Christianity in the Workplace Colossians 3:22

 Tammy Kister

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By Henry Nelson | May 1, 2010

“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.”{{more}}In the passage above it is hard for us to even imagine today the vast extent of slavery in the first century and just how cruel it was. Ancient historians estimate that there were about 60 million slaves in the Roman Empire, which was about one-third to one-half the population. Practically everything was done by slaves. They worked in the household, they worked in the factories, and they worked in the fields. Some slaves were even doctors and teachers.Thank God, slavery is no longer a part of our own culture. There might be a tendency to think that Paul’s words really do not mean much anymore. But I would suggest to you that these teachings do have an application today as you consider your relationship not as masters and slaves, but as employers and employees. That is not to say that the relationships are exactly the same, but the application of Paul’s teaching does relate to the situations we find ourselves in. We live in an age where there is still a lot of struggle that goes on between labor and management, between the employer and the employees.Conflicts go on all the time, with each side accusing the other of selfishness andunreasonableness. Employees want smaller workloads, fewer hours, more vacation, and more pay and benefits. Employers want more productivity and more profits. What is the solution, from God’s point of view? How should a Christian conduct himself on the job? How should he handle the problems that will inevitably come up?It is significant that we have a Christian responsibility in the workplace just as surely as we have a responsibility in our times of worship together. Following Christ is not a part-time job. You do not leave your Christianity on the front doorstep of the church building when you leave. You take it with you into your home and into your workplace. So when problems come up at work, it’s just like when problems come up in the home, the solution has to begin with God. Amen!In every aspect of human life God’s plan is one of authority and submission, and those two pillars form the bedrock of relations, not only in the home, but at work as well. To avoid chaos, somebody has to lead, and others have to follow. In that regard, Paul’s instructions to masters and slaves are very similar to his instructions for husbands and wives, and parents and children. It is important from the outset to recognize that God’s plan for authority is not based on superiority. Just because husbands have authority over their wives does not mean they are superior. Just because parents have authority over their children does not mean they are superior. It just means that God has a plan of authority and submission. The same was true of masters and slaves in the first century, and the same is true of employers and employees today. You may sit on the pew right next to your supervisor on Sunday mornings and you stand before God as equals. Galatians 3:28 says, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus,” but when you go to work on Monday morning, your relationship with that man changes. It is all a matter of authority and submission. Amen!I have something to say to both sides of the matter, and I will make application to both sides of our situation today. First, workers should know what their responsibility is. The responsibility of employees is first and foremost the requirement of obedience. Colossians 3:22 says, “Servants, obey in all things your masters according to the flesh.” Amen! The Greek word translated “obey” is actually a combination of the Greek words for “listen” and “under”. It means to “get under the authority of your master, and listen to what he tells you to do.” Considering the working conditions of slaves in those days, that was a strong statement. Think how these words must have sounded to a slave who was being mistreated and abused! “Slaves, obey your earthly masters in everything.”I would suggest to you that the first obligation a Christian has is to please his Lord and to be a faithful testimony to him. One way to do this, Paul says, is to give willing obedience to those under whom you work, regardless of who they are or what their character is like. Christians are not to obey simply when they feel like it or when their employers are fair and reasonable. They are to obey in everything and at all times, the only exception, of course, being when they’re instructed to do something opposed to God’s word.We are not free to pick and choose only those things that please us. We may not agree with them. We may not always like what they ask. We may reach a point where we think the situation is intolerable, and we need to quit and look for something else. But as long as we’re employed, we should do what we are told and work to the best of our ability.You may say, “But you don’t know my boss!” If you think you have problems, imagine being a slave in the first century. Think about the cruel masters those Christian slaves had to serve. And yet Paul still said, “Obey in everything.” No restrictions were applied to this obedience, no fine print. He didn’t say, “Do what you have been assigned if it makes sense to you or if gives you a sense of satisfaction.” What he said was, “Do what you’re told.” 1st Peter 2:18 says, “Servants, be submissive to your masters with all fear, not only to the good and gentle, but also to the harsh.” Amen! I think the application for us today is that we are to be obedient, hard-working employees, even if our employer is at times unreasonable. What if your boss is a Christian? Maybe they felt like they should receive preferential treatment in that situation. But listen to what 1st Timothy 6:2 says, “And those who have believing masters, let them not despise them because they are brethren, but rather serve them because those who are benefited are believers and beloved.” Amen!So whether his boss is kind or cruel, believing or pagan, a Christian is to be obedient to him because that is God’s Will. An employer is an employer, no matter who he is, and he deserves the best effort in whatever work we do for him.If you are living the Christian life, it ought to manifest itself at the job. Your employer should be able to see in you an employee who follow instructions, a worker who does what he’s told the first time. As Christians, we have a responsibility to obey our employers. Our obedience has to do with a couple of regulations. The first has to do with our attitude. Slaves and by application, employees are to serve. Colossians 4:22 says, “Not with eye service, as men-pleasers, but in sincerity of heart, fearing God.” The idea here is that employees should do what they are supposed to be doing all the time, not just when the boss is watching. Neither should you attempt to get by with as little as possible on the job. Your attitude should be one of sincerity; you should desire to give your employer the best hour’s work you can for an hour’s wage.Ephesians 6:7says for servants to serve, “With good will.” In other words, do not spend your time complaining under your breath the whole time you are working. He expands it even more in Titus 2:9. A person should obey his employer “Not answering back”. Some other translations say, “Not being argumentative”. Again, that’s just to say he is to do what he’s told and do it with the proper attitude.When you do something Colossians 3:2 says, “Whatever you do, do it heartily.” That is, give it everything you have got. Then he gives us the reason why: “as working to the Lord and not to men.”Amen! You need to go to work every day as eagerly as you would if Jesus were your personal supervisor. Go about that work as if you were typing that letter for Jesus to sign, programming that computer for Jesus to run, building that house for Jesus to live in.To be continued next week