Colossians 3:22-23b

Exhortations to Servants


The Responsibility:

A. Servants, Obey

1. Servants defined:

a. A slave, servant, spoken of involuntary service, e.g., a slave as opposed to a free man.

2. Obey: ὑπακούω – Literally: “to hear under”…

a. Definition: hearing and putting oneself under the authority of that which was heard.

b. To hearken, and thus to obey… to hear and respond in obedience.

c. Zodhiates: To yield to a superior command or force (used of the winds and waves obeying Christ).

d. This term was used of children obeying their parents.

e. Acts 12:13 – the damsel came to “hearken” – to respond to what she heard.

f. Servants are told to listen to their orders and carry them out in obedience.

3. Paul addressed slaves of the first century and told them to obey their masters.

a. Col. 3:11 – Paul just told these slaves that in Christ they were NOT slaves. They were freemen.

b. But in the world, different conditions exist and the Christian slave is to recognize that.

c. Thankfully, slavery no longer exists in this country.

d. So we don’t have the exact conditions mentioned here.

e. However, the exhortation, attitudes, and motivations given here apply to more than a master/slave situation.

f. There is good application to be made here if you are in the military.

g. There is good application to be made to the workplace.

h. There is also good application to be made for servants in the local church.

4. The master/slave relationship in the first century was the economic system that existed in that day in the Roman Empire.

a. That’s the way most of the work was done… the slaves did the work for the slave owners.

b. There was a relatively small upper class of wealthy people who ran the economy and businesses.

c. They used their slaves to do all the manual labor.

d. While our freedoms are much greater today, and our standard of living much higher, some things aren’t ALL that different!

e. Even in America today, there is a small group of upper class, wealthy, powerful people who own and operate the large companies and hire us “little people” to do all the work for them.

f. This is REALLY the issue that Paul is addressing in this passage…

g. Naturally Paul couched his exhortations in words most appropriate for the particular form economics in his day.

h. The system in Paul’s day was the master/slave relationship.

i. But the exhortations, attitudes, and motives that Paul promotes are applicable in ANY economic system: slavery, communism, capitalism, landowners and serfs, monarchy; etc. … any kind of worker or servant.

j. As a Christian, how should we conduct ourselves at work?

k. This is really the issue Paul is addressing here… even though it is worded in terms of the system that existed in his day.

l. This is what we want to consider this morning. How SHOULD a Christian conduct himself at work?

m. These principles apply first of all to slaves, but also to workers… and then to anyone in a system of authority… your job, an organization, even the local church.

n. Paul tells us how to behave in the position of a servant or a worker.

5. The command is simple: OBEY!

a. It is not simple to do, but it is simple to understand.

b. There is no wiggle room in interpretation here.

c. We are to do as we are told at work… follow the rules… obey the boss…

6. Present active imperative:

a. This was the ongoing responsibility of the servant/worker.

b. It is not a suggestion but a command.

c. To disobey is sin.

d. Think of the application to us today as workers and servants in the local church: this is an ongoing responsibility!

e. This means continual service to your company… or the local church!

f. The fact that you worked hard and did a good job yesterday does not give you the right to loaf or goof off today!

g. Your company hired you to work every work day… all day long… they keep on PAYING you, and they expect you to KEEP ON working.

h. God expects the same: a full day’s work!

i. This translates into consistency… faithfulness… reliability…

j. The Christian worker does his best… and he CONTINUALLY does his best.

k. Do YOU do your best at your job? All the time?
• Are you a reliable, faithful, consistently diligent worker?
• When you are supposed to be a meeting or in your office, are you there? Or are you hanging around at the water bubbler gabbing?
• Do you DO what your boss tells you to do, or to you try to SKIRT around performing your duties?
• Do you carry out orders or are you constantly coming up with excuses?
• We are to CONTINUALLY do what our boss tells us to do.
• That’s what God requires of us also. Our testimony is linked to this.

