By Elizabeth Prata
Colossians 3:23-24 says
Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord and not for people, knowing that it is from the Lord that you will receive the reward of the inheritance. It is the Lord Christ whom you serve. (Colossians 3:23-24).
Because I work in a school, my work year is only 190 days. I get paid for only 190 days, but they stretch out my pay in equal amounts over 12 months so I get a paycheck every month.
I dearly love the time off. By the end of summer I miss the kids though, so I’m glad to go back. This year it’s something different, we go back to school for preplanning (meetings and setting up rooms) on July 25th. Open House where students and parents come is July 28th, and the 29th we have the county wide meeting where the Superintendent speaks. Kids come on August 1.
Every August it’s hard to get used to going from 0 to 100 mph. And I do mean 0. In May when school ends I go home and sit down and stay there till it’s time to leave again in August. Except for necessary in-person shopping and church, I rarely go out. I mean, I’m a northerner born and bred, and a Georgia summer isn’t something I desire to experience if I can help it. I stay in the air conditioning!
When School starts though it’s a big adjustment physically- standing, walking all day, and on concrete floors, ouch my knees, the noises associated with school, and sensory overload from being around hundreds of people all day again, tires me out until I adjust to it once more. At home I can control all the sights and sounds and it’s soothing. At work it’s enjoyable but takes a while to learn to filter again.
Something I’ve always liked about school as an organization is that it is a rigid corporate-type structure, but within it, I have a certain amount of autonomy. I can decide which tasks to do first, or when. There isn’t a boss sitting at a desk watching my every move, or a computer logging my keystroke hours.
But that also means I decide on my work ethic. Am I early, on time, or consistently late to work? Do I actually do what my job description says or do I skate by with cutting corners? As Colossians says, do I ‘work heartily’?
The verse in context is Paul telling slaves to obey their masters, and work heartily for them and not just eye service (that is, good work when the master is looking and slack off when he’s not around). Slaves are to work heartily for their master as if it is directly to Jesus they are laboring, because in fact, it is, ultimately.
In America we do not have slaves any more, (other countries still do) but we can interpret the verse speaking of slaves and masters as employee-employer.
Let’s look at what that word means. ‘Heartily’ as used in the verse means literally, “to the soul”.
Hmmm. That doesn’t seem like it leaves any room for goofing off.
Gill’s exposition says:
do it heartily, not by mere force and necessity, grudgingly, and with murmurings, but from the heart, and with good will, having a true, real, and hearty affection for their masters, having their good and interest at heart, and a delight in their service; like the Hebrew servant, that loved his master, as also his wife and children, and therefore would not depart from him, see Exodus 21:5,
Matthew Henry says:
Servants who fear God will be just and faithful when they are from under their master’s eye, because they know they are under the eye of God...As to the Lord, and not as to men. It sanctifies a servant’s work when it is done as unto God—with an eye to his glory and in obedience to his command, and not merely as unto men, or with regard to them only. Observe, We are really doing our duty to God when we are faithful in our duty to men
Well that says it, doesn’t it? Loving God with all our strength, mind, and soul also means working heartily in our tasks set before us. Whether housewife at home, teacher, office worker in a cubicle, or CEO of a large corporation, no matter where He has stationed us to work, let’s work well, heartily, knowing that we are doing it for Jesus.
I say this with a touch of trepidation, because I’ve been blessed. I am working at a job I love. I’ve had great bosses these12 years. I’ve had great colleagues this whole time. My working environment is one of the best, really. Not just my opinion, it’s rated highly in surveys. It’s even air conditioned! The kids are for the most part obedient with no huge disciplinary issues. It’s all good.
I have not had to work in a place I hated, or that was hard, or grindingly tedious. I pray the Lord does not put a test like that before me, but I do understand many people work to provide for families and not for career fulfillment, and dislike their actual job. Or they have a difficult boss or colleagues. THAT is the real test for working heartily, I know.
But let’s do it anyway, because the verse says to. I can’t imagine how working as a beaten slave under a cruel master would be, but I do know our outward attitude and inward conviction should shine brightly. It’s that which attracts attention of the pagan, and alerts them to the fact that the eternal perspective is the one that enlivens the soul and makes one glad. There is something else beside present circumstances that enriches the soul, and that’s Jesus. Make Him known through your work ethic.
Do you think that because you work alone in a cubicle, or out in the field surveying or in a Forest as a Ranger that no one will see or be impacted by your work ethic anyway?
See this story: Kevin Struyk at Ligonier said,
At the last missions conference I attended, Dr. Sinclair Ferguson gave an account of how the man who led him to Christ was himself converted because of a woman who was a professional typist. This typist was one among many who spent her entire day typing. One day, when this man went walking through the room of typists, he stopped in amazement at the consistent typing sound that was apparently coming from one lady. He wondered, “Why is this lady typing so consistently?” That man later found out the typist was a Christian, which God ended up using as means to [bring that man to Christ and later that man brought] Dr. Ferguson to Christ. The point of the story: the consistent and efficient work of one Christian was used by God to help bring one of today’s greatest Christian scholars to Christ.
Darrell B. Harrison wrote of that story,
“Just heard RC Sproul tell how Sinclair Ferguson was led to Christ by a man who became a believer by observing the work ethic of a Christian woman who worked for him as a typist. Think about that. God can use you, too. Just be faithful in what He’s called YOU to do (1 Cor. 10:31).”
The verse Mr Harrison quoted states,
Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all things for the glory of God. (1 Corinthians 10:31) – even and especially our work.