“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 from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving” (Col 3:23-24)
We’ve been talking about the second part of the book of Colossians. In this part, Paul discusses how Christians should live out their faith in Jesus practically, especially in 5 relationships. In the last sermon, we discussed the third type of relationship—relationships with family members.
Paul encourages wives to submit themselves to their husbands, husbands to love their wives, children to obey their parents, and parents not to embitter their children.
But, what’s more important than these practical instructions is the principle behind them. What Paul emphasizes here is Christ-centered lives in Christians’ relationships with their family members.
Wives are to submit themselves to their husbands as they do to the Lord because it “is fitting in the Lord” (Col 3:18). Husbands are to love their wives in the Lord because Jesus loves them. Children should obey their parents because “this pleases the Lord” (Col 3:20).
So, what Paul really shows in how Christians should treat their family members is a Christocentric life. Christians are those who recognize that Christ is at the center of every relationship they have whether with God, with family members, or with other people. In other words, all the relationships we have actually depend on our relationship with Christ.
Christians are those who always try to ask themselves what Jesus would do in their relationships and then do it. Christians are those who rely solely on Christ’s power and love in their relationships. Christians are those who are able to see others from Jesus’ perspective and love them the way Jesus loved them.
In order to live a Jesus-centered life and follow Jesus’ way, we must admit that He is not only the Savior, but the Lord of our lives. We can never live such a life unless we commit ourselves to the Lord and give Him control of our lives.
But when we truly give ourselves to the Lord, surrendering everything to Him, we’ll experience Jesus coming into our hearts, purifying all the dirty things from them, restoring them, and empowering us with His everlasting love so that we can joyfully follow His way.
Paul says in Ephesians 5:1-2, “Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God” (Eph 5:1-2)
We love the concept of being children of God. We’re often grateful for the fact that we become God’s beloved children through Jesus Christ so that we can have access to Him and call Him ‘Abba, Father.’ I believe this is the greatest blessing we can ever have in our lives.
But, even though we’re thankful for the fact that we became children of God, we often forget what it demands of us. For us to be children of God doesn’t only mean that we are saved from sin and promised to have eternal life after death.
The true meaning of becoming children of God lies in recovering His image that we were created in, which happens as we learn to live in Christ, being conformed to His image.
So, becoming children of God requires us to follow God’s example, especially His example of love. It requires us to walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us by giving Himself up for us. In other words, becoming children of God and loving others the way Jesus loves us are inseparable, just as Jesus as Savior and Jesus as Lord are inseparable.
The apostle John defines what it means to live a Christ-centered life this way.
“Whoever claims to live in him must live as Jesus did” (1Jn 2:6).
Christians are those who have been crucified with Jesus and live through Him. Living in Christ is not an abstract concept. Rather, it is very practical because accepting Christ as Lord in our hearts naturally affects every area of our lives.
Whoever claims to live in Him must live as Jesus did. It means that those who claim to live in Him but don’t really try to follow Jesus’ way are hypocrites. We can say that we believe in Jesus and try to actually live like Him, or we can say that we don’t believe in Jesus because we don’t live like Him.
The worst thing we can do is deceive ourselves by thinking we are Christians without making any effort to follow His way. We need to see exactly where we are spiritually so that we can return to the point where we failed.
Truth will always win over deception and lies, and there will come a time when every lie will be exposed. If we’re like the liars, Jesus won’t accept us when He returns. He’ll say, “I don’t know you. Away from me you evildoers,” even if we call Him “Lord” on that day.
So, what’s more important than who we think we are in Christ is what our lives actually reveal. Jesus said, “Make a tree good and its fruit will be good, or make a tree bad and its fruit will be bad, for a tree is recognized by its fruit” (Mt 12:33).
We shouldn’t be like the tree that claims to be good but actually bears bad fruit. Rather, we’re to make every effort to remain in Jesus, the true vine, so that we can be nourished by Him and naturally bear good fruit. That’s how we live a Christ-centered life.
4. Relationships between Slaves and Masters
Now, let’s move on to the next part. Today, we’ll talk about the fourth kind of relationship—relationships between slaves and masters.
First, from Colossians 3:22 to 4:1, Paul talks about relationships between slaves and masters.
Paul said, “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 from 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. Masters, provide your slaves with what is right and fair, because you know that you also have a Master in heaven.” (Col 3:22-4:1)
Even though slavery has been abolished, it has existed for a long time throughout human history. And now, one of the essential values that shapes modern nations is freedom.
So, this passage may bother some Christian readers because it seems like Paul isn’t against slavery. Many Christian authors have expressed various negative feelings such as embarrassment, disappointment, and more about this matter.
It’s true that it’s hard to find a passage in the Bible that specifically shows that Paul was against slavery. But, that doesn’t necessarily mean that Paul was in favor of slavery. We see this in what Paul asked of Philemon about Onesimus in the book of Philemon.
