Redeeming Your 9-5
What are you called to do? What’s your work? Your vocation? Every person has one. If you’re a Christian, that literally means that you’re called to Christ. That’s your primary job, or vocation, to be a Jesus follower. Jesus isn’t just an add-on to your life, like the mac and cheese or cornbread at a BBQ. Jesus is the whole restaurant! You’re called to follow him in all of life; including your secondary callings.
You might be called to be a wife or a husband. Maybe you’re called to be a parent, son, daughter. And then you’ve got your job. There are…
Servicemen and women in the military,
Real estate agents,
Foster parents and stay at home parents,
And one lone geologist.
Those are just some of the jobs represented in our church. These are all secondary callings that exist in our lives, but even though they’re secondary, they’re super important to God. God cares about your work. Because He’s a working God.
I mean the pages of the Bible open with God working. He works to create the universe and this world and create humans and then he gives those humans work to do. God didn’t create this world perfectly completed, he created it with raw material that He wants us to work with to create more beauty.
And then God become man and Jesus worked. He spent more of his life working with his hands as a carpenter than preaching. There’s nothing evil or wrong about work, our story begins with work being a good thing that reflects God.
But we messed it all up. In Genesis 3, the first humans rebelled against God and one of the consequences of that rebellion is that our work is cursed now. Here’s what God told the first worker in Genesis 3: “And he said to the man, “Because you listened to your wife and ate from the tree about which I commanded you, ‘Do not eat from it’: The ground is cursed because of you. You will eat from it by means of painful labor all the days of your life. It will produce thorns and thistles for you, and you will eat the plants of the field. You will eat bread by the sweat of your brow until you return to the ground.”
Mankind’s rebellion made work unnecessarily difficult. Now work doesn’t always come as a joy to us, it seems futile, and difficult, and filled with problems. But that’s not the work’s fault. That’s our fault because of our rebellion. And so now our tendency is for us to hate work. When really what we should hate is our sin which caused work to be unnecessarily difficult.
So guys here’s what we can see in Colossians 3: There’s a more beautiful way that God wants us to work as followers of Jesus than we ever could without Jesus.
That doesn’t mean that we just put a cross or Jesus fish on our product. It means that we work differently. Whatever you spend your 40 or whatever hours a week doing, God wants to infuse it with the beauty of Jesus so that it’s infinitely more glorious and beautiful than how you’re currently experiencing it. Paul’s gives us a snapshot of what it looks like in these verses.
Check out verse 22: “Slaves, obey your human masters in everything. Don’t work only while being watched, as people-pleasers, but work wholeheartedly, fearing the Lord.” What this says is massively transforming for our work. This is saying that WE CAN PLEASE GOD WITH OUR WORK. Because Paul says not to work only while they’re being watched by their earthly masters, right? Does that sound like your whole approach to work each day? Work with the boss is around, but when he not, you’re doing anything but doing your work? I discovered this in myself the in the first job I ever had. When I was 15 I worked at the driving range of a golf course and when my boss, the golf pro of the course, was around man I was locked into my work. It had a putt putt course next to it that I ran also and if a leaf fell onto one of the holes I’d run out and sweep it off. But when my boss went out of town, I’d bring books to work and read on the job. This is pre-smartphone when we all used to read. If someone came to play mini golf there’d be leaves all over each hole, make it a little interesting for them. I saw when I was 15 that my approach to work was that I worked to please a master and if that master wasn’t around, then I changed how I worked. Because, what’s in it for me if I do good work but my boss never sees it?
But here, Paul’s saying that as followers of Jesus, we don’t need to work as people-pleasers. We’re actually free to work wholeheartedly. Why? Because now we can please God with our work. Pleasing our boss isn’t the highest goal. Pleasing God is. And God doesn’t go on extended golfing trips like my boss did. He’s alway present as you work which means that you always, always, have the opportunity to please God with how you work.
Did you realize that? No matter what you do, no matter how insignificant your work may feel, every moment that you work is an opportunity to bring the God of the universe pleasure. As a follower of Jesus you can bring God glory through your work. You can. 1 Corinthians 10 says : “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do everything for the glory of God.” Your eating and drinking can even glorify God, and your work falls under the everything else there. We may be daily wasting hundreds of opportunities to glorify the God through our work.
How would you approach work differently if you knew moment by moment that you could bring God glory through your work? How would it change?
Maybe you’d view your “nothing” tasks as being massively important?
Maybe you’d pray more, asking God to help you focus or work well?
Maybe you’d stop viewing your co-workers as your enemies to be cut down, but as opportunities to bless.
Maybe you’d have more joy, knowing that you CAN make God happy today! You’re not just working for money or for the man but for the glory of God!
Maybe that’ll be the next step some of us need to take today. To pray and tell God that we’ve been looking at work all wrong, that it’s been all about making money or gaining status, or being better than others, and we had no idea that we could please Him each day.
