Colossians 3:22-4:1 - Biblical Workplace

Colossians  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  39:02
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We have been going through a little mini series here in the book of Colossians. We first discussed Biblical Marriage and talked about the Biblical complementarian view of marriage - that we are equal and yet not the same. We discussed that we have different roles. Then last week we discussed Biblical Family. We discussed the family relationship including the obedience of children and the leadership of the family by the parents - especially fathers.
Today we continue learning what the Bible has to say about our earthly relationships. Instead of focusing on the family we are going to be focusing on the workplace. God has designed us to work. Work is not something that was part of the curse. It was something from the beginning that God gave to Adam and Eve as a gift. They were given dominion over the earth and given a job to do. The Fall of Man and the subsequent curse brought on by that fall led to a new difficulty that came into the work environment. Sin entered the world and work was made much harder. It now takes much more work to get the job done and many difficulties continue to arise both relationally and practically.
Let’s see what the Bible has to say about working in a world affected by sin.
Join me as we read God’s Word:
Colossians 3:22–4:1 ESV
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 heartily, 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. For the wrongdoer will be paid back for the wrong he has done, and there is no partiality. Masters, treat your bondservants justly and fairly, knowing that you also have a Master in heaven.
Before we get into this message I want to give a preface in understanding this Scripture in its context. We are going to practically apply this Scripture to our lives by comparing it to the workplace. This application is entirely valid, but we must understand that the context in which these verses were written is not a 1:1 comparison.
We see the first word here is bondservant. This word may be translated slave as well. The word slavery brings about an anxiety in the mind of the American believer no matter what your skin color. It reminds us of the moral failings of our churches in the past and the moral failings of cultures and societies far before us. Frankly, it reminds us of the sin of this world.
So as we come to a Scripture like this, we have to start by understanding it in context. Slavery was practiced by the Romans and was widely accepted in many of the cultures that proceeded it all the way up to and including early American history. We will be applying this Scripture in our context today so that we can see how we can take Scripture like this and be changed by it even in our culture today. Yet, we need to make sure that we realize the original context of this passage as well.
Before we jump into the message I think we need to address a couple of quick points that are culturally relevant today.
1. Scripture does not condone slavery.
Theologian Wayne Grudem eloquently combats this misunderstanding of Scripture with the following quote:
“The Bible does not approve or command slavery any more than it approves or commands persecution of Christians. When the author of Hebrews commends his readers by saying, “You joyfully accepted the plundering of your property, since you knew that you yourselves had a better possession and an abiding one” (Hebrews 10:34), that does not mean the Bible supports the plundering of Christians’ property, or that it commands theft.
It only means that if Christians have their property taken through persecution, they should still rejoice because of their heavenly treasure, which cannot be stolen. Similarly, when the Bible tells slaves to be submissive to their masters, it does not mean that the Bible supports or commands slavery, but only that it tells people who are slaves how they should respond.”
- Wayne Grudem
2. Although slavery is not directly attacked by Scripture, the seeds of overthrowing slavery are listed throughout the Scriptures.
Biblical critics are correct in saying that Scripture does not come right out and condemn slavery. This is because the Bible is focused on spreading the Gospel. As the Gospel would spread, righteousness would abound and eventually abolish slavery. And that is what happened in many nations. Christians such as William Wilberforce of England and Abraham Lincoln of the United States used their Christian values found in Scripture to combat this detestable practice.
The Scriptures clearly undermine the idea of slavery throughout its pages. We see verses on equality, love, and sacrifice. We see verses that assert that the first will be last and the last first (Matthew 20:16). We see leaders being called to serve.
Even in our Scripture today we see Paul addressing bondservants directly in his letter which shows that they were equal in standing among their fellow church members.
So with that aside, it is crystal clear that Scripture teaches a higher way of thinking than slavery. I think that this topic is the best example and proof that the heavily pedaled social gospel in America today is not what works. Slavery was eventually abolished by true believers through the work of the Gospel. If we want to change our world - we needn’t overly focus on all of the injustice solely. We must focus on evangelism and share the Good News of the Gospel with those around us. True regenerate men and women will lead to a changed world.
Yes, we need to speak out on behalf of the oppressed. Yes we need to be in agreement with Micah 6:8:
Micah 6:8 ESV
He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?
