Whatever your task, put yourselves into it, as done for the Lord and not for your masters, since you know that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward; you serve the Lord Christ.
~Colossians 3:23-24 (NRSV).
Roy Orbison has a song by this above mentioned title and although he is many years’ dead, the tune rings out resplendently and true from many a home and radio station still today – its message is very close to the thought Paul has for us above.
Whilst many of us have had (and indeed may have) harsh bosses we should take heart from this section of Colossians.
The Inheritance of the Saints
Because we have this supremely wonderful inheritance – the heritage and bequest of the saints in Christ Jesus – we’re motivated beyond our own selfishness or laziness to sow into our work with gusto and diligent keenness.
Our eyes are not on the rewards (or punishments) here and now at all – at least this is how it’s supposed to be. Our eyes are not on promotions and other rewards; they must be on the inheritance we’re gaining for ourselves, in and through the Spirit of God – this has both now and to-come aspects about it.
The ‘now’ aspect speaks fundamentally about our relationships; how valued we’re perceived as. The ‘to-come’ aspect is about our rewards in heaven.
Our purpose in the big world that doesn’t know God is to point people to Jesus, through our relationships – them seeing him through us. This points us to our work ethic and our overall balance in life.
It is via our work ethic that we’re further set apart, glorifying God, in the secular world. And it is true that the Christian is expected – whether that’s fair or not – to behave to a higher moral standard in any event. The non-Christian can smell hypocrisy in us from one hundred yards away. And their hypocrisy in doing this should not by one iota deter us in re-focussing continually on the tasks at hand for us.
Our work ethic helps us to be attuned to our employers’ needs of us, within the realms of our paid roles and sometimes beyond them.
But, let’s not get too carried away with work ethic without seeking to balance the ledger somewhat.
How Much is Too Much?
The secular world is too apt at ringing blood from the stone – extracting the paid hours from their workers, and often then some. Beyond a wholesome and unusual need the Christian should set firm lines of distinguishing separation between work and home. The first need is in the home, not at work.
Balance is the Mandate
Balance always has been and always will be our golden chestnut of spiritual hope in getting life right in this world.
Being hard and intuitive workers, and promoting respect and values, must be our thing at work, but we also need to wisely set ourselves standards for working hours and other ways we ordinarily go ‘above and beyond.’ Going above and beyond, for instance, to the regular detriment of our own families, is not good; it’s not sowing blessing.
What a ‘Good Worker’ Looks Like
As valued workers we’re able to be left to do our job; we’re trusted to complete properly and professionally all the work we’re given – as far as it depends on us, on time, on budget.
An additional test (which I know I’ve often failed at) is also for us to be capable and willing of shouldering more – and even cheerfully taking on others’ tasks if that’s our employers’ desire. It is too easy to complain and say it’s “not my job,” when it is better to just get on and do it to the best of one’s ability.
We should also decide to be positive influencers in the workplace and choose to encourage people, skilfully side-stepping the back-biting activities of the detractors.
© 2010 S. J. Wickham.
General Reference: John Phillips, Exploring Colossians & Philemon – An Expository Commentary (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Kregel Publications, 2002), pp. 196-97.
Acknowledgement: to pastors Arthur Payne and Anthony Palmieri for sparking these thoughts.