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Honest Work

Colossians 3:22
Slaves, obey your earthly masters in everything; and do it, not only when their eye is on you and to curry their favour, but with sincerity of heart and reverence for the Lord. (NIVUK)

Relationships in the workplace are not always easy, especially when there is also a family or other close connection.  In Paul's day, slaves did whatever their masters commanded, as well as free people being employed to provide goods and services.  But when they believed the gospel and received Christ, they became brothers and sisters with other believers.  They enjoyed an equal relationship with Jesus irrespective of their unequal social status.  So how were they going to relate in their workplace?  Did they still have to obey their masters?
This could have been a divisive issue and might have spread social instability throughout the town of Colossae.  It was a significant issue and Paul wrote more extensively to the Ephesian church (Ephesians 6:5-8).  There was also the potential to divide the church, or to inhibit people from becoming Christians - fearing that their Christian relationship would ruin their workplace relationship.

So, Paul makes it quite clear.  Christian faith does not produce rebellious independence.  Instead, Christ inspires us to love, honour, be sincere, and work hard because we are always serving a greater Master (Colossians 3:24).  The Lord is not just monitoring our behaviour, but He knows our heart (Psalm 44:21) and is looking for a willing spirit (Psalm 51:12).  Following Jesus Christ should make us better employees and better workers.  We should have learned that loyalty and faithfulness are the characteristics of heaven.  There is no room for half-heartedness or manipulative behaviour (1 Peter 2:22): that was not a part of Christ's relationship with His heavenly Father; it should not be seen in any Christian’s life.
Even in the context of oppressive slavery, those who love Jesus Christ know they are working for Him.  Irrespective of the pressures laid on us by earthly masters, we can trust that the Lord is faithful to all His servants.  In easier employment situations, these words are still very important.  We must never assume that we can take liberties with relaxed managers - because we are accountable to the Lord for every moment spent, every word said and every bit of energy expended.  Ultimately our work is not measured by formal appraisals, promotions, HR policies, or bonus payments.  Our character, behaviour, and productivity are all to be evaluated by the Lord when He comes to ask us to give an account of our lives (Hebrews 4:13).  Knowing that should be a great incentive to be honourable, loyal and hardworking employees ... because we are doing our work for the Lord.

Great Master of all. Thank You for this reminder that each day's toil is measured and rewarded by You. I am sorry when I have failed to work hard, been dishonest in what I have said and done, when I have stolen my employer's time or goods; or when I have simply presumed that I don't have to work any harder than is demanded of me. Please help me to understand Your authority over my life and to use every day as an opportunity to display how much I love and respect You by the way in which I do my work and obey my employer. In Jesus' Name. Amen.
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© Dr Paul Adams