Summary: Do you want to win at work? Then obey your earthly boss, but work for your heavenly Boss. Put Christ at the center of your work, then you will find purpose and peace at the center of your life.
One of my favorite cartoons in the Sunday paper is Dilbert. It’s a spoof on the contemporary office scene, created by Scott Adams. Some time ago, he wrote a book, called The Dilbert Principle, which contains “Dilbert’s Laws of Work”: Don't be irreplaceable. If you can't be replaced, you can't be promoted. When you don't know what to do, walk fast and look worried. Everything can be filed under “miscellaneous.” If you are good, you will be assigned all the work. If you are really good, you will get out of it. If it wasn't for the last moment, nothing would get done. Keep your boss's boss off your boss's back. Eat one live toad the first thing in the morning, and nothing worse will happen to you the rest of the day. (Leadership, Vol. 17, no. 4; www.PreachingToday.com)
It seems to me there has to be a better way to winning at work than Dilbert’s Laws of Work. And sure enough, there is! It is God’s Laws of Work, found in the Bible.
Colossians 3:22 Slaves, obey your earthly masters in everything; and do it, not only when their eye is on you and to win their favor, but with sincerity of heart and reverence for the Lord. (NIV)
Now, when you and I see the word, “slave,” we usually think about the raced-based oppression of African slaves during the 17th, 18th, and 19th Centuries in our own country. But that was not the case at all in Bible days. Murray Harris, in his book Slave of Christ, describes what slavery was like in the 1st century Greco-Roman world.
Number one, he says, in that time slaves were not distinguishable from anyone else by race, speech, or clothing. They looked and lived like everyone else and were never segregated off from the rest of society in any way.
Number two, slaves were more educated than their owners in many cases and many times held high managerial positions. (cf. Joseph managing Potiphar’s household)
Number three, from a financial standpoint, slaves made the same wages as free laborers and therefore were not themselves usually poor. In fact, they often accrued enough personal capital to buy themselves out. &
Number four, very few persons were slaves for life in the first century. Most expected to be set free after about ten years or by their late thirties at the latest. (Murray Harris, Slave of Christ, IVP, 2001; www.PreachingToday.com)
So you see, slaves in Bible days were a lot like the common laborer today. And what God says to them can apply to any of us, employee or employer alike, who work for a living. So what does God say to us workers? It’s very simple.
OBEY YOUR EARTHLY BOSS.
Listen to what he or she tells you to do and do it. Pay attention to the direction he or she gives you and follow it as best as you can. By the way, this works with school-teachers as well. Just do what they say even when they’re not looking.
Kevin Miller from Wheaton, Illinois, talks about a friend of his named Joe who does a lot of business traveling as an executive. One day when Joe was on a flight, he commented to himself, “I cannot believe this flight crew. They are the most attentive, responsive flight crew that I've ever seen.” So, toward the end of the flight, he stopped one of the flight crew members and said, “Excuse me, I don't mean to bother you, but I fly a lot, and I have never seen a flight crew this. You are the most engaged, enthusiastic, service-oriented flight crew that I've ever seen.”
The female flight attendant got a little smile on her face as she bent down and whispered to my friend Joe, “Thank you, sir, but for that you can thank the woman seated back there in 12B.” She paused, nodded her head slightly towards seat 12B, and continued: “You see, sir, the woman in seat 12B is the head supervisor for all of the flight attendants for our airlines. And she's on our flight!” (Kevin Miller, Wheaton, Illinois; www.PreachingToday.com)
It’s amazing how well people work when the boss is around, but God wants us to do our work well even when the boss is not around. God wants us to Do our work with an internal motivation out of respect for Him.
Verse 22 says, “Obey your earthly masters... not only when their eye is on you… but with sincerity of heart and reverence for the Lord.” Literally, with singleness of heart, fearing the Lord.