Onesimus was Philemon’s slave but likely escaped from him and went to Rome, where he met Paul. Paul sent him back to his master, Philemon, with a letter, in which he said,
“Perhaps the reason he was separated from you for a little while was that you might have him back forever - no longer as a slave, but better than a slave, as a dear brother… So if you consider me a partner, welcome him as you would welcome me” (Phm 1:15-17).
Paul asked Philemon to treat Onesimus as his brother, not his slave. He asked him to treat Onesimus the way he would treat Paul. Considering the culture back then, this request was ahead of its time.
So, it seems that what Paul was really interested in wasn’t whether slavery itself was right or not. Even though it is an important subject, it wasn’t what Paul focused on in Colossians.
What Paul was really interested in was how Christians should reflect God’s holiness and love in every relationship in all circumstances.
Even though slavery was wrong, slaves still needed to learn how to live as both Christians and slaves according to God’s will in their circumstances. The problem couldn’t be solved at that time. It would take more than a thousand years to abolish slavery.
In the meantime, they needed to learn how to show God’s holiness, especially in their relationships with their masters.
So Paul said, “Slaves, obey your earthly masters in everything” not because it was the right thing to do or because he supported slavery, but because that was how they could show who God is to their masters.
Here, Paul intentionally uses the word ‘earthly’ before masters. By doing so, he implies that slaves also have a heavenly master. The reason Paul asked slaves to obey their earthly masters wasn’t because their obedience itself was important but because that was how they should serve their master in heaven—God.
We also see this in the following verses, in which Paul said, “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 from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving” (Col 3:23-24).
What Paul really wanted slaves to know was that their true master was the Lord Christ, not their human masters. Again, the reason they had to obey their masters with all their hearts was because that was how they could serve their true master, Christ, who is in heaven.
In Ephesians 6, Paul discussed a similar subject. He said,
“Slaves, obey your earthly masters with respect and fear, and with sincerity of heart, just as you would obey Christ. Obey them… as slaves of Christ, doing the will of God from your heart. Serve wholeheartedly, as if you were serving the Lord, not people” (Eph 6:5-7).
These passages show us the importance of living a Christ-centered life. Even though some pastors used these passages to support slavery, especially in the Southern Baptist Convention, they were totally wrong because slavery isn’t the point of these verses. Again, we are to learn the principle behind the instructions.
Then, we can apply the principle in our lives. This principle may be used in our workplaces, especially in our relationships with our bosses.
We’re to obey them, doing our work with all our hearts, as we would work for the Lord. It’s hard to always do our best. It is even more difficult to love and serve bosses who treat us badly. But that’s the life we’re to live because our true boss is Jesus, and He wants us to reveal His holiness through what we do in our workplace and our relationships with our bosses.
We’re to keep in mind that people see Christ through Christians. What we do will determine the kind of image non-believers around us have of Jesus. If we don’t do what we should do in our workplace, or if we always talk behind someone’s back and complain about them, what would your fellow workers think about Christians? How would that reflect on Jesus?
So, we need to always bear in mind whom we’re truly serving. We’re all servants of Christ. He is the Lord whom we serve. He is the one we’re truly working for. He is the one we should obey. We need to learn to make Christ our Lord in every relationship we have in every circumstance. That’s how we live a Christ-centered life.
And that’s how we reflect who He truly is—His goodness and love—in whatever we say or do, whether we’re at home or at work or anywhere else.
Then people around us will see the difference and wonder how we can live such a life. That’s how we share Christ’s love and how He has saved and changed us. That’s one of the best ways to serve the Lord.
We should shine the light of Jesus through our words and deeds so that those around us can see it and come to the Lord, glorifying Him. That’s the Jesus-centered life we should live out wherever we are and whatever we do as Christians.
I hope and pray that every one of us here accepts Jesus as the Lord of our lives so that we can live Christ-centered lives, and so that we can serve as God’s vessels through which His holiness and love are revealed and His blessings spread to those around us.
Heavenly Father, thank You for giving us this time to learn from Your word.
Lord, we want Your holiness to be revealed through our lives to those around us. We want Your love to be reflected to those around us through our words, attitudes, and behaviors. We want Jesus Christ, Your Son, to be revealed and glorified through everything we do.
We want to follow Jesus’ way. We want to serve You wherever we are. Please remind us of who we became in You so that we can live our lives accordingly.
Strengthen us and pour out Your love in our hearts so that we can serve and love those around us as Your beloved children and Your holy people so that those around us can see who You are through us and come to You.
Please purify our hearts so that we can continue to walk in the light with Jesus.
We thank You for everything You’ve done in our lives to save us, Lord.
In the name of Jesus Christ, our Hope, we pray, Amen.
1) What do you think this means: “Whatever you do…work as working for the Lord?” What does it mean for you to serve Christ in your workplace? What are some ways that you can show His holiness and love through what you do at work?