l. We would do well to apply this principle to our service in the local church too.
• Are we serving God in the local church?
• He has given you a spiritual gift to function in the Body and He has commanded us to SERVE. Are we?
• Are we faithful? Are we consistent? Are we reliable?
• Do you devise countless excuses why you can’t be faithful in attending church and Sunday school?
• We should examine our own hearts now, before the Lord examines them at the Bema Seat.
• Most of what we consider to be “good” excuses will probably be renamed at the Bema: laziness, spiritual apathy, selfishness, worldliness, pettiness, serving two masters… earthly minded… leaving our first love.
• We are to be constantly obeying and serving… it is a command and is ongoing. There is no retiring from the Lord’s service.
• Can you be counted on to BE there and perform your ministry?

B. Obey In All Things

1. Some jobs you like doing. Others you don’t. Obedience is expected in ALL!

2. The Christian worker doesn’t have the right to pick and choose which duties he will obey and which he will not!

3. He is to submit to authority… to obey the rules… period!

4. If you don’t want to do the job, get another job.

5. BUT—keep in mind that EVERY job has requirements and duties that are less than desirable!

6. What a poor testimony when a Christian does not do things he doesn’t want to do at work! What a great testimony when he obeys in ALL things!

7. This means obedience whether you think it’s a good idea or not!

a. The servant is not the master. The employee is not the employer.

b. You might think that this new responsibility they are giving you is foolish, unnecessary, and a waste of time.

c. But if they insist, the Christian worker is to obey.

d. Luke 16:10 – This means obedience in the little details… even if you see no sense in some of those details.

e. In the military, the foot-soldiers don’t always know WHY they are given certain orders, but a good soldier does what he is told.

f. A good soldier of Jesus Christ also carries out his orders.

8. Of course, sometimes it is IMPOSSIBLE to obey.

a. They may give you more work than is humanly possible! (So do your very best…)

b. They may give you a task you are not qualified to do. Let them know.

c. They may ask you to do something sinful or illegal.

d. But for the most part, it IS possible to obey.

C. Masters According to the Flesh

1. 1 Tim. 6:1 – they are to HONOR their masters!

a. That really sets the Christian servant apart from his unsaved counterpart!

2. Eph. 6:5 = fear and trembling…

a. The Christian servant was to show respect for the position of authority of his master.

b. This kind of respect ought to be given to those over us at work as well. It is part of our testimony.

c. That means we stay away from gossiping about and slandering the boss…

d. And remember, this was to be the case for both the good and the froward masters… good or bad, their position of authority was to be respected.

e. This too will set us apart from the other workers.

3. Note that they were masters (lords) according to the flesh.

a. They could tell your body what to do and where to be…

b. They have hired the services of your body… which includes your mind and your ability to use both your body and mind to do your job.

c. But they are not lords over your thoughts or over your beliefs.

d. They have no lordship over the inner man.

e. They are masters according to the flesh.

The Attitude:

A. Not with Eyeservice

1. Eyeservice:

a. ὀφθαλμοδουλία – service performed [only] under the master’s eyes; service rendered only when one is being scrutinized or service rendered only for appearance sake.

b. Lit = slavery of the eye.

2. Work is not to be done only when your earthly master’s (boss) eyes are upon you… and you slack off when he is not looking.

a. This is the main point of the expression.