But our main concern should be the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Because government laws, protests, manipulation, convincing arguments, books, and political maneuvers do not change hearts. You may change a mind which can sadly be changed back in an instant. But you won’t change a heart with anything other than the Gospel of Jesus Christ. And it is only true heart change performed by Christ that lasts.
Let us pray.
Getting into our message for today, we are now going to discuss how Christ is honored in the workplace. The first is:

I. Christ is Glorified by Godly Employees (Colossians 3:22-24)

Colossians 3:22–24 ESV
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 heartily, 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.
We have already mentioned and explained this word bondservants. We understand that it was another word for slave. Paul will get to admonishing masters in a bit but note the strong language used here again. Obey in everything. This is the same phrase that we saw with children obeying parents. This is another tough command. Obey in everything those who are your earthly masters.
As we exhorted children, obviously we obey Christ first and anything that is against the Word of God should be actively resisted.
The best modern contextual application of this Scripture is the workplace. Although the employee/employer relationship is certainly much different than the bondservant/master relationship, there remains many similarities.
As an employee we need to obey those in our authority and be a blessing to them. And we are to obey them in everything as long as it isn’t against the Word of God.
I think this is a very difficult command for our current humanistic/me first culture. The natural bend for most employees is to obey what they agree with and what they think is a good idea. When something seems to negatively affect them or doesn’t seem to make sense to them, there is a quick backlash in the workplace.
I pray that we aren’t like this. I pray that we do our best to work in harmony at our workplaces. Obviously there is a time to stand up when unrighteousness is encouraged and we should. We should boldly stand for Christ and righteousness like Daniel did when he was commanded not to pray to God and did anyway and was cast into the lion’s den (Daniel 6:10-28). We should not compromise our Christian values no matter what the cost. Yet we should do our best to work in peace.
Paul gives a strong encouragement for peace in 2 Corinthians 13:11
2 Corinthians 13:11 ESV
Finally, brothers, rejoice. Aim for restoration, comfort one another, agree with one another, live in peace; and the God of love and peace will be with you.
We should not be intentionally disagreeable. We should not be workers of strife or drama. When we seek peace through loving others with the love of God, we will create a much better atmosphere for both ourselves and our colleagues and managers.
And understanding this parallel verse in its context, this peace and agreeableness should be present in the church as well. Yet, this is only possible through the power and love of Christ working inside of us through His Spirit.
Colossians 3:22 ESV
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.
Moving on through verse 22 we see two ways that we are not to obey. We are not to obey or work hard because someone is watching us or to earn points with our employer.
Eye-service here refers to those servants who would only work hard when their master was watching. They worked hard to avoid punishment and to hopefully get rewarded. This hard work was done with only selfish gain and was dishonest.
This type of working lacks integrity. Integrity is the integral part of character. It is doing what is right even when no one is watching. Integrity is who you really are inside.
What do you do on your computer at work when no one is watching? Are you putting off work while scrolling through Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, etc. Or are you continuing to diligently work. I understand that we have some downtime at work sometimes and are able to work on outside projects while we await a new task.
However, if you have work to do and are not doing it, you are robbing your employer. I don’t think we see it that way in our culture. But you are collecting a paycheck. And that paycheck is for a certain amount of hours you have agreed to work.
By slacking on the job and not doing the work you agreed to do, you are stealing from your employer.
Exodus 20:15 ESV
“You shall not steal.
You are breaking one of the Ten Commandments by robbing your employer. And you are dishonoring Christ in the process.
I realize this is a tough teaching as slacking at the workplace has become all too common, but I would encourage you to repent and change your ways if this is you. Because when we don’t work hard with integrity, we fail to bring God glory through our work which should be the main goal of what we do. We should do everything to bring God glory.
1 Corinthians 10:31 (ESV)
...whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.
Colossians 3:22 ESV
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.
Next we get to the phrase people-pleasers.
Whereas eye-service people aim to please themselves alone, this group of people is still in error. This group is all about pleasing their authorities instead of God. The end of this verse lets us know that we should obey with sincerity of heart - fearing the Lord. Our hard work should be single-minded. It shouldn’t be all about finding favor with our employer or supervisor. Yes, we should pray more often for favor from God. God is sovereign and has power to influence believers and unbelievers alike. But our main focus should not be on ourselves or even others but instead on God.
