“Slaves, obey in everything those who are your earthly masters, not by way of eye-service, as people-pleasers, but with sincerity of heart, fearing the Lord.  Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men,  knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ. Anyone who does wrong will be repaid for his wrong, and there is no favoritism. Masters, provide your slaves with what is right and fair, because you know that you also have a Master in heaven (Colossians 3:22 – 4:1). 

Modern bumper stickers tell us much about our perception of work: “I owe, I owe…so off to work I go” or, “Work fascinates me…I can sit and watch it for hours!” But Paul’s message, and the message of all Scripture is that Christ is to be Lord over our jobs. As Max Lucado has said, “Heaven’s calendar has seven Sundays a week. [Jesus] conducts holy business at all hours and all places, He uncommons the common by turning kitchen sinks into shrines, cafes into convents, and nine-to-five workdays into spiritual adventures.” 

In verses Colossians 3:23-24 Paul states, “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.” As a Christ-follower, I’ve found myself mentally accosted by this question: Do I worship my work, withstand my work, or worship God through it? If my response is anything but the later, I’ve got things wrong and need to make a change. And whether I’m the worker or the manager, I should come under the righteous rule of the Lord Jesus (Colossians 3:25 – 4:1). Our vocation is one of our greatest opportunities to demonstrate the supremacy and sufficiency of the Christ who alone makes us complete. 

The contemporary church does not completely ignore the issue of work. Nevertheless, I’m amazed that we do not have more sound teaching on the subject given the pure math behind it: we typically put in at least 40 hours at a weekly “job” plus spending innumerable hours doing housework and yard work for no compensation. Relatively speaking, believers spend much more of their lives “working” than “worshipping.” Shouldn’t we then have a greater understanding of the critical nature of this time consuming function? 

Most evangelical churches do recognize and remind us of the biblical message that God has ordained work. Some, but far too few, endeavor to find more a spiritual purpose in working. Our common misperceptions and shallow exposition of God’s truth on the subject has led to many problems, primarily that it can make us miss the privilege and all-consuming joy of glorifying our Savior during even the most mundane hours of our earthly time. When we use our vocations primarily to glorify the Lord, we will see the exponential blessing of a God who is steadfastly building His kingdom. 

Colossians 3:1-4 summarizes the attitude we should have in our work. Paul says, “Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.” So then, we should have a Christ-honoring perspective in all things—including our work. Through this He will be glorified.

Consider the scene in Luke 5:1-9. Peter, Andrew, James, and John are cleaning their nets; they made their living catching and selling fish. As they work Jesus is preaching to a gathering crowd. As people come, the Messiah notices two boats tied nearby. In order for the crowd to better hear Him, Christ climbs into one of the empty boats and asks to be put out a little from shore. He teaches the crowd while using the boat for a pulpit (Luke 5:23). Before He completes the day’s lesson, He works a miracle (v. 4-6) and commissions the fishermen to begin seeking a new type of catch (v. 10).

In commandeering their place of business and in using it as the setting for one of His better known miracles, Jesus showed followers—particularly the laboring disciples―that even a place of business can become a platform for sharing the glory of the Father and for bringing Him honor. In other words, a workspace can become a forum for divine worship and even discipleship. Our cubicles, workshops, fields, and vehicles can serve similar purposes. When they do, we find that Jesus Christ is Lord of the weekday as well as the Sabbath. 

I find it interesting that the Hebrew word avodah is the root for the word from which we get the words “work” and “worship.” This indicates these two concepts are inseparable in the eyes of God.  Working and worshipping go hand in hand.  It’s also notable that in the New Testament, the vast majority of Jesus’ 132 public appearances were in the marketplace or workplace. The Lord knows much of our lives are spent in toil at our desks or behind machines. He wants to be a part of every part of our lives; that’s something that will never be accomplished should we choose to hold Him in esteem only on Sundays. 

Perfect sense comes from the fact that our places of business can and should become areas devoted to our relationship with God. After all, it’s at work that we can show His excellence through the quality of our output. There we can demonstrate His holiness through the purity and earnestness of our example. We can image forth His worth through our worthy contribution to our employers, and we can glorify Him through humble thanksgiving for His provision and prosperity. In short, we can effectively worship God at our places of business by using the gifts and abilities He has given us for His glory.  I am reminded that the faithful servants in the Parable of the Talents were honored and allowed to share in their Master’s happiness (see Matthew 25:14-30). 

And this dynamic of worshipping God through our work holds for those in supervisory positions as well. I’m reminded of the story of one such boss. This manager was in the habit of praying for everyone he supervised. Most of the time, he prayed privately so that his associates weren’t aware. But one particular occasion, when he and his team members were discussing a serious conflict in the office that was causing a disruption, he felt led to openly pray, after first asking permission, for the situation and team members.
Months went by and the serious disagreement escalated. In fact, it was so intense teammates would barely speak to each other. Office production suffered. The employees became increasingly more disgruntled. And then, quite suddenly, the disagreement dissipated and the associates were on civil terms again. Seemingly, business as usual had returned. But it really wasn’t just a revisit to normality at all. Something supernatural had occurred. When the relieved supervisor finally inquired as to what had changed one of those involved replied, “Well, we remembered the time you prayed for us at your desk.” 

Work is a form of worship. It must be. Do not think that worship takes place only at church and spiritual labor is performed only by the clergy. Our work is one of our great spiritual exercises. Just as we remember the command, “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men” (Colossians 3:23), so too must we remember to glorify God in all we do (I Peter 2:12), using our daily tasks and chores to bring us ever closer in communion with Him.