3. The servant/workers were not to be conscious of their earthly master’s eyes as they labored. They were to be conscious of their heavenly Master’s eyes!

a. This refers to being God-conscious all day long…

b. Such WILL be the case if we truly SEEK those things which are above… and set our affections and minds on things above!

c. We are indwelt by Christ as we work all day long.

d. The Holy Spirit lives in us… and enables us both to will and to do of God’s good pleasure throughout the day.

e. This should not be just a passing thought, but an overwhelming thought!

f. Christ is to have the preeminence in our minds and hearts throughout the work day…

g. This will TRANSFORM our labor… being conscious of His presence… of His watchful eye…

h. However, we should not think of the Lord as a spy who is trying to catch us doing something wrong… or being lazy.

i. We should think of the Lord as our guide, friend, and One with whom we can commune and to whom we can pray all throughout the day… a close, abiding relationship…

j. When we are RESTING in our abiding relationship to Christ, our bodies will be DILIGENT in performing our earthly duties.

k. That will transform your earthly, mundane routine into a sacred ministry… because it stems from a relationship to the Lord.

l. That will increase your productivity… motivate you to do your very best…

m. And often, your boss will notice it and appreciate it. And sometimes, it will even be to your earthly advantage in getting a promotion or a raise (though that is NOT the reason to obey!) Our heavenly reward is the real motivation to do our best.

B. Not as Menpleasers

1. Defined: courting the favor of men; people pleaser; one who tries to win favor… but it implies winning favor in a hypocritical manner.

2. If I thought I had to please the people here as a pastor, I would soon be in need of a straight jacket and a padded cell.

a. For to please Fred means to anger Tom.

b. To please Alice means to anger Bill… and that is endless.

c. The Lord taught me this lesson long ago: you can’t please people. Thankfully, that’s not my job as a pastor—or in any other occupation.

d. I am here to please the Lord. I KNOW I can please Him.

e. It is impossible to please people. People change; they can be fickle; moody; they misread your motives.

f. I find it quite liberating to realize that I am not here to please people, but to the please the Lord.

g. He never changes! That which pleased Him today will please Him tomorrow too!

3. Focus on pleasing people and you have 6 billion problems on your hands. Focus on pleasing the Lord… and you have ONE Person to deal with.

a. Mary knew that ONE THING was needful. Martha needed to learn that. The ONE thing was serving Christ.

b. Phil. 3:13 – this is the one thing to be concerned about at work… pressing towards the mark of Christlikeness.

c. Jesus said, “I do ALWAYS those things which please my Father.”

d. At work we are to do ONE THING: obey God… serve God… honor God. And the WAY we do that is to obey your boss and honor him.

C. In Singleness of Heart

1. Defined: singleness, simplicity, sincerity, mental honesty. The virtue of one who is free from pretence and hypocrisy; not self seeking, openness of heart; not having an ulterior or double motive. Simplicity, the opposite of duplicity; purity, sincerity. Equivalent to being faithful and benevolent; integrity, fidelity.

2. If our one goal is to please the Lord, then we can do our job with SINGLENESS of heart!

a. We have ONE real goal: to please the Lord by our labor.

b. We have ONE person to please: the Lord… and He said to obey your boss.

c. We have ONE direction to be heading… that way which is right and thus pleasing to the Lord.

d. When people at work are pulling you in all different directions… all vying for your time and attention… often with conflicting orders… just stop, pray, and consider the ONE THING that you should do. “Lord, what wilt THOU have me to do?”

e. Rather than trying to do everything all at once—and worrying yourself silly (like Martha), take it to the Lord in prayer… and leave your anxieties at the mercy seat!

f. Don’t lie or lead people on to unrealistic expectations… be honest… be true…be pure… be sincere… full of integrity.

g. That’s Paul’s exhortation to Christian servants: singleness of heart!

D. Fearing God

1. Obey and fear God not men.

2. The Christian worker should fear displeasing God.

3. Not giving your boss an honest day’s work IS displeasing to God. Be afraid of that!

a. Remember, your heavenly Master’s eye is upon you at all times! We are to obey and serve always!

b. If you work only when your boss is looking, then you fear men… not God.

c. If you work faithfully because you know your heavenly Father is always looking, then you are motivated by the fear of God!

4. There may be a time when your boss tells you to do something that is wrong and sinful… contrary to the Bible. (Lie; not follow the government’s rules; cheat on taxes; contrary to OSHA rules; etc.)

