Discussion question: Name the topics and passages linked to those topics that we’ve covered in this series. Try to show understanding in your recollection! Eg, Week 1 = What faith looks like (Hebrews 11:1).
God is our maker and judge. Since we are unworthy to stand before him (I heard it said recently, “although we live in His world, we spit in His face”)…since we’re unworthy, He has saved us by his mercy through Jesus Christ our Lord and Saviour. We believe this and that is called knowledge. We commit to this and are confident of this, that could be called faith. But faith is not simply stated, it is lived.
Faith does things. It grants us eternal life. It drives our thoughts, speech and actions. It runs alongside love – both fueled by the hope that we share in the resurrection. It teaches our heart to love God’s kingdom because it is the only sound investment that we can ever make. So, love, action, future, power and possessions are all affected by our faith. It’s important to make sure that our faith is in Jesus Christ and not in ourselves.
Let’s remember: Faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see (Hebrews 11:1). There is one last area of life that is changed by us because we are confident of God’s presence and our citizenship in the Kingdom of Heaven.
Read Colossians 3:22-4:1
This section exists in a broader section starting with Colossians 3:1 and going to 4:6. Note especially Verses 3:1, 12, and 15. We have been elevated with Christ, as God’s chosen (and special people) and so must allow the peace of Christ to rule in our hearts. This is a way of describing how the love and good deeds flow from our faith – because we are now God’s people. Verses 18-21 fit in this context, not as a list of do’s and don’ts but that our relationships on earth can be enriched because of the rule of peace!
- Verse 22-23 – A directive to slaves (that’s probably you)
- Verses 24-25 – The reason and motivation
- Verse 4:1 – A directive to masters (that could be you)
Verse 22-23 – A directive to slaves (that’s probably you)
“Slaves…” As we read the bible we must have in mind that slavery was common and it was not usually a sign of forced labour and slave trade. Consider how we too are slaves if we are employed by somebody else. Why would you want to be employed except that you need the money (cause you aren’t a millionaire) and you have debt to pay, bread to buy and a tomorrow to invest in. You therefore sign a contract with your boss that covers how long you’ll work for, how many hours, what your wage is and what your duty involves etc. You are bound to that contract. I am not saying that we are therefore slaves in exactly the same way but the overlap is so huge that it is simple to just admit that this passage is for us if we are under an employment contract.
NB: slave trading is bad and the bible does not condone it.
“…obey your earthly masters in everything…” 1 Peter 2:18 expands on the word everything by saying that it is not dependant on whether your boss is good and considerate or harsh. In our society context, there is room to discuss and negotiate and even formerly complain about unfair work environments, but on a day to day basis, we are not acting on the condition of our boss but out of obedience to God.
“…not only when their eye is on you and to curry their favour…” Our motivation for our work is not to please the boss first and foremost. We are being instructed to be a consistent worker – a legit employer – authentic.
“…but with sincerity of heart and reverence for the Lord.” Ironic that in working for the Lord and not people, our human masters are likely to reap a very good benefit. And the duty is not clocked like a time keeper, it is a changed heart that is decidedly good at work. The drive is our reverence – our sober minded knowledge of the living God. That is, our faith will drive our work ethic.
“Whatever you do…” An all inclusive phrase. There’s no compartmentalising the things you do. The context is about slaves and masters but it embraces marriage, parenthood and ‘whatever you do.’
“…work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters…” There is a sense of determination here. Set your mind and heart to the thing that you are doing. If you have been required to do it, then do it well. But not for gaining favour from your boss but because you love and fear the Lord.
Verses 24-25 – The reason and motivation
“…since you know…” Here is where our series on faith makes sense. Because of what we know, about our Creator, our salvation, the resurrection, the Kingdom of God, eternity, Jesus our Lord and King – because of our FAITH…since we are confident in Jesus as Lord and our inheritance into eternal life….
“…you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward.” Our behaviour in this life, because of our faith, will prove our faith as healthy. The wider context of the whole New Testament tells us clearly that we are not saved because of what we do, and especially not simply because we are good little servants in this life. Being good does not save you. Therefore, it is because we have already been promised eternity that our reward is great. In other words, don’t work hard for the sake of your master but because you have already great reward from your heavenly Master.
“It is the Lord Christ you are serving.” He has bought you. You are his. It is the one time I am happy to use the word ‘slave’ in a positive sense. You are not working for a fortnightly pay check, but out of the knowledge that the kingdom is yours. Others will see you doing life for all sorts of reasons, but by faith, you know that your work is for the Lord. This passage is giving us the call to make Jesus your boss.
“Anyone who does wrong will be repaid for their wrongs, and there is no favouritism.” This is a true statement with regard to judgment and we all fall short. By God’s grace, we will be saved because of the death and resurrection of Christ. This fact alone drives our work on earth to be loyal to the God who loves truth and commitment – two qualities a worker would be wise to stand by – do what you’ve promised to do and don’t take short cuts. This verse (V25) is putting flesh on Verse 23 – reverence for the Lord.
Verse 4:1 – A directive to masters (that could be you)
“Masters…you also have a Master in heaven.” The economy of business on earth never supersedes the authority of the kingdom of heaven. This verse is written for Christian masters to take heed. Any person who exercises authority in business full time or part time or in any areas of life, if you have authority, know that the Lord is your boss.
Faith in God and the gospel is not compartmentalised to bits of our life but in all that we do. There is no realm of our existence that God gets and life takes over the rest. In everything that you do, do it as though God asked you to do it.
Application A) An audience of One. When we try to ‘curry favour’ from people we are acting on the fuel of human praise. If it is human approval we crave, we will pick and choose what we do well and can be lead towards grumbling and other bad patterns. But if we look out into the audience of our life and see just one person watching – God has already awarded us the greatest treasure we can ever want. All the other occupied seats in the audience is background noise. In everything you do, do it like it’s for the Lord.
Application B) When your boss is wrong. Somehow, we need to balance the fact that a) we are not doing it to please our boss and b) we are working for our boss faithfully whether they are caring or harsh (or ?). Wisdom is needed to traverse this. Colossians 3 has explored the theme of relationships on this earth knowing that we are not invested solely in this earth – we seek first God’s Kingdom – receiving an inheritance from the Lord. The relationship we have with bosses is important. If possible, there may be a time to move on from that job. If possible, there may be scope to discuss things with your boss – or with HR. If possible, you could rise up and replace your boss (in a godly way). There may be times when an illegal or immoral thing is being asked of you. This is not the spirit of this passage. These are curveballs that people like to throw at passages like this. The principle remains: are you serving yourself or your King?
Application C) How Faith Works. This whole series has been designed to unpack every corner of our lives that faith impacts. If we are convinced in the resurrection and our own inheritance in the Kingdom of God, it ought to change us. It ought to change the way we use and view our possessions and how we view and use our time and energy. Just as there is no option to serve both God and money/possessions, there is no option to serve both God and step him aside on Monday morning when we get to work. Here’s the rub: do you compartmentalise your faith and life as if the two are separate – this series was aimed to convince you this is impossible. One person said to Jesus, “Lord I believe, help me with my unbelief.” This may be a good prayer to adopt.