The error of focusing on our overseers is seen by the compromises that may arise if this is the focus. If your number one goal is to please your boss or manager, then you are going to be much more likely to compromise on your morals. If your sole reason for working is to glorify God and your supervisor asks you do something unethical, you aren’t going to give in because your main concern is for the glory of God. Yet if your focus is on yourself in order to gain favor, or your boss in order to gain favor - then you are going to be much more likely to do something unethical and against God’s commands.
We should reverently fear the Lord and seek to obey Him through integrity and righteousness.
Colossians 3:23 ESV
Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men,
Paul drives home this point in verse 23 as well. The work that we do we do for the Lord and not for men. It is not primarily for ourselves or others. And this work should be done heartily - meaning from the heart. This Greek word here is psychē (see-kay) which means soul. We work from the depths of our soul. And we work this way because we know who created us and who saved us. We work for the glory of God out of a thankfulness for what Christ did on the cross for us. Let’s look at the next verse which expounds upon this idea:
Colossians 3:24 ESV
knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ.
Paul challenged servants to consider the fact that their reward was to come. They had an imperishable inheritance coming. They should keep working hard because there was a reward coming their way. There was freedom found through the blood of Christ and this understanding pointed to eternal freedom that was to come.
We can apply this to our lives. Some of you might have difficult jobs. Your employers might not treat you the best. You might be taken advantage of, underappreciated, overworked - yet a reward is coming for you if you are in Christ. Those who have placed their faith and trust in Christ Jesus as their Savior - those that believe in the Risen King, the perfect Son of God - who came and lived a sinless life as 100% man and 100% God and took our sins on the cross so that we might have eternal life - those who have repented - or turned away - from their sins and turned toward Christ for salvation - they have an inheritance and reward coming. Eternal life is guaranteed because of the work Christ did on the cross. And further rewards are promised on top of that in accordance with how you allow Christ to work through you after salvation.
Each day we work - remember that you are serving the Lord Jesus Christ and not man.
Next we see that....
Scripture References: Hebrews 10:34, Matthew 20:16, Micah 6:8, Daniel 6:10-28, 2 Corinthians 13:11, Exodus 20:15, 1 Corinthians 10:31

II. Christ is Glorified by Godly Employers (Colossians 3:25-4:1)

Colossians 3:25–4:1 ESV
For the wrongdoer will be paid back for the wrong he has done, and there is no partiality. Masters, treat your bondservants justly and fairly, knowing that you also have a Master in heaven.
There is some debate on whether verse 25 goes more with applying to bondservants or masters. Frankly, I think it applies to both and all humanity. Paul has just encouraged bondservants with the hope of the reward to come. He has reminded them that they serve Christ and not man.
But the opposite understanding is present here as well. There is judgment coming for the unjust and disobedient. Everyone will be judged based on their deeds. There is no partiality based on political rank or power, ethnicity, looks, or abilities. All will face the judgment of Christ and the wrongdoers will be paid back for the wrong they have done. See the following parallel verses:
Romans 2:11 ESV
For God shows no partiality.
Ephesians 6:9 ESV
Masters, do the same to them, and stop your threatening, knowing that he who is both their Master and yours is in heaven, and that there is no partiality with him.
This verse is a warning that speaks not first and foremost of worldly discipline and recompense - although there is truth and some partial application to this - but this comes right after discussing the glorious inheritance of the saints - namely eternal life with Christ in heaven.
It is clear that this refers to eternal punishment in Hell primarily. This is a word of warning to everyone - whether slave or free, servant or master - that wrongdoers will be judged.
Praise God that for those who are in Christ, their deeds have been paid for by the blood of the Lamb. Christ has taken their sins on the cross and the punishment has been paid. Yet, while on earth we still may be wronged. Paul encourages believers here that have been wronged by others. See Paul speak in Romans as well regarding this:
Romans 12:19 ESV
Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.”
This encouragement is that all of the wrongs will be made right. If your employer treats you poorly, God sees it. You don’t have to do all in your power to bring about justice in every situation for yourself. God has your back. His judgment will make any justice you attempt on your own seem insignificant. God will repay the wrongdoer. And you can rest in that and allow Him to fight for you. Which brings me to one of my favorite verses:
Exodus 14:14 ESV
The Lord will fight for you, and you have only to be silent.”