That’s why he says this in verse 23: “Whatever you do, do it from the heart, as something done for the Lord and not for people, knowing that you will receive the reward of an inheritance from the Lord. You serve the Lord Christ. For the wrongdoer will be paid back for whatever wrong he has done, and there is no favoritism.” Here’s the second amazing thing we see about our work: WE’LL RECEIVE AN INHERITANCE FROM GOD FOR OUR WORK. This would have been revolutionary to Paul’s audience of slaves and masters because under Roman law a slave couldn’t inherit anything. But here they learn that God rewards faithful workers who from the heart for the Lord.
So again, if you have Jesus, that means you’re freed to work in a different way. You know that you have an inheritance forever from God, so you don’t need to find your identity in your income or status at work. Money’s great, raises are great, bonuses are great, promotions are great! But they’re not ultimate, and they won’t do for you what Jesus will.
See when we look to our work to give us ultimate satisfaction in life, we’ll end up giving ourselves to our work instead of giving ourselves to Jesus. We’ll actually say no to Jesus because he gets in the way of our work. But one of the many problems of that is that one day that work’s gonna be gone. But Jesus is always there. Our work was never meant to bring us lasting satisfaction; that’s why God said that HE would give us eternal satisfaction. It’ll come from him.
Tim Keller said this: “For so many people the prospect of career reversal or business failure is such a struggle. When our meaning in life and identity is at stake, we panic, often acting impulsively, sometimes finding ourselves able to lie and betray others in order to save ourselves, or we simply plunge into despair. But Jesus says, rather, “store up for yourselves treasures in heaven” (Matt. 6:20). What does that mean? Paul tells us that in Christ all treasures are hid (Col. 2:3), and Peter says that Jesus was rejected for us, dying to take what we deserved, and therefore “to you who believe, [he] is precious” (1 Pet. 2:7). . . . The Bible is saying: Only if Jesus is your treasure are you truly rich, for he is the only currency that cannot be devalued. And only if he is your Savior are you truly successful, for status with him is the only status that can’t be lost.”
Maybe you’ve been viewing your job just as a means to get money. But now, knowing that God’s inheritance is better than all the money you could work to get, that Jesus is your treasure, you can be freed up to be generous with your money or time.
Or maybe you know that you receive validation of who you are by getting praised and promoted at work. But now, knowing that God wants to validate you forever, you’re freed up to not get angry when you’re passed over for a promotion or a day doesn’t go your way. You can be calm and at peace during difficulty or even failure at work.
Now look at chapter 4 verse 1: “Masters, deal with your slaves justly and fairly, since you know that you too have a Master in heaven.” Paul addresses the masters now, and he says to deal with their slaves justly and fairly. And again, this would’ve sounded totally strange. Because slaves didn’t have the kind of rights that would warrant their masters dealing with them justly and fairly. Masters could just do whatever they wanted. But God’s calling them toward something more beautiful. And it’s the third thing that transforms our work: WE CAN SHOW OTHERS WHO GOD IS THROUGH OUR WORK. That’s what these masters had the opportunity to do here. To not treat their slaves the way everyone else in the Roman world was, but to be in relationships that were totally different; relationships that looked like Jesus.
In a tiny letter that Paul would later write, he wrote to a man named Philemon and said that he had met one of Philemon’s runaway slaves while he was in prison. And this slave, named Onesimus, was saved by Jesus. And so now, Paul sends Onesimus back to Philemon with a letter. Philemon was in his right to kill Onesimus. But here’s what Paul says in the letter: 15 “For perhaps this is why he was separated from you for a brief time, so that you might get him back permanently, no longer as a slave, but more than a slave — as a dearly loved brother…So if you consider me a partner, welcome him as you would me. And if he has wronged you in any way, or owes you anything, charge that to my account.”
Jesus makes you brothers. And now, here’s how you should treat your brother, the way Jesus treats you. Forgive him. Deal with him with the justice and fairness that God deals with you. God looks at you in Jesus and forgives you. And that is just and right for God to do. So now do the same for your brother. That shows the world what Jesus looks like.
Through the ways we interact with our employees, our employers, our co-workers, you have the daily opportunity to show everyone you work with what Jesus looks like. And as you do that, you’ll get the opportunity to tell them who Jesus is and how He’s transformed your life.
Maybe you’ve been keeping your faith out of your workplace. Maybe you don’t want people in that part of your life to know what you believe. Maybe they know you’re different, but you’ve never wanted to tell them that it’s because of Jesus.
Maybe your next step today is to see the beautiful opportunity God’s given you to show and tell people you work with who Jesus is. Is there someone at your work that you know God’s calling you to share Jesus with? Maybe your next step is to commit to doing that.
There’s a more beautiful way that God wants us to work as followers of Jesus than we ever could without Jesus. How is he calling you to live out a redeemed life at work?