gold medal, his mother in the audience never looked any less approving and proud of her son, even if it was his fifth or sixth medal. God is more approving and proud of us when we work to please him.
The third quality is our work in the Lord should be…
3. Consistent v.23b 23 Whatever you do, do your work
Paul uses the 2 verbs here that have similar meaning. First he says “whatever you do” and the verb here (poieo) is a general term meaning to accomplish something. Then he continues, “whatever you do, do the work.” He uses a more intense verb “ergazomai” which means to do your work or labor. This is an imperative verb which is a command and in a present tense which means it is continual action. What this all means is that Paul is commanding us to do our work for the Lord and to do it continually, not giving up but progressing forward on into the future.
The opposite of this type of dependable labor would be being idle or not doing anything at all. We know from God’s word that being idle or inactive in life “leads to hunger” and suffering.
DL Moody once said, “It is observable that God has often called men to places of dignity and honor when they have busy and honest employment of their vocation. Saul was seeking his father’s donkeys and David his father’s sheep when called to the Kingdom. The shepherds were feeding their flocks when they had their glorious revelation. God called the four apostles from their fishing and Matthew from collecting taxes, Amos from the horsemen of Tecoah, Moses from keeping Jethro’s sheep, Gideon from the threshing floor, Elisha from the plows. God never called a lazy man. God never encourages idleness and will not despise persons in the lowest employment.—D. L. Moody
When we work, it is God’s desire for us to be consistent in our work effort. Dependable work is invaluable to us in society. When we find quality workers that demonstrate quality work, we do not want to let them go. Many of you today are successful businessmen because of the reliable, work that you provide for the community. Your customers depend on you because you have proven to them you can be trusted. Your trusted work as a Christian businessman honors God and brings glory to His name.
Where being a consistent worker deals with your actions, the next quality deals with your heart.
The fourth quality is our work in the Lord should be…
4. Exhaustive v.23b- heartily,
Most translations are going to translate this “do your work, heartily” or “from the heart.” But you would be interested to know that this phrase actually does not contain the Greek word for heart (kardia) but actually the word (psuche) translated soul. So this phrase literally reads, “do the work from your soul.” Most commentators agree that this phrase is equivalent to the phrase “in the heart” or they are used frequently side by side.
Deuteronomy 4:29 (NASB95)29 “But from there you will seek the Lord your God, and you will find Him if you search for Him with all your heart and all your soul.
After Moses reads to Israel the commandments of God, he says, "“This day the Lord your God commands you to do these statutes and ordinances. You shall therefore be careful to do them with all your heart and with all your soul." (Deuteronomy 26:16, NASB95)
And Jesus commands the people to ""And He said to him, “ ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’" (Matthew 22:37, NASB95)
With all your heart and soul, basically means that we are to love, serve and work with everything we have emotionally as well as physically. This seemed to be the work ethic of the great apostle Paul as he awaited his imminent execution after his trial in Rome. There he wrote the 2nd letter to Timothy with these words
"For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith; in the future there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day; and not only to me, but also to all who have loved His appearing." (2 Timothy 4:6-8, NASB95)
A football coach often uses the phrase, “leave everything you got out on the field.” Paul left everything out on the field. He worked as hard as he could with all his heart and soul and his joy came from knowing that Christ was proclaimed and God was glorified.
Are you working with all your heart and soul at your job or in your life? Do you give everything you have got, leaving all on the field, or do you do just what you need to get by?
The fifth quality today is that our work in the Lord should be…
5. Spiritual v.23c- as for the Lord rather than for men,
We are working for Christ, not man As Christian people, every action we take is a spiritual action. Just like writing a check is a spiritual action because it is God’s money, so working is a spiritual action because we belong to God. Paul asks you in 1 Corinthians , “"Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? For you have been bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body." (1 Corinthians 6:19-20, NASB95). If we are owned by God and we are just stewards of this body, then when we work, we should not work to please men, but we should work to please Christ and him alone. We may be accomplishing the goals of our earthly masters but our work and how we work is important to our Heavenly Master.
