Many Christians claim they can do their work and have success as if they do this for Jesus. They refer to the following passage to confirm this claim:
Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters ~ Colossians 3,23 ~
Some also refer to the Parable of the Bags of Gold (see: Matthew 25,14-30) to claim they have to use their gifts in this world to be successful. I will probably write about this parable later, but for now I want to state that this claim does not (completely) reflect the intention of Jesus to tell this parable.
Let’s look at the passage from Colossians again including the context to see if the first claim of many Christians is right.
Slaves, obey your earthly masters in everything; and do it, not only when their eye is on you and to curry 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 human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance form the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving. Anyone who does wrong will be repaid for their wrongs, and there is no favoritism. ~ Colossians 3,22-25 ~
This gives another perspective to what we read in the first passage. First of all, the passage is written to slaves. As mentioned before in What has a Command about Slaves to do with Jesus’ Love?, slavery in those days was not the same as the slave trade which was abolished during the 19th century. It was mainly a system to help people who lost their possessions and become someone else’s possession, so they could work and have a living.
Why would Paul have written to slaves to work very hard? This is a good question, because we might think that Paul would want to abolish slavery. However, this is not the case. What was Paul’s opinion about slavery?
Were you a slave when you were called? Don’t let it trouble you – although if you can gain your freedom, do so. For the one who was a slave when called to faith in the Lord is the Lord’s freed person; similarly, the one who was free when called is Christ’s slave. You were bought at a price; do not become slave of human beings. Brothers and sisters, each person, as responsible to God, should remain in the situation they were in when God called them. ~ 1 Corinthians 7,21-24 ~
Paul’s desire for slaves was for them to be free. However, he said it is more important who you are in Christ. Every person who belongs to Christ, is free in Christ. This is fundamental to understand what Paul wrote to slaves.
Jesus didn’t came with the purpose to change society or culture. Jesus came to transform Man from being spiritual dead to children of God. Not all kind of rules and systems will make this world perfect, but people led by the Spirit of Jesus will do good instead of evil. Therefore Paul worked hard to let other people know who Jesus really is to them. This should be the first desire of every follower of Jesus for the people around them.
So Paul wrote to slaves to do their work good, because they are free in Christ independently from their social status. Besides, Paul didn’t want to cause a rebellion by pushing slaves to fight for their social freedom, because this would have caused a lot of problems for the slaves, Christianity and the complete society as well.
But what, then, does this passage from Colossians 3,22-25 mean to us? Should we all quit our job and only evangelize? I cannot answer the last question for all of us, but I do know that some of us should do so. I would love many to have a heart for the lost instead of worrying about being successful. Whether you have a job or not, you are not called by God to be bound by man or a system, but you belong to Jesus, your Master in heaven.
And masters, treat your slaves in the same way. Do not threaten them, since you know that he who is both their Master and yours is in heaven, and there is no favoritism with him. ~ Ephesians 6,9 ~
There is more to write about this, but I hope to do that later. The question after reading the above passages is: are you proclaiming and serving Jesus in what you do or has God called you to do more for the Kingdom of God? It might not be easy, but the best thing in life is to do the will of the Master.
Who is going to harm you if you are eager to do good? But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed. “Do not fear their threats; do not be frightened.” But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander. For it is better, if it is God’s will, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil. ~ 1 Peter 3,13-17 ~
God bless you!