E. Heartily

1. Defined: ἐκ  ψυχήs – out of the soul!

a. Out of the inner man… out of the soul…

b. Out of the seat of the feelings, desires, affections.

c. This speaks of doing service with FEELING… with an inner passion… with enthusiasm… with gusto…

d. It means YOU are engaged in your work… not just your body being physically present, but you put your whole self into the job!

2. Here the apostle requires of workers not just external service (getting the job done—making 3000 widgets per day)… but to do so from the heart!

a. This speaks of putting yourself into the job… your heart and soul!

b. Doing the job with enthusiasm…

c. A word of warning for young people: this is a command. This also should serve as a warning: you should prepare yourself for a job or a career that you will be ABLE to do heartily!

3. We are to serve and obey from the heart… not half heartedly… but conscientiously… doing one’s best.

a. This means obedience without murmuring and complaining.

b. This means obedience even if your coworkers mock you.

c. Rom. 12:11 – Not slothful in business; fervent in spirit; serving the Lord.

d. Ecc. 9:10 -?Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might.

4. This would eliminate laziness.

a. Yes, Christians can be lazy in their work.

b. Some workers might say, “Well, I’m just a grunt worker here. I don’t get to share in the big profits the boss makes. Why should I kill myself working for him?”

c. Well, think about what slaves in the first century got out of it… far less than we do today!

d. To work heartily means to give it your all! Do your best! Be diligent… not lazy.

e. Some Christians are lazy in serving the Lord in the local church too. (Sunday school teachers; ushers; pastors; officers; nursery workers.)

f. Some of the reasons we use to excuse our attendance at work OR in the local church might not fly at the Bema Seat.
• Tired, headache; back ache; sore toe…
• Would that hinder you from going to a World Series game if someone gave you free tickets?
• Oftentimes we lack the proper motivation to be diligent and faithful… at work or the local church.

The Motive:

A. As to the Lord

1. The Christian worker is to serve his company and boss AS IF he were serving God… making widgets for the Lord! (In a very real sense, he is!)

a. Boy would this attitude improve the quality of our work!

b. This would increase productivity!

c. Obedience is to be rendered not just so that you can get the promotion and make more money.

d. The main motivator: the Lord!

2. I Tim. 6:1 – This is part of our testimony before the world.

a. Doing your job as unto the Lord SANCTIFIES your job.

b. The NAME of the Lord is connected with HOW we do our job… the Lord’s reputation is connected to our service… whether we are faithful, diligent, honest, motivated, etc…

c. It makes our everyday job a SACRED ministry!

d. Yes, even if you make widgets for a living!

e. You are not serving men, but the Lord!

f. As a Christian worker, you are not really making widgets, or fixing computers, or teaching school, managing an office full of irritable people… You are a priest offering yourself as a sacrifice to God, a sweet-smelling savor in His sight!

g. You are a living sacrifice in the office, in school, in the factory, in the coal mine, in the medical lab, or wherever you work!

h. Work is a SACRED ministry to the Lord…

i. This truth gives meaning to the mundane… it elevates your earthly work to a heavenly service… with eternal consequences…

j. When we punch in each morning, we are really punching in to serve the Lord, and not men.

k. God sent us to that job not just to make widgets or manage an office, or fix computers, but to represent Jesus Christ… as His witness on earth… to manifest His indwelling life… His character…

l. According to the way we perform our duties at work, the name of Jesus Christ will either be exalted (for our obedience and diligence) or blasphemed (for being unreliable or lazy)!

m. The Christian slave of the first century who understood this truth would thus have the proper motivation to be the best slave he could be… in spite of the injustice and cruelty he faced… things that are higher, things that are nobler have allured his mind!

n. He wasn’t really working for his master. He actually had only ONE master: the Lord Jesus Christ. He was free from all else.

o. This is quite a motivator to do our best! Next week we’ll look at another motivator to do our best: the Judgment seat of Christ!

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