Moses and Isreal are fleeing the Egyptians who are chasing them to the Red Sea. Israel is crying out to Moses that he should have just left them as slaves in Egypt instead of leading them out to be eventually destroyed by Pharaoh's army. And this is what the Lord told Moses before parting the Red Sea and delivering Israel across dry land and destroying Pharaoh's army.
We can find comfort in this as well. He is fighting our battles. He is sovereign and over all. We just need to trust Him and be faithful.
Yes, there is a time to stand up and act - but there is also a time to let go and watch God work.
Moving to our last verse, we see a focus in on masters:
Colossians 4:1 ESV
Masters, treat your bondservants justly and fairly, knowing that you also have a Master in heaven.
Masters, or in our context employers/supervisors/overseers, are reminded that they aren’t the end-all be-all. They aren’t really the ones in charge. The buck doesn’t stop with them. No matter how high up you reach in politics, business, or any other field - there is always someone above you - and that is the Lord Jesus Christ.
Paul reminds those in charge of others that they will answer to God.
Because of this, we see two charges to those in leadership over others.
Leaders should treat those under their authority justly.
The Greek for this is dikaiōs (thee-key-ose) and means to treat uprightly. This means to treat others in a righteous manner. Leaders should seek to do what is right by those under them. They should not do what is only beneficial for themselves. They should consider others before themselves. They should humble, servant leaders and follow the example Christ set for us.
Matthew 20:25–26 ESV
But Jesus called them to him and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. It shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant,
Leaders should not unjustly lead those under them for selfish gain. They should seek the best for those under their authority.
2. Leaders should treat those under their authority fairly.
Here we come to the Greek word isotēs (ee-so-tace) which means fair or with equity. Leaders should not show favoritism. This doesn’t mean that you treat everyone the same under your authority. Some may require more oversight than others. Some may be more worthy of trust than others. But what this means is that you treat all of those under you fairly. You don’t show favoritism because you like one’s personality more or because you share similar interests.
The workplace is full of situations in which someone is a poor employee but is a charismatic and likable person and is able to be successful based not on their work but by becoming the favorite. Employers, bosses, supervisors - don’t be hoodwinked by these people. Don’t neglect your solid employees who don’t butter you up for the ones that do.
James teaches against favoritism and partiality strongly in his letter.
James 2:1–2 ESV
My brothers, show no partiality as you hold the faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory. For if a man wearing a gold ring and fine clothing comes into your assembly, and a poor man in shabby clothing also comes in,
James 2:3–4 ESV
and if you pay attention to the one who wears the fine clothing and say, “You sit here in a good place,” while you say to the poor man, “You stand over there,” or, “Sit down at my feet,” have you not then made distinctions among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts?
We have also just finished the last verse of Colossians 3 which showed that God shows no partiality. We are to be like our Heavenly Father. Here we see James teach us the same. Don’t show partiality based on appearances, interests, or superficial reasons. Lead righteously and fairly.
Employers, supervisors, bosses, overseers - you honor and glorify Christ by the way you treat those under you.
Christ deserved to be served but instead came as a servant to us. Go and do likewise.
Scripture References: Romans 2:11, Ephesians 6:9, Romans 12:19, Exodus 14:14, Matthew 20:25-26, James 2:1-4
As we come to a close, I pray that you have a better understanding of the importance of work. We work in order to glorify Christ. We should work hard and work as if working for the Lord and not man. And we should lead others justly and fairly. We understand that work is not a part of the curse but was made harder because of the curse. But we are called to persevere and still work for the glory of Christ even when it is hard.
I know that some of you might be in very difficult work environments. I pray that you are encouraged in understanding that your work is seen by the Lord - even if others may not notice the hard work you put in. Rest and know the Lord sees everything. He sees your sacrifice and work. Move forward working through His strength and power, because a reward and inheritance awaits those who are His!
Let us pray.
If you would like to learn more about salvation through Jesus Christ or want to obey Jesus by obeying the first commandment of a believer in going through the waters of baptism - please let me know.
Have a blessed week.
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