Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters. Colossians 3:23 NIV
“Do all things as unto the Lord.” That’s a principle that’s popular in Christian circles. And when properly applied it can change one’s outlook on life and their faith. Yet despite the power in this verse many miss the true meaning of Colossians 3:23.
So, in this blog post I want to dive into this verse and see what we can learn. I think this is one of the most powerful and practical verses in the Bible.
Let’s start by looking at the context in which these words were written.
The Context Of Colossians 3:23
The book of Colossians was a letter written by the Apostle Paul to the church in Colossae. Though Paul has not visited this church, he writes to show them his care and concern for them.
One of the biggest concerns that Paul has for this church is that they might return to their former beliefs and practices. He is refuting this false teaching and reminding them of the hope they have in Christ.
As we get to Colossians 3 we see Paul giving instructions for living out your faith. Because of what Jesus has done, Christians ought to avoid participating in sin. In Colossians 3:18-25 he turns these instructions to how Christians should conduct themselves within their homes.
One of the main points in this chapter is that Christians are to work hard at doing what God has called them to do. Whatever our life is like, God is the one who will judge each person according to their work, therefore we ought not slack but put in a full effort.
In Colossians 3:22 Paul directs his instructions to bondservants, or slaves. However, the principle of this passage is general and applies to all Christians. This is what leads Paul to say that we should do all things as unto the Lord.
Now, I know the topic of slavery in the Bible is hotly debated. We aren’t going to get into that here. Rather we are going to apply this principle and verse generally to all people. If you want to learn more about bondservants in the Bible check out: Is the Term ‘Bondservant’ the Best Way to Describe Slavery in the Bible?
The Meaning Of Colossians 3:23
Now that we’ve looked at the context, let’s dive into the meaning of Colossians 3:23. Even though this verse is short, there’s a lot packed in here. So I’m going to break this verse down into four sections so we can better understand what Paul is saying.
Quick note before we dive in, when I say “work” in this post I don’t mean just what you do for a paycheck. That’s certainly included, but so is the responsibility you hold with your family, the places you volunteer, and even the things that others make you do. I’m using the word work here liberally.
Whatever You Do
Notice the totality of the opening few words of Colossians 3:23. Whatever you do. Whether your job pays well, doesn’t pay, or under pays. Whether you like your responsibility or hate it. Paul is talking about all the things you do. Every single one of them.
As we look at what he says next keep in mind these opening words, it applies to everything you do.
Work At It With All Your Heart
Again, take note of the word Paul uses here, work at it with ALL your heart. Work at what? Whatever you do.
In other words Paul is saying that followers of Jesus should work with everything they have. Whatever work you do, whether a job you love, job you hate, or a responsibility you didn’t ask for, work with all your heart.
“Whatever” means that Paul is including all working contexts. “Heart” means that we work from deep down, from the soul. It implies working with enthusiasm and passion.
The question is, how is this possible? Many hate the things they have to do. They don’t like their jobs, their boss, or the other things they “work” on outside of work.
Paul tells us how this is possible in the next part of the verse.
Do All Things As Unto The Lord
We are to work with all our heart because we are not ultimately doing it for ourselves but for God. All our service is ultimately for him, and while we might be under-appreciated or even used by the people we work for in this world, God sees and will reward us.
This should shift our focus and allow us to change our perspective on what we do. Not only that, if we took this focus our personal life and the impact we make on others would likely increase. We would find greater meaning and purpose.
And Not For Men
We are supposed to work for the Lord but not for man. Paul is applying here that we don’t work for the earthly goals that many spend their lives chasing after. Not that those are all bad, but they shouldn’t be our ultimate goal.
When we work for man, we will end up never finding what we are searching for. But when we work for God our reward will be great. Both here and now and throughout eternity.
How To Apply The Colossians 3:23 Meaning To Your Life
So, how does the Colossians 3:23 meaning apply to our lives? Let’s start with what it doesn’t mean.
Paul isn’t saying that we have to stay at our current jobs. He’s not saying it’s a sin to seek out better pay. And he’s certainly not saying we should stay in a place where we are being abused.
Rather, what Paul is doing is challenging our perspective on the work we do. Most of us look at our work as simply earning a paycheck or something we have to do. Paul is trying to lift our view to see that what we do, even if it seems menial, matters to God. He’s our ultimate boss. And our work is ultimately judged, and rewarded, by him.
So, take a look at the things you do and the attitude you hold towards those responsibilities. Are you working for man or are you working for God? What Paul is saying is you should shift your focus to God.
What happens when we do that? Paul tells us in the next verse: “Since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.” Colossians 3:24.
So, do all things as unto the Lord for he is the ultimate Judge and will give to everyone accordingly.
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