As we strive to please men, Paul says we cannot be slaves to Christ. But the truth is working toward pleasing God and not man is a big stress reliever. If you develop this attitude, no longer do you have to spend countless hours trying to impress your boss, worrying about his acceptance of you. You can do your best and move forward knowing that God has already accepted you and you will be a happier person and a joyful Christian.
And our joy comes from our 6th quality which is Our Work in the Lord should be…
6. Rewarding v.24 24 knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance. It is the Lord Christ whom you serve.
Our joy from our work is rewarding because we are blessed by God. We can look forward to the inheritance that we share in God with Christ and that can be the motivation for our dedicated work in this world. The Greek wording here would literally read to “be repaid the reward.”
What is that reward? It is not money, or fame, or success, but instead it is part of a divine inheritance. Paul talks extensively to the Colossians about their inheritance that they have in God. In chapter 1, we discover that our inheritance is reserved for us in heaven. We also see that in salvation, we are qualified by God to receive that inheritance. In chapter 3, we learn that part of our inheritance is being reveled in heaven with Christ in glory.
Pastor John Macarthur writes about our inheritance. “God has graciously given us a guarantee for our inheritance. That guarantee is the indwelling Holy Spirit. In Ephesians 1:13–14, Paul writes, “You were sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is given as a pledge of our inheritance.” “Pledge” translates arrabōn, which is similar to the modern Greek word for engagement ring.”
Romans 8:16-17 "The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, heirs also, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him so that we may also be glorified with Him." (Romans 8:16-17, NASB95)
Church my prayer is that my heart grows fonder toward my future inheritance than my current paycheck and possessions. I want to work for the Lord in a way that I receive joy from all I do and a paycheck is not important but it’s just an added bonus.
There is a story of a fisherman lying down on the beach fishing. A stressed out business man is walking along and sees this man who he presumes to just be lazy. The business man tells the fisherman “you need to get up and work harder and stop being lazy.” The fisherman replied, “what will my reward be?” The business man said” you can get bigger nets and catch more fish and make more money.” The fisherman said, “then what will be my reward?” The aggravated business man said, “you can buy a boat and hire some workers and make more money?” And the fisherman replied again, “Then what will my reward be?” The frustrated business man, “you can buy many boats, and your employees can fish for you and you can lay on this beach and relax.” The fisherman replied, “what do you think I am doing now.”
The truth is we can work hard our whole life for acceptance, for fame, for more money, but the only reward that is worth it is God being pleased with our work and giving Him the glory because of it.
The last quality is our work in the Lord should be…
7. Accountable or Responsible v. 25 For he who does wrong will receive the consequences of the wrong which he has done, and that without partiality.
Paul here warns the slaves that if their work is done with wrong motives or in a lazy or idle nature, then God will hold them accountable for their actions. This is an obvious contrast here from “receiving a reward” and “receiving consequences.” The slaves in that day knew the principle of consequences from an earthly perspective since they could be put to death if they did not do their work appropriately. But Paul is addressing Christian slaves and his point is that you will face earthly consequences but you will also face the judgment from your Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
There are millions of Americans at work with minimal passion for what they do. They have bad attitudes and poor customer service. They hate their bosses or co-workers, hate the dress code, or hate the location. They lie, cheat, and steal to get ahead just to impress their bosses so they can be a success in the eyes of the world. And sadly, many of these people call themselves Christians. But the truth is their allegiance is not to their work or to God, it is only to themselves.
In Romans 14:6-8 is says
6 He who observes the day, observes it for the Lord, and he who eats, does so for the Lord, for he gives thanks to God; and he who eats not, for the Lord he does not eat, and gives thanks to God. 7 For not one of us lives for himself, and not one dies for himself; 8 for if we live, we live for the Lord, or if we die, we die for the Lord; therefore whether we live or die, we are the Lord’s
We should work for the Lord. We as Christians need to set the example in this country of what work really should be. The beliefs of our faith and the commands of our Father propel us to be the best employees in this nation. Not to please men but to bring glory to God.
What kind of a worker are you?