Summary: The principles that make a good employee or good offspring are the same. Be sincere, and work like God is your boss.
Colossians 3:20 Children, obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord . . . 22 Slaves, obey your earthly masters in everything; and do it, not only when their eye is on you and to curry their favor, but with sincerity of heart and reverence for the Lord. 23 Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, 24 since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving. 25 Anyone who does wrong will be repaid for their wrongs, and there is no favoritism.
Children and slaves are both commanded to obey in everything. Since somewhere between 1/3 and ½ of all Romans were slaves, we are probably justified in thinking of these exhortations in our day as instructions for employees. This is different from the command given to wives-if you bring yourself under the authority of someone, that means you have authority, and you are working under the authority of another, like the story in the Gospels:
Matthew 8:5 When Jesus had entered Capernaum, a centurion came to him, asking for help. 6 ”Lord,” he said, “my servant lies at home paralyzed, suffering terribly.” 7 Jesus said to him, “Shall I come and heal him?” 8 The centurion replied, “Lord, I do not deserve to have you come under my roof. But just say the word, and my servant will be healed. 9 For I myself am a man under authority, with soldiers under me. I tell this one, ‘Go,’ and he goes; and that one, ‘Come,’ and he comes. I say to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.”
This is the kind of submission the wife is exhorted to-one of having authority, under the authority of a commanding officer. But it’s different from the child and the servant/employee. Surely, the world is changing, and, as many business gurus have suggested, authority structures within flexible organizations are becoming increasingly flat, with authority driven by good ideas, which can come from anywhere and anybody. Yet the principles that make a good employee or good offspring are the same.
Work like you’re working for God. Be sincere (without wax-as discussed elsewhere, ancient marble sculpture artisans would, once in awhile, make a mistake and chip off a nose or an ear of their sculpture. Not wanting to waste an entire statue, they became quite adept at mixing marble powder with wax & replacing broken body parts. So, you buy your sculpture. It looks beautiful. You place it next to the fountain at the entrance to your home. You even throw a party to celebrate, a lunch barbeque. The days are hot this time of year and at midday you notice the sculpture is morphing-changing. The nose begins to run, literally, entirely, down the face and neck into oblivion. The sculptor has cheated you. The nose wasn’t real.
We all have been guilty, I think, of insinserity-not being without wax. But in the heat of our work, the truth will always eventually come out. We have to be genuine, sincere, without wax. Our hard work must not be for show. In some cultures we are taught to figure out how to please the teacher or the employer. The Bible doesn’t seem to be concerned about such menouvering. We are simply to do our job well, and leave favor up to God. We also are, I think, in our context, exhorted by this to always speak the truth as we see it and not hold back. If the boss disagrees, fine, but the boss doesn’t have to guess whether we are saying what we really think. Our word and our work are always genuine.
Work Like You’re Boss is God
What if every job you did, large or small, an assignment for class or a merger-acquisition for a company, practicing a song for a recital, or preparing to perform for a worldwide telecast, you were doing only for God. Would it change how you do things? I think for many of us our work would have to change. The questionable behavior, the partially completed assignment, the business decision that directly negatively impacts an entire portion of society, the policies that are bad for the environment, the performance you know you can do better, but the audience won’t know the difference. All of these things may be ok if all you’re concerned about pleasing people. But if you’re concerned with pleasing God, how would your use of each day change? I think there are at least three positive outcomes of doing everything as if you were working only for God:
1) the press toward excellence would be automatic, for you would never want to offer to your Lord your second best