Most people spend a small portion of their week actually working. The rest of the time is spent wishing—wishing it was lunch time, wishing it was Friday, wishing the weekend was longer, and/or wishing they didn’t have to work at all.
What happens when an employee only cares about his/her paycheck or wastes time on the job versus one who does his/her best to deliver the company’s product or service on time? What difference does it make if an employee undermines his/her coworkers to get ahead versus one who affirms and encourages coworkers?
What happens when an employer underpays his/her employees and takes advantage of them versus one who treats his/her subordinates with respect and trust? What happens when an employer violates contracts, agreements, or standards as opposed to one who honors commitments and enforces standards?
What difference does it make how an employee or an employer approaches his/her job? As a follower of Jesus Christ, what kind of an employee should we be? What kind of an employer should we be?
In Colossians 3:22-4:1, the apostle Paul explains that by keeping our focus on Christ, we can turn ordinary tasks into acts of worship. If we remember that we are ultimately serving Jesus Christ rather than our immediate supervisor, any jobsite can become a worship center.
There were as many as 60 million slaves in the Roman Empire of Paul’s day, or about 1/2 of the population. Slaves were classified as things and were the property of the owner. Since work was below the dignity of the slave-owning Roman free man, practically everything was done by slaves, even doctoring and teaching.
While we don’t live in the Roman Empire of the First Century and while most of us are not slaves or slave owners, this passage is still relevant to our lives today. We can apply the principles found in this passage to our place of work and our role as an employee or an employer.
Paul describes the task of the employee in verse 22. Employees are to do what they are told. They are to obey their boss. When we read a statement like this, we immediately want to jump to the possible exceptions. If our employer wants us to do something immoral, we should not break the law of the Lord. If they ask us to do something illegal, we should not break the law of the land. Beyond that, Scripture tells us to obey in everything.
As Christ followers, we should be the best employees possible. Whether the boss is present or absent; whether we punch a clock or come and go; whether the security cameras record our movements or not; we should be the best workers possible. We don’t work hard only when the boss is present. We perform a full day’s work for a full day’s pay, whether or not anyone sees us do it.
If we serve with a sincere heart, we can turn a mundane task into an act of worship. It helps when we remember that ultimately, we are serving Jesus Christ (23). Regardless of whether our boss is as evil as Mr. Burns or as dimwitted as Dilbert’s pointy-haired boss, Christ followers ultimately work for Jesus Christ.
Because we work for Jesus, we will receive more than a paycheck. There is an eternal reward waiting for those who serve Christ and work hard (24). The flipside is that there are consequences waiting for those who don’t serve well (25). We should not think that God will take the side of the poor or the rich, the employer or the employee. He will hold both accountable for their actions and will not show partiality.
Paul also places a responsibility on the employer. While every business owner doesn’t necessarily need to strive to make the Fortune “100 Best Companies to work for” list, they should treat their employees with justice and fairness (4:1a). Employers need to keep in mind that they too serve Christ (4:1b).
A retired man became interested in the construction of an addition to a shopping mall. Observing the activity regularly, he was especially impressed by the conscientious operator of a large piece of equipment. The day finally came when he had the chance to tell the man how much he’d enjoyed watching his scrupulous work. Looking astonished, the operator replied, “You’re not the supervisor?”
Whether employee or employer, whether our job is public or private, whether we work for a non-profit or for-profit, Christ followers serve Jesus Christ. By keeping that one principle in mind, we can turn work into worship.
This is the synopsis of a message preached at First Central Baptist Church in Chicopee, MA, on April 14, 2013. It is part of series on Paul’s letter to the Colossians. Please click on the link to download a copy of the sermon notes.