Doing Our Work as for the Lord (Colossians 3:17, 23)
In this blog post from The High Calling, Bill Peel gives us four important principles of spiritual influence that apply to every person God has called to the workplace. In the first century, just as today, the workplace was the most strategic place where Christians and non-Christians interacted. That's why Paul gives important instructions to the Colossian Christians about the spiritual influence God expected them to have at work.
So what does it mean to do our work “in the name of the Lord Jesus” (Col. 3:17)? How do we do our work wholeheartedly, “as done for the Lord and not for your masters” (Col. 3:23)? To do our work in the name of the Lord Jesus carries at least two ideas:
- We recognize that we represent Jesus in the workplace. If we are Christ-followers, how we treat others and how diligently and faithfully we do our work reflects on our Lord. How well do our actions fit with who he is?
- Working in “Jesus’ name” also implies that we live recognizing that he is our master, our boss, the one to whom we are ultimately accountable. This leads into Paul’s reminder that we work for the Lord and not for human masters. Yes, we most likely have horizontal accountability on the job, but the diligence we bring to our work comes from our recognition that, in the end, God is our judge.
When Paul writes, “Whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him” (Col. 3:17), we can understand this verse in two ways: a shallow way and a deeper way. The shallow way is to incorporate some Christian signs and gestures into our workplace, like a Bible verse posted on our cubicle or a Christian bumper sticker on our truck. Gestures like this can be meaningful, but in and of themselves they do not constitute a Christ-centered work-life. A deeper way to understand Paul’s challenge is to pray specifically for the work we are in the midst of doing: “God, please show me how to respect both the plaintiff and the defendant in the language I use in this brief.”
An even deeper way would be to begin the day by imagining what our daily goals would be if God were the owner of our workplace. With this understanding of Paul’s injunction, we would do all the day’s work in pursuit of goals that honor God. The apostle’s point is that in God’s kingdom, our work and prayer are integrated activities. We tend to see them as two separate activities that need to be balanced. But they are two aspects of the same activity—namely, working to accomplish what God wants accomplished in fellowship with other people and with God.