The Way We Work

What you do is far less important than the heart you bring to it.

Christians sometimes try to divide what they do into two categories—secular and religious. But God doesn’t have different sets of rules for our various tasks. Everything we do is to be done as unto the Lord whether on the job, in the home, at school, in church, or in the community. Since this encompasses every aspect of life, we need to know what the Bible says about work in the lives of believers. Let’s read Colossians 3:17 and Colossians 3:22-25:

“Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father” (v. 17).

“Slaves, in all things obey those who are your masters on earth, not with external service, as those who merely please men, but with sincerity of heart, fearing the Lord. Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance. It is the Lord Christ whom you serve. For he who does wrong will receive the consequences of the wrong which he has done, and that without partiality” (vv. 22-25).

• The phrase translated as “heartily” in Colossians 3:23 is ek psuchē, a Greek phrase that means “from the soul.”

In this passage, it’s important to remember Paul’s historical context is different from our own, and that he’s not condoning the institution of slavery. Here, Paul’s primary concern is our posture—the way we carry out our work. Although his focus is on the master-slave relationship, the principles apply to all of us today. Everything is to be done for Christ, with a heart of gratitude and sincerity. There is no room for halfhearted efforts or negligence because we think no one is watching. In fact, Paul says we should fear the Lord in all we do, because He’s the one who sees. It is God we serve; He is the one to whom we are accountable and who will reward us for a job well done.

• In the New Testament, two words—epitropos and oikonomos—are translated as “steward,” and both terms refer to a caretaker, be it of persons, finances, or entire households.

Now let’s examine what else God says about our work.

• We are stewards of all that the Lord has entrusted to us. A steward is a manager of his master’s affairs, and as Christians, we have each been entrusted with the good works the Lord has ordained for us. The goal is not to compare ourselves with others but to be found trustworthy (1 Cor. 4:2). In Luke 12:42-48, Jesus tells a story about two stewards—one who was faithfully doing his assigned job and another who slacked off—to illustrate how His followers are accountable to Him. As Scripture tells us, “From everyone who has been given much, much will be required; and to whom they entrusted much, of him they will ask all the more” (v. 48).

• “There is no work, however vile or sordid, that does not glisten before God.” —John Calvin

• To accomplish the work God has planned for us requires discipline. The apostle Paul likened the Christian life to a race and said, “Everyone who competes in the games exercises self-control in all things” (1 Cor. 9:25). If we want to receive a “Well done!” at the end of our life, we must bring our appetites, emotions, mind, priorities, and tongue under the Lord’s control. If we don’t, these things will become detours that sidetrack us or encumbrances that weigh us down and keep us from finishing the course God has planned (Heb. 12:1).

• Remember that the apostle Paul continued to hold a “day job” as he carried out the Great Commission. In 1 Thessalonians 2:9, he tells believers, “For you recall, brethren, our labor and hardship, how working night and day so as not to be a burden to any of you, we proclaimed to you the gospel of God.” His desire to be a diligent worker is also described in Acts 18:1-4; Acts 20:34-35 and 2 Thess. 3:6-10.

• How we go about our work matters. Even if we accomplish all the tasks before us, our results could still fail to please God. It isn’t because He’s a harsh taskmaster or perfectionist but because how we work is as important (if not more so) to Him as what we do. As Martin Luther said, “We should accustom ourselves to think of our position and work as sacred and well-pleasing to God, not on account of the position and work, but on account of the word and faith from which the obedience and the work flow.” In other words, God wants His children to have joyful, willing hearts as they carry out the tasks they’re called to, and to do their work with excellence. (See 1 Cor. 9:7.) Shoddy work or labors done with a sour spirit just won’t cut it.

• The Hebrew word for “work” in Proverbs 22:29, melakah, is used 167 times in Scripture, the first in Genesis 2:2 and the last in Haggai 1:14.

Questions

• Who is determining what you do—you or God? How can you know if you are following the Lord’s plan or your own agenda? What would change in your life if you considered yourself a steward of God’s things rather than the master of your own life?

• As you examine your motives, standards, and work ethic, what changes do you need to make in order to become a more faithful steward of Christ?

 

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17 Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father.

22 Slaves, in all things obey those who are your masters on earth, not with external service, as those who merely please men, but with sincerity of heart, fearing the Lord.

23 Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men,

24 knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance. It is the Lord Christ whom you serve.

25 For he who does wrong will receive the consequences of the wrong which he has done, and that without partiality.

2 In this case, moreover, it is required of stewards that one be found trustworthy.

42 And the Lord said, Who then is the faithful and sensible steward, whom his master will put in charge of his servants, to give them their rations at the proper time?

43 Blessed is that slave whom his master finds so doing when he comes.

44 Truly I say to you that he will put him in charge of all his possessions.

45 But if that slave says in his heart, `My master will be a long time in coming,' and begins to beat the slaves, both men and women, and to eat and drink and get drunk;

46 the master of that slave will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he does not know, and will cut him in pieces, and assign him a place with the unbelievers.

47 And that slave who knew his master's will and did not get ready or act in accord with his will, will receive many lashes,

48 but the one who did not know it, and committed deeds worthy of a flogging, will receive but few. From everyone who has been given much, much will be required; and to whom they entrusted much, of him they will ask all the more.

25 Everyone who competes in the games exercises self-control in all things. They then do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable.

1 Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us,

23 Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men,

9 For you recall, brethren, our labor and hardship, how working night and day so as not to be a burden to any of you, we proclaimed to you the gospel of God.

1 After these things he left Athens and went to Corinth.

2 And he found a Jew named Aquila, a native of Pontus, having recently come from Italy with his wife Priscilla, because Claudius had commanded all the Jews to leave Rome. He came to them,

3 and because he was of the same trade, he stayed with them and they were working, for by trade they were tent-makers.

4 And he was reasoning in the synagogue every Sabbath and trying to persuade Jews and Greeks.

34 You yourselves know that these hands ministered to my own needs and to the men who were with me.

35 In everything I showed you that by working hard in this manner you must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, that He Himself said, `It is more blessed to give than to receive.'"

6 Now we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you keep away from every brother who leads an unruly life and not according to the tradition which you received from us.

7 For you yourselves know how you ought to follow our example, because we did not act in an undisciplined manner among you,

8 nor did we eat anyone's bread without paying for it, but with labor and hardship we kept working night and day so that we would not be a burden to any of you;

9 not because we do not have the right to this, but in order to offer ourselves as a model for you, so that you would follow our example.

10 For even when we were with you, we used to give you this order: if anyone is not willing to work, then he is not to eat, either.

7 Who at any time serves as a soldier at his own expense? Who plants a vineyard and does not eat the fruit of it? Or who tends a flock and does not use the milk of the flock?

29 Do you see a man skilled in his work? He will stand before kings; He will not stand before obscure men.

14 So the LORD stirred up the spirit of Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and the spirit of Joshua the son of Jehozadak, the high priest, and the spirit of all the remnant of the people; and they came and worked on the house of the LORD of hosts, their God,

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