Sunday, November 22, 2009

Colossians 3:22-4:1 - Christ-centered Labor

Pray and Read:  Colossians 3:22-4:1

Contextual Notes: We are looking at the last of three pairs of commands Paul has given in what many scholars beginning with Martin Luther called the Haustafeln, or household rules. In each one, the group is called to attention, a command given, and then a motivating factor regarding the Lord Christ is involved. Before Paul dealt with close relationships of husband-wife and parents-children. Here we examine the two most distant relationships – employee-employer.
        It is true in the Roman context that slave and master are at issue, but since the putting away of legalized slavery, the principles of employment remain in the text. In fact in the Roman context, the master-slave relationship was more akin to modern day employment than our understandings of the kind of slavery in American and British history.

Key Truth: Paul wrote Colossians 3:22-4:1 to teach the Colossian Christians that Christ-centered laborers are honest servants while Christ-centered employers are fair providers.

Key Application: Today I want to show you what God’s Word says about making your daily employment Christ-centered. 

Sermon Points:
  1. Christ-centered laborers are honest servants (Col 3:22-25)
  2. Christ-centered employers are fair providers (Col 4:1)
Exposition:   Note well,

a.   22Servants, obey in everything your earthly masters, no in eye-service as people-pleasers, but instead in uprightness of heart, reverencing the Lord.
b.   ὀφθαλμοδουλίᾳ:  literally: eye-service formed from the words for eye and service. This is service only concerned with externals, what can be seen, image or service rendered only under the master’s watchful eye (i.e., only when s/he is watching), or service to attract attention to oneself.[1]
c.   ἀνθρωπάρεσκοι: “a person who tries to please people at the sacrifice of principle”
d.   with sincerity of heart: “i.e. in honesty with no ulterior motives. The motive for wholehearted, obedient service is reverential fear before the heavenly Lord.”
e.   23Whatever you do, work at it with your whole mind, just as for the Lord and not for men, 24knowing that from the Lord you will receive back as a reward your inheritance. The Lord Christ you are to serve.
f.    ἐκ ψυχῆς ἐργάζεσθε: Whatever you do, work at it with your whole mind/soul

g.   25For the wrongdoer will receive the consequence of the wrongdoing, and there is no partiality.
h.   Verse 25 is a true future of a day coming when God will recompense all evil done at the Great Judgment, not a gnomic future of something true generally that will be fulfilled repeatedly.
i.     Προσωπολημψία: partiality, literally: “acceptance of one’s face” a Hebraism of raising the face of a humble suppliant, i.e., to show partiality.

k.   APPLICATION: As an employee, are you a people-pleaser? Do you straighten up and work harder when the boss walks through? Are you a name dropper? Do you look for things to do to bring attention to yourself? Are you upright in your heart when you deal with your employer? Do you cover up things that you should let her know? Do you keep him from knowing things he should? Are you upright in heart with your supervisor?

l.     Your work every day is first and foremost a sacrifice of praise to the Lord. Does your work every day become an occasion of reverence for the Lord? Is your work an act of worship to him? Is your craftsmanship a testimony to what the Lord has done in your heart? Or are your sales a product of your own bait and switch plan to make money?

m. There is a Day coming when the Lord will deal back to you every deceptive comment you made to your supervisor, every dirty deal you sent up the food chain, every show you put on to fool a customer, everything you have done to make sure your work was done with integrity, every time you owned up to the blame and offered to make it right at no cost to your company, every time you told the truth when it hurt your chances for promotion.

a.   1Masters, provide to your servants what is just and fair because you know that you also have a Master in heaven.

c.   APPLICATION: As an employer are you treating your employees fairly? Are you treating them equally? Are you paying the women on your team the same you pay the men with the same seniority doing the same work? Are you careful to make sure that merit increases are fair and just? Do you have a favorite employee that gets the gift cards the salesmen leave? Do you take out your frustration on the employees who won’t talk back to you? Are you fair to all of them when the bonuses are distributed? Do you look away when certain people cross the line and hold others to a higher standard? Do you look at yourself as a provider that God has enabled to serve your laborers, or do you look for every opportunity to take advantage of a group of people who ought to be glad they get a paycheck each week? Those people have families to feed and house and clothe, and as an employer, you have a responsibility before God. You have a Master in heaven.

[1] Murray Harris, 182.