Sacred Labor

How Should I Work?

“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.” (Colossians 3:22-24 ESV)

The context here is first-century slavery which is a matter all its own. For the sake of our time, let’s see that in principle this applies to all of us.

Submissive to workplace authority

All authority is God’s authority and most workplaces involve relationships of responsibility. This isn’t bad. The building of the temple had a vast army of leaders and laborers and many of Jesus’ parables involved landowners, workers, and compensation.

Employees here are called to an attitude of submission to those in authority. This is both an action and an attitude. I think we all know what this means and why the bitter complaining in the break rooms is no place for Christians. You might say, But you don’t know how bad it is! Remember, this was written to first-century Christian slaves. If they can apply it in slavery, we can apply it in our modern day employment.

Diligent/industrious

  • “Whatever you do, work heartily.” (Colossians 3:23)
  • “…knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ.” (Colossians 3:24)
  • “Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might.” (Ecclesiastes 9:10)

Why would God care about the way I work when I am at work—the quality of my work; my energy; my enthusiasm; my ethic? Why does God care? Remember, the goal of the Father is to turn us into little Jesuses; to conform us to his likeness. That includes every aspect of life, even work, and even the quality of the work we offer our employer. We have to see our work as worship. The cobbler is as much worshiping God when he makes shoes as when he sings or prays to God.

Students, the quality of that paper you turn in or your science fair project says something about your view of God. Make your volcano explode to the glory of God. That’s what the real ones do. This is where it’s so exciting to consider the difference our faith can make in our lives—to see all of it as worship.

I was so proud some time ago when I was told about a local business that employs a number of our teenagers. Apparently there was a young woman who worked there. She watched the Bethel teens work and listened to how they talked and she said, That’s the church for me. She now serves faithfully here each week.

Would anybody at your work or school be surprised to find out you are a Christian? Would the quality of your effort on the job be a positive or a negative for the name of Christ?

“If it falls to your lot to be a street sweeper, go on out and sweep streets like Michelangelo painted pictures; sweep streets like Handel and Beethoven composed music; sweep streets like Shakespeare wrote poetry; sweep streets so well that all the host of heaven and earth will have to pause and say, ‘Here lived a great street sweeper, who swept his job well.’” (Martin Luther King Jr., “The Three Dimensions of a Complete Life.” Sermon at New Covenant Baptist Church, Chicago, IL. April 9, 1967.)

Scripture quotations are taken from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

©2014 Steve DeWitt. You are permitted and encouraged to reproduce and distribute this material in any format provided that: (1) you credit the author, (2) any modifications are clearly marked, (3) you do not charge a fee beyond the cost of reproduction, (4) you include Bethel’s website address (www.bethelweb.org) on the copied resource.

To hear the message of this excerpt in its entirety, click here

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