School. Work. And retirement. Three phases of life. Which are you in? Maybe a mixture of more than one. Which are you looking forward to? Think about how much time we spend in these three phases of life. At least 13 years in school, maybe more if you go to college and grad school. Then something like 50 years of working. Then maybe another 20-30 years of retirement. That’s a lot of time. That’s a lifetime.
Last week we started a two-part mini-series looking at how Paul makes very practical application of the principle he teaches in Colossians 3:17, “Do all in the name of the Lord Jesus.” In Colossians 3:18-21, starting here, Paul applied this marriage relationships and to parent/child relationships. This week we look at how to apply “do all in the name of the Lord Jesus” in the areas of school, work and retirement.
Turn to Colossians verses 3:22-4:1 and what do you notice at the beginning of verse 22? The word “slaves”! Slaves? If you think to yourself, “Joel, you said we’re going to talk about school, work and retirement. This is a passage about slaves and masters.” You’re right. Sometimes in school and at work you can feel like you are slaving away. But that is nothing like actual slavery. So if this is a passage about slaves and masters, what does it have to do with work, or students in school, or retirees? Stay with me. I think by the end of the this post, you’ll see how it relates to you. Pause this post and read the passage, trying to discover how this passage relates to you. Read Colossians 3:22-4:1.
Before we can see how this passage relates to us, I do need to mention a very important detail. As we have learned in our studies in other New Testaments books, Paul and other writers of the New Testament mention slaves, masters and slavery as if it is no big deal. That first phrase in verse 22 sounds horrible, right? “Slaves obey your masters in everything”? What? Did Paul condone slavery? It sure sounds like it. But, no, he was not saying that slavery is okay and good. Paul is writing to a society that included slavery as commonplace, though it was different from the racialized slavery in our nation’s past. If you want to know more of what Paul has to say about slavery, read the book of Philemon (or my posts on Philemon, starting here). Slavery is always wrong, and Paul makes it clear in Philemon that in Christ the slave becomes the brother. When you take his writings as a whole, Paul clearly says that from a Christian viewpoint, there should not be slavery.
But Paul, as he writes this in the middle of the First Century Roman empire, is faced with a society that included slavery, and he knows that he will not be able to change that culture. So he calls for change in the subculture in where he has a voice, and that subculture is the church. Then through the advance of the church, he hopes to change the culture!
Here in Colossians, Paul is writing to slaves and masters who are Christians. How should they handle themselves in their work? In other words, we can learn from this passage how the phrase, “do all in the name of the Lord Jesus,” applies to our work.
Think about how much time you spend doing some kind of work. 40 hours per week. 45. 50. More? Some of you are part-time. Some are retired. This teaching could also apply to the volunteer organizations in which you are involved. And for you students, this applies to your attitude about school. You spend a lot of time in school and out of school doing homework. Kids, you have chores at home. That is like your work. How should you, a Christian, view all that time spent working?
In verses 3:22-4:1, Paul teaches the principle of working as unto the Lord. Look at verses 22-23, “Work with sincerity of heart and reverence for the Lord.” That means we should work as if God is our boss. We should do our school work as if God is our teacher. We should do our chores as if God is our parent. We should use our retirement years as if God is in charge of them. It doesn’t matter if you are student in school, an athlete on a sports team, an employee on the job, a boss of a company, a teacher, a volunteer on one of our serve teams, or one of the church ministries, work as unto the Lord.
Now are you starting to see how this applies to you?