A Meditation on Colossians 3:23

February 21, 2008

The Apostle Paul writes, “Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance of your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ.”

We live in a world of distractions. Regardless of your profession there are multitude of intrusions that will invade your thoughts today in the form of email (both legitimate and spam), water-cooler conversations, drop-in meetings, ringing cell phones, text message alerts, the call of the internet, illuminated television screens, etc. Each of these will occupy your mind in such a way as to potentially distract you from working in a way that glorifies God.

I spend significant portions of my work week in front of a computer screen working through important emails, planning ministry events, studying God’s Word, researching sermons and bible studies, planning for counseling sessions, mapping out ministry calendars and agendas, etc. But as useful a tool as the PC and internet are, they also are potentially lethal to a good work ethic. They can become instruments of idleness. They can either be vehicles of godliness or instruments of sin.

This is one reason it is helpful for me to remember that when I work, I work for Jesus. My labor and reward, though tangible expressed to me through God’s saints at Concord, ultimately are for the glory of Jesus Christ. So, as one who spends blocks of time working in an office with a computer, it is helpful for me to remember Paul’s instruction here about work. 

I should: (a) work heartily, meaning joyfully, contentedly and devotedly; (b) work with the knowledge that I ultimately labor for Christ, not men; (c) work for a reward that comes from Christ, not ultimately man.

This means that, as I work, I have an eye on the gospel as I look for how God is at work around me in my work environment. The way that I labor provides opportunity for me to apply the gospel, not only to my own life (which I need!), but also to the lives of those that God has placed around me. My work is meant to serve (at least) three purposes: (1) it destroys idleness in my life, which is displeasing to God; (2) it is meant to bring glory to God; (3) it secures opportunity, through the benefits of work, to import the gospel into other areas of life.

William Wilberforce once said something particularly applicable to a culture such as ours where we feel entitled to leisure and idleness, and we view both of these things as an appropriate substitutes that cause us to dismiss other more necessary responsibilities in life. “No man has a right to be idle. Where is it, that in such a world as this, health, and leisure, and affluence may not find some ignorance to instruct, some wrong to redress, some want to supply, some misery to alleviate.”

In most cases our work secures for us all the things Wilberforce mentions – health (at least health care), opportunity for leisure and affluence (material possessions). But as we work for these things we must also remember that there is work to be done as we enjoy these gifts from the Lord that may well be the result of working well before the Lord. God has not granted us these gifts through our work to simply mine the pleasures of these things for ourselves only, but rather, that we might use these gifts to bring the gospel into the lives of others.

This is yet another important way that we work for Jesus. How you redeem your time at work is a crucially important gospel witness. But how you redeem the benefits of your labors when you are off the clock – at home with your wife, on the basketball court, when making entertainment choices, in the time you spend with your kids, in the way you serve the fatherless and the widow – are also yet another way that we have been made to work and serve the Lord Jesus.

You were made for work (Genesis 1-2) – both on and off the corporate clock and out of the educational setting. So work heartily for Jesus today in all that you do, for your inheritance is your reward from the Lord (Revelation 20